Abbe May’s second album Kiss My Apocalypse is not what you expect. Regardless of what anyone else thinks, the new album has the Perth musician feeling good. “Life is on the up, as far as I’m concerned,” May says. “I’m still writing love songs, and there are barbs in there too. But I’m about to take some time to do some visual work, just for myself.”
May’s 2011 debut Design Desire was a riffing and bluesy affair, which won her fans all over Australia and a nomination for that year’s Australian Music Prize. The only similarity between that record and Kiss… is the personnel. May has again decided to work with producer Sam Ford – a decision that was made in the middle of last year when the artist consulted tarot cards, apparently not for the first time when it came to an important choice.
The new album is a simmering collection of darkly electronic pop that hints at the failings and trappings of a life constantly in transit between two cities. “I live between Melbourne and Perth,” May explains. “My relationship is in Melbourne, and my creative partnerships are in Perth. I like to get myself out of my comfort zone – I think that’s why I’m doing it like this.”
Does she think that her ceaseless travel has resulted in a state of flux? “I think my situation is definitely going to affect the next album, but at the same time it’s how I like to be,” May says.
The shift in May’s sound has caught some people by surprise – “I haven’t had any abusive emails yet, which is good,” she laughs – but the change is no accident. May admits that much of Design Desire’s aesthetic was informed by the psychedelic music scene in Perth. “Psych musos were the only ones I could find at the time,” she says. “The music we’ve made since then, and that we’re making now, runs the risk of being lambasted because it’s not the same. But if you’re not prepared to have some ovaries, what’s the fucking point?”
May is very clear about the reasons why Kiss… sounds like it does. “Our motives were very much about experimentation,” she says. “We wanted to go as far away as possible from what we’d done before, and from what we knew in Perth. You can get bored quite easily when you’re working five days a week in the studio.”
“This album is us massively kicking against what is around us,” May continues. “Don’t get me wrong – Kevin Parker (from Tame Impala) is the closest to a genius I’ve ever met. But the reason it works for Kev is because that IS who he is. He’s not trying to be a guy in a bedroom; he just is that guy.”
The Western Australian is quick to clarify that she isn’t against psychedelic music. “Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain is one of my favourite records, and I really love psych music. What I am anti is unoriginal music. I can’t stand stuff that’s boring as batshit.”
The reviews and interpretations of May’s work don’t go unnoticed by the musician. She views the exchange between music writers and artists as occasionally unbalanced, but acknowledges the potential within the process. “You have to understand that we review your work too,” May says. “In a recent review the critic challenged me on a few points, which I view as a sign of respect. I’m willing to take that on board. But I think there also needs to be willingness on the part of the artist to have mystique. Sometimes the transitioning between albums is what actually creates the mystique, and creates something truer.”
BY BENJAMIN COOPER
Abbe May plays Oxford Art Factory on Friday June 14. Kiss My Apocalypse is out now through MGM.