Interview: Abbe May is a Perth Girl

Melissa Oey chats to Australian musician Abbe May:

Firstly, congratulations on the amazing clip for ‘Perth Girls’. Objectively speaking, those models and the subject of the song seemed ‘simply irresistible’ but what (else) led you to draw from Robert Palmer’s iconic video? 
I liked the idea of not-so-subversively resisting the placement of women as pretty props in music videos. All of my videos feature strong and powerful femininity. Placing myself, a woman, in front of the women twisted the narrative so that it was not just a monologue by a man about how ‘hot these babes are’. It is darker, more menacing in my video with the twist of the Twin Peaks references… These women are not interested in being in the background. And I certainly don’t want to keep them there.

For those who don’t share an obsession with puns, the link between Robert Palmer and (Laura Palmer, hence Twin Peaks) is probably less than sensical. What led you and or director Paul Komadina to combine these concepts into the visual feast that is ‘Perth Girls’? 
The beauty of surrealism is that your subconscious, stream-of-thought type development of creativity, when combined precisely with your intuition, can create great meaning without necessarily having to provide reasoning for why you, for example, just flashed to a dancing small person in between shots of iridescent, writhing beauties…. You ever have those crazy dreams where nothing makes sense until you speak them aloud to someone? The unconscious has a lot to tell us and it is most entertaining when it does so in seemingly irrational ways. Paul and I both love kitsch 80’s music and we both love surrealist film making… Mullholland Drive is probably still my favourite movie.

abbe may-001I also just want to say, props for turning Palmer’s clip around, not just by twisting it up a la David Lynch, but by making the models the subject of both the clip and the song instead of objectified for sexual consumption. Speaking of achievements, congratulations on your ‘Best Female Vocalist’ WAMi win, the 2013 ARIA ‘Best Female Artist’ nomination and your additional title as J Awards’ ‘2013 Australian Album of the Year’ nominee! All up, it got me thinking, is it important for you to be recognised firstly as a successful woman or creative entity?
I think it’s odd that women and men are divided when it comes to recognising activities that aren’t exclusively male or female… I can understand ‘best female/male vocalist’ categories, but I think they should be open to both genders. One of the best ‘female’ vocalists I know is a man…

Which is the most flattering comparison made between you and another artist (or concept!)?
My friend and collaborator, Ashley Brockman always says ‘comparison is violence’.. in some ways comparison is never flattering to an artist.

With Bertie Blackman playing on your Pony tour, should fans be expecting a collaborative effort any time soon? Surely being on the road, there’ll be creative juices flowing!
Bertie and I just recorded a version of Karmageddon together at Studios 301 for ARIA/Music NSW masterclass workshops… it sounds like some strange gypsy version of the song… I love it and Bertie and I are the greatest of friends so you can expect many years of collaborations.

Having DJ Kram and Tim Rogers recently added to your list of ‘dreams come true’, who else do you currently have your eyes/ears set on? 
It’s time for me to play guitar for Bertie.

Abbe has a show in Perth on Friday. Details here.



Interview by Melissa Oey