banner image

:: Spotlight :: Spotlight on Abbe May & the Rocking Pneumonia

By: Amanda Joy Robb

Western Australia’s Abbe May is one incredible class act. The burliness of her voice will stop anyone mid stride, whilst the lyrical beauty of her blues will lure them into wanting more. Compared to 1960’s starlet Nancy Sinatra and recently winning APRA’s best contemporary act, it's no wonder May is quickly becoming a household name. Having made magic previously with her many musical outfits such as The Fuzz and The Devil and Abbe May, you will now find her touring Australia as lead singer and guitarist of The Rocking Pneumonia with their latest EP release “Hawaiian Disease”.

For May, it all began in her hometown of Bunbury, Western Australia. Growing up alongside her older brother, who is K.T Rumble in The Rocking Pneumonia, May states she was an androgynous child and different to the other kids. It was her passion for music that shifted May onto the stage, and into the industry. Now May is turning heads, not only for her pining ballads and melancholic moans, but also her striking live shows.

This year Abbe May’s focus is with The Rocking Pneumonia, which transitions her sound of chilled out country blues to explosive rock and roll. Luckily for May, taking out APRA’s Best Contemporary Act included a $12.000 grant, which she channelled straight into funding the release of “Hawaiian Disease”, and their Australian tour. When asked if she thinks this award will expand her fan base, she suggested her musical recognition will stem from within the music industry itself, and then maybe to her fans in a less directive way. But May’ take on the celebrity role though is slightly different from most emerging artists stating, “We do tend to dodge the fashionable crowd as fashion is very fleeting and short lived, and attract the more attentive audience rock and roll audience.”

What May is also doing is attracting an interest in sexual sayings and euphemisms, which is directing her present writing style. This influenced the naming of The Rocking Pneumonia’s EP “Hawaiian Disease”. According to her, Hawaiian Disease is derived from the ‘sailor days’ and the term indicated ‘a lack of women or lack of romantic interest’. She said that “Hawaiian Disease” usually affects one in every four band members, which is usually the drummer. “We just thought this was really interesting so we thought we would go with it.”

What won’t be lacking in this tour is the band’s passion for playing covers, particularly tracks by Tom Waits. May claimed, “There is something about his [Waits] songs that are untouchable. You have to be as reverent as possible when turning it into your own song. It is a real steep learning curve.” The second track on “Hawaiian Disease” is her take on a seventies porn disco mix, even recorded with a 70’s drum machine May picked up for the EP and tour.

Abbe May enjoys a challenge. Constantly changing her styles and themes, she likes to expand the boundaries with her music. The rest of the year will see her writing her next album which she plans to release in early February. Listening lately to a lot of African beats and British electro pop, who knows where she will take her next album? But what we do know if it’s Abbe May, it will be worth the wait.

“Hawaiian Disease” is a standout. With haunting blues, and ethereal rock, May and the Rocking Pneumonia are testaments to exceptional Australian music. The EP is strongly recommended to anyone that appreciates quality independent music.

Abbe May and The Rocking Pneumonia tour dates are shown below

June 19 - The Vanguard Newtown, New South Wales
June 20 - Esplanade Hotel Front Room, St.Kilda, Victoria
June 21 - The East Brunswick Club, Victoria
July 17 - The Evelyn, Fitzroy, Victoria

The band is also playing with The Gutter Twins on Thursday, July 23 at the York Theatre, Sydney and on Friday, July 24 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne.