Theme Song: Little May

Collage by Isabel Ryan, using a photo by McLean Stephenson.
Collage by Isabel Ryan, using a photo by McLean Stephenson.

Annie Hamilton teamed up with her former schoolmate Liz Drummond and pal Hannah Field in 2012 to form Little May–a band that’s been hustling ever since. And today, we’re premiering their cover of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’s “Skeletons” as October’s theme song!

The Sydney, Australia–based trio offered their interpretation of the majestic classic by adding haunting harmonies (happy Halloween!) and their own melodic interpretations:

I recently spoke with Annie, who talked about friendships, defeating self-consciousness, and creativity.

ANNE T. DONAHUE: You covered one of my favorite songs in the world! When did you first hear “Skeletons”?

ANNIE HAMILTON: It was a few years ago. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are just such a good band, and that song had such a good melody and vibe—it takes you away. When we did the cover, we didn’t want to drastically change anything, because it’s a beautiful song. We didn’t want to overcomplicate it. We took what we loved, like the melody, lyrics, and the dreamy feelings, and did what we’d normally do with those melodies. We wanted to make it our song without taking away any of the beautiful parts of the original.

Karen O is very poetic.

Definitely. A lot of the lyrics are abstract. It’s not like they’re telling a literal story, but there’s so much imagery that comes through.

You and your band members came together while in high school. You’re in it to win it. How do you keep boundaries as a group?

It can definitely be very hard, because we’re together 24-seven. We’re sharing beds while we’re on tour. We’re in a van, and it’s exhausting and stressful. When you’re working all day, it’s tough. But, we figured out how to do things that mean everyone gets space, how to respect each other, and how to have fun, because in the end, what we’re doing is fun.

Is that how you stay creative? I think creativity can come from a place of feeling safe.

Definitely. When you’re feeling self-conscious, it’s paralyzing. If there are times when I’m feeling self-conscious or worried about what other people might think about what I’m doing, and I’m trying to come up with something on guitar, draw something, or make something, I really struggle. If everyone is in a space where they can be having fun and letting ideas flow, that’s when you get the best creative result.

In what ways have you looked for somewhere to belong, creatively speaking?

I’ve always loved music. From a young age, I played saxophone and clarinet in a school band, and then I started playing guitar when I was 13. I always wanted to be in a band. But, I didn’t know anyone else who played. It was really sad to me, because I really wanted to play with other people, but none of my friends were in bands. It ended up being a very private thing to me. I became very self-conscious about playing in front of people, and embarrassed, nervous, and shy about my music. I always wanted a sense of being in something alongside other people.

How did you overcome that?

I think it was just a matter of time and practice. I still get self-conscious about my abilities, but now I have the confidence to do my thing. You have to push through it, keep going with it, and don’t let it stop you. You have to be like, “I’m just going to do it, because no one else can do what I want to do better than I can.”

Did your bandmates help you?

The three of us have always had times when we’ve felt nervous about our abilities, but, in the end, it’s nice to have each other. It’s like, “What’s the point of not doing it?” We’re all very supportive of each other. We help each other out and give each other the confidence to do our thing. It’s not about being the best mechanically, it’s about putting as much of your own personality into it. If you can do something unique, that has got your own personal stamp on it, then that’s more effective than someone who’s doing technical things without their personality. The three of us have tried to help each other express ourselves, and what feels right to us. ♦

Saturday Links: Julian Casablancas X Karen O Edition


Photo by Jake Chessum for Time Out New York.
Photo by Jake Chessum for Time Out New York.

The Ask a Grown alumna Karen O and Julian Casablancas interviewed each other for this week’s Time Out New York. While they’re best known for fronting the bands Yeah Yeah Yeahs (O) and the Strokes (Casablancas), in this article, they talk about their solo adventures (and bond over the Dirty Dancing soundtrack). Their conversation about songwriting explains the intricate artistic processes which have kept me listening to them since freshman year of high school.

Once again, PBS and MAKERS are teaming up for the second season of their documentary series on often-overlooked women in history who enacted massive change in their times, the first episode of which will air September 30. The hour-long shows will feature women of different backgrounds, ethnicities, and professional fields, AND the narrators and directors are women, as well. Needless to say, these are going to be some rad segments that’ll disrupt a historical narrative which all too frequently disregards women and diversity.

Illustration by Jim Cooke for Jezebel.
Illustration by Jim Cooke for Jezebel.

Rookie’s very own beauty (and life) maven Arabelle wrote a moving essay about using makeup during a period of abuse. It begins, “Two days before CoverGirl, the NFL’s ‘official beauty partner,’ was forced to respond to the league’s handling of the Ray Rice case, I helped three girls on the internet find concealer to cover up their bruises and self-harm scars,” and continues on to examine the links between cosmetics and domestic violence.

Photo by Stefan K. Hetz via Wired.
Photo by Stefan K. Hetz via Wired.

I normally dislike creepy-crawlies, but I couldn’t resist the story of the diving bell spider, which, apart from having the most beautiful name for a spider I’ve ever heard, spends its whole gosh-dang life underwater. I applaud them for their incredible feats of submergence. (Just please don’t come near me when I’m swimming, spider-bros.)

Photo of Claire Greenlee Brown, left, and a friend via The Toast.
Photo of Claire Greenlee Brown, left, and a friend via The Toast.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how challenging it is to have a body and be in the world, especially when you’re not a man. Claire Greenlee Brown’s “Your Concern About the Exact Nature of My Gender Has Been Noted” is a generously light-hearted, but sobering account of the writer’s experiences as a trans person. The piece includes awful examples of the downright rude and inconsiderate things other people have said to Claire: misgendering, ignorant things that trample all over every person’s right to be private about their own body.

Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz for Interrupt Mag.
Illustration by Mohammed Fayaz for Interrupt Mag.

Browntourage and Mojuicy wrote this great article about the differences between cultural appropriation and appreciation in fashion. I tend to get confused about when it’s OK for someone to borrow an item from a different culture, so I found their step-by-step guide to thinking through it super handy.

The Navajo Nation is receiving $554 million from the U.S. federal government as a settlement to a lawsuit claiming that the government has mismanaged the resources of the Navajo for over 50 years. Many other Native American tribes have filed for similar breach-of-trust claims, and though it is good to see the Obama administration working towards making reparations for past systemic atrocities against Native people in the United States, there’s still a long way to go.

Photo courtesy of Gareth Pugh via
Photo courtesy of Gareth Pugh via

Gareth Pugh unveiled his Spring 2015 collection, and it might be my favorite of the whole season. It’s inspired by Baphomet and pagan rituals, scarecrows, and angels, and that all comes together so cohesively. The headpieces include horned skulls and massive dunce caps, and the most conceptual piece is what appears to be giant hula hoop covered in tattered black fabric. The whole collection makes me want to listen to Pharmakon in a field of skeletal trees.
Amy Rose

I’m thrilled that Julianne put me on to Leikeli47’s balletic, tuff-as-fuck “Two Times a Charm” video this morning, and not only because that post includes this quote from an interview 47 did with i-D in June about her omnipresent ski mask (as seen in the video above):

[The] main thing is to reach the people through my music, and not my aesthetic. Don’t worry about if I’m light-skinned, dark skinned, cute, not cute, if I got a buck 50 on my face. Don’t worry about none of that. Worry about the passion and the heart I put into my music.

VERY INTO IT, just as I am the menacing female camaraderie and bitchin’ dance moves on display in the “Two Times” clip.
Caitlin D.

This editorial calling for a ban on all college fraternities is sure to cause some controversy. The author presents a pretty good case, most notably that people in frats are 300 percent more likely to rape someone, and 20 percent of all women will be sexually assaulted at their college or university.


Infographic via the Huffington Post.
Infographic via the Huffington Post.

Last week was Banned Books Week, which brings attention to what, why, and where books are banned in schools and public libraries across the United States. This article breaks down book bannings by state (North Carolina, Oregon, and Texas are in the lead) and by book (Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, a book I love, features prominently). It also includes a handy chart on why the books were challenged (Alexie’s book was challenged for “cultural insensitivity”…). Next up, NPR published a great piece on how graphic novels and comics were particularly scrutinized this year. Finally, here’s a fabulous quiz that tells you which banned book you are. I got my favorite book of all time, The Grapes of Wrath!

Photo by RJ Sangosti for the Denver Post.
Photo by RJ Sangosti for the Denver Post.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Students in Jefferson County, Colorado walked out of their classrooms in protest of questionable school board decisions, particularly about the curriculum in AP U.S. History classes that will focus on the “positive aspects” of American History and omit material about social strife and civil disobedience. It is truly awesome that these students are using peaceful civil disobedience to protect their education. ♦

Ask a Grown Woman: Karen O

Karen O—yes THE Karen O, Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman, consummate rockstar, songwriting genius, fashion icon, eternal hairspiration—answered some questions for us about what to do with your broken heart and your cheating heart and your flitter-fluttering stage-frightened heart. We learned that you can trust her with every kind of your heart.

Her new solo album, Crush Songs, comes out TODAY. Here is what she told us about it: “This music on this record is about me finding my way through love and loss and love again.” Here is what she told us about you:

Part One: Heartbreak, Stage Fright.

Part Two: Cheating.

If you need a famous-person-endorsed cure for what ails YOU, send your query to [email protected]. Please include your first name (or nickname or initials), city, and age, and write “Ask a Grown” in the subject line.

Everything and More

Yeah-Yeah-Yeahs-MasterYeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2001, Shifty

I discovered the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in a church basement in Philadelphia. I had just moved there and made new friends and me and those new friends decided to go see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs because one of us had heard that “Kim Gordon thinks they are cool.” I don’t think any of us had heard their music before. But we went to the church, and then these three kids got on stage and Karen O, the lead singer who had an extra-long jet-black bowl cut that covered her eyes, was E-X-P-L-O-S-I-V-E in all the right ways. I was immediately smitten with her energy. She jumped around, fit the entire microphone inside her mouth while growling like a monster, and poured beer all over herself. The music was angular-sounding and fun and it made me wanna thrash. It was beautiful. As soon as the show was over I rushed to the merch table and bought this EP. I ran home feeling like I had a treasure in my hands. In a matter of days, I knew all the lyrics. It’s only five songs and 13.8 minutes long (as iTunes just told me) but they will be the best 13.8 minutes of your life. “Art Star” was, and still is, pretty much everything: A two-minute send-up of the kids (they’re everywhere) who are always too cool for everything and doing things that are too cool for everyone. “Miles Away” is a JAM if there ever was one, with guitars that go one way then another and Karen O breathing rhythmically and sultrily into the mic. In the last song, “Our Time,” she sings “It’s our time, sweet baby, to break on through” and all of my friends and I believed it. I was discovering myself in a new place, and I had this band that felt like it was mine, and it was my time, you know? It’s your time, too. This record will definitely make it so. —Laia

Black_Sabbath_debut_albumBlack Sabbath
Black Sabbath
1970, Vertigo

When I need to feel CONSUMED BY DARKNESS, I put on this very first of Black Sabbath albums. It’s my go-to for lying prostrate on the floor, closing my eyes, and being like, “WHAT’S UP” to the devil when I’m in a bad mood and need to be overwhelmed by some beautifully conveyed but decidedly ominous-sounding shit. Like a lot of truly fantastic 1970s metal, this short-as-hell album also includes references to, like, wizards and villages. Think some sorta gnome sitting on a toadstool—like, Lord of the Rings metal. I feel like the kids on Freaks and Geeks would have listened to this genre of ELVIN EVIL a lot, and you should too, ’cause it’s rad. Oh, and just so you know, this record also includes the lyric, “my name is Lucifer, please take my hand,” so you know you’re getting your money’s worth, metal-album-wise. —Amy Rose

Carly Rae Jepsen
2012, Interscope

The sass on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Kiss is out of control. Every time I listen to it, I get the same sugar-rush I did when I heard “Call Me Maybe” for the first time. Looking at the record’s other radio hits and their titles (“Good Time” and “Tonight I’m Getting Over You”), you could assume that they’re just distilled versions every other pop song ever. But Jepsen’s lyrics are always smart and weird, and often intense and filled with idiosyncrasies that make them fresh. Her cleverness is most evident in “Turn Me Up,” a song about how she wants to break up with a boy who is sweet but boring, and she can’t because her phone connection is breaking up. In the chorus, she sings: “I’m breaking up with you/ You’re breaking up on me/ You kiss me through the phone/ and I don’t think it reaches,” and then, “Turn me uppppppp/ Turn me on / Why don’t you turn me on?” She’s stuck lamenting this fact, and it’s SO PAINFUL, but then she gets over it by partying. In Kiss, Jepsen is always partying. She’s also always going after boys who are taken, and sometimes while she’s dating someone else, but she DOES NOT CARE. I don’t hear her caring about anything like being “too forward” when she takes a boy’s guitar string and wraps it around her finger like a wedding ring in “Guitar String/Wedding Ring.” She does not care about her makeup or that she plays “teasing games” with a crush in “Drive.” And she doesn’t care that she dropped her phone in the pool in “Good Time” because she had so much fun that she fell asleep with all her clothes on. In this video interview, Jepsen talks about musicians who have influenced her songwriting, including Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. The clip’s headline implies that they are her “most unexpected musical influences.” To me, it isn’t unexpected or crazy at all to align her with those geniuses because I think she has their kind of talent. —Katherine

lifter_pullerFiestas and Fiascos
Lifter Puller
2000, Self-Starter

Fiestas and Fiascos is more than just a great rock record: It’s also a cautionary tale about a clueless scumbag named Nightclub Dwight. As told throughout the album’s 12 songs, Nightclub Dwight opens a club called the Nice Nice, but after doing a lot of drugs, screwing a lot of people, and screwing a lot of people over, he ultimately sees his demise when a guy in an eye-patch comes to burn the Nice Nice to the ground. Craig Finn, who also fronted the party-anthem band the Hold Steady, is at his best on Fiestas and Fiascos, with lines like “Love is like a battle of the bands / Crank up your amps, man.” The fact that this record hasn’t been turned into a movie is a goddamn shame. —Megan Seling

dead_kennedysFresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables
Dead Kennedys
1980, Manifesto

One of the most essential American punk albums, Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables is a seething and sarcastic take on culture and politics that still rings frighteningly true more than three decades after its release. Whenever I read about working people losing their jobs or banks getting bailed out, Jello Biafra’s distinctive voice, singing “Kill, kill, kill, kill, kill the poor,” pops right into my head. Dead Kennedys tackle the flaws in our society with a twisted sense of humor, and that’s what I love about them. If you live in a crappy apartment, the bouncy “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” might cheer you up. My apolitical ex-boyfriend thought “Stealing People’s Mail” was a hilarious song that was also great for skating to—and it is. One of their most famous tracks, “Holiday in Cambodia,” is also one of their darkest, both lyrically (Jello makes razor-sharp digs at people who are oblivious to or in denial about their privilege and suggests they take a holiday in Cambodia, which at the time suffered under the dictator Pol Pot) and musically (it reminds me of faster songs by Bauhaus). It’s followed with a warbly, mocking cover of Elvis’s “Viva Las Vegas,” which sums up the vibe of the album perfectly: The Dead Kennedys make feeling cynical fun. —Stephanie

Flin Flon
1999, Teen-Beat

This album is an opened-up nerve. It makes me want to explore the entirety of the world, be incredibly surprised by what I find, and then romanticize the fuck out of my life. It also makes me feel like it’s possible to do that in the span of one night out partying in my same-as-ever neighborhood. My favorite song on it, “Floods,” is ostensibly a song about settling for hooking up with someone you feel middling about—“feeling you up and feeling disappointed,” goes one line of the chorus—but even that seems more fun than whatever plans you had before listening to it. —Amy Rose

Gang-Gang-Dance-Eye-ContactEye Contact
Gang Gang Dance
2010, 4AD

“I can hear everything / It’s everything time,” are the first lyrics you hear when you play this record, and it’s the perfect indication of what is to come. Eye Contact is Gang Gang Dance’s last album (they may or may not be on hiatus), and it’s so grandiose in the sonic spaces it occupies. The tracks mix what most people would call “world music” (LOL) with electronic beats that wouldn’t have been out of place in the coolest ’80s and ’90s clubs. In between weirdo-awesome instrumental jams, there are gems like “Adult Goth” (first of all, YES on that title), which has stabbing keyboards that sound like a warning that if you mess with singer Lizzi Bougatsos, you will be in trouble. The absolute STANDOUT on this record is “Mindkilla,” which—I don’t know what it’s about. I often don’t know what Gang Gang Dance’s songs are about (it’s hard to understand what Bougatsos’s singing!) but that doesn’t really bother me because I can make it about whatever I want. I think this song is some kind of love/battle-cry that will make you get off your feet and invoke the universe for all its energy. Eye Contact is a maximalist explosion of everything that is good and holy, and like every other thing Gang Gang Dance ever put out, it’s hard to listen to it just once. —Laia

neurosisThrough Silver in Blood
1996, Relapse

I absolutely hate taking showers, like, to an untenable degree, so I have to find some little way of making it fun for myself. One of these is bringing a book in with me (don’t lend me books, guys), but if I can’t do that, I get down with what I like to call a Metal Shower. This is when you put on Neurosis (preferably this greatest of all sludge-metal albums), get in the water, close your eyes dramatically and dutifully, and pretend the stream of hot water raining down on you is blood. Heed Satan’s calling! Just try not to ruin the effect when you reach for your tangerine-and-vanilla body gel, as I so often do, because fussy fragrances aren’t really all that demonic. Even when you’re not using this album to make basic hygiene rituals bearable, it fucking rules. It taught me that metal could be as delicate, melodic, and methodical as classical music. I bet you’ll love it. —Amy Rose

cibo_mattoViva! La Woman
Cibo Matto
1996, Warner Bros.

Cibo Matto means “crazy food” in Italian, which could not be more appropriate for this record because all of the songs sound crazy and are about food (the exception being the bonus track, “Jive,” which is 19 seconds of someone slapping their leg with their hands). Even if you’ve never heard it before, “Sugar Water” will likely be familiar because it’s been played on TV at least a million times and because hearing it is bliss, and you’ve felt that before. In “Birthday Cake,” the organs and berserk-o way Yuka Honda sings about the ingredients of the cake (“Extra sugar! Extra salt! Extra oil and MSGeeeeeeeee!”) communicate the same kind of out-of-your-mind hyperactivity you experience when you eat sweets as a kid. Listening to it today, I still feel like running around and punching the air and, like, flipping the lights on and off. It makes me THAT happy. The whole album does. —Lena

Propagandhi_-_Less_Talk__More_RockLess Talk, More Rock
1996, Fat Wreck Chords

I discovered this album at a punk record store that existed for about a year in my town. Conveniently, it was my junior year—the year I was angriest at the world and most disgusted by discrimination, general human ugliness, capitalism, and the way governments seemed to do nothing to fix anything all. When I saw the cover of Less Talk, More Rock, which is ringed by the words “Animal-Friendly, Anti-Fascist, Gay-Positive, Pro-Feminist” it was like a revelation. Someone out there wanted the same things as me! I was even more excited when I listened to it. The first two songs advocated veganism, “The Only Good Fascist is a Very Dead Fascist” called out “sexist, racist, homophobes,” and “We Thought Nation-States Were a Bad Idea” was the most slam-danceable song about class war I’d ever heard. The best thing about the record is the way it acknowledges privilege. “Resisting Tyrannical Government” says the privileged should feel obliged to fight until everyone has everything they need; “The State Lottery” opens with a sample from Noam Chomsky’s Prospects for Democracy in which Chomsky talks about what rich societies have to do before true democracies can exist; and in my favorite, “Refusing to be a Man,” singer Chris Hannah actually calls himself a “heterosexist tragedy.” (Chris talks about what the song means to him in the intro of this video.) I’m not nearly as angry as I used to be, but Less Talk, More Rock continues to be my go-to album when I am feeling riled up, or when I just want to bounce around to pop-punk while I’m waiting for the bus. —Stephanie ♦

Friday Playlist: Brattitude

Screams ’n’ jams about wrecking stuff, teenage narcissism, never wanting to grow up, and, of course, not giving a shit about anything!

Illustration by Minna
Illustration by Minna

Friday Playlist: Dance Party Funtimes

I never really celebrated Halloween growing up. I KNOW, it’s crazy, but I grew up in Puerto Rico, OK? But then I moved to NYC, where Halloween is totally a big deal. And why shouldn’t it be? Halloween means candy and costumes and DANCE PARTIES GALORE. Since I love any excuse to shake it anywhere and everywhere, here’s a perfect playlist for all of your (our) dance-party moments, whether you’re channeling Wednesday Addams at a party or Beyonce while in the comfort and privacy of your own bedroom. Guaranteed to make even the most serious ghouls drop the gloom and doom and have a ball.

Illustration by Minna