Published on June 13th, 2014 | by Esther MacIntyre0
Miss June is more than a woman
“I still think about him in his onesie, hanging upside down, and it’s what I aspire to be. I think about it every time I perform live – I’m not even being a cheesy motherfucker. It left such an impression on me.
– Annabel Liddell, Miss June
Miss June is more than a woman.
Four parts maketh the new babe of the Auckland music scene, stamping her mark all over the world-weary visage of this city.
Annabel Liddell, former guitarist of all-girl three-piece punk band Grrlfriendz, fronts the band with spooky levels of pizzazz, charisma, and a level of enthusiasm that only resides in the young.
For someone under 20, I don’t think it’s sycophantic to use the word “star”.
Interestingly, her band consists of three jazz musicians in-training. James Park on guitar (reminiscent of a young James Iha of Smashing Pumpkins), Thomas Leggett on drums and Chris Marshall on bass guitar collectively exude a refreshing enthusiasm for performing music in its various forms.
Thomas explains it like this: “Jazz drummers play real quiet, and, listening to that shit eight hours a day, 12 hours a day sometimes… I just wanted to hit some shit really loud, in front of drunk teenagers. And here we are.”
The talented group of friends came together only last year when Annabel was offered a slot at local music festival Bloodfeast, held at Lucha Lounge in Newmarket. She was originally planning to perform a solo set, before a last-minute rush to get a band together.
Miss June’s list of gigs to date is a short but impressive one. Most recently they opened for The Jezabels at the Kings Arms, and last month for Die! Die! Die! on the last date of their NZ tour at Whammy Bar.
In March this year Miss June opened the 95bFM Summer Series with a loud and vivacious set, blowing the metaphorical cobwebs out of audience members and radio listeners alike.
Annabel’s attitude towards playing live is, “You just gotta play like you’re playing a fucking stadium arena. Whether you’re playing to five or fifty people, you’ve got to play how you want to play. If it’s the middle of the day, or midnight.”
We talk about how Auckland audiences are often spoilt for choice. It’s a huge perk of living in a metropolitan city, but sometimes – every now and then – we forget how to have fun.
“A lot of bands do vibe off the crowd,” says Annabel. “So if the crowd’s in a bad mood and they’re just standing in the corner drinking, then the band will play real shit, and that just makes people feel worse.”
“I’m honestly just there to have fun,” says Thomas.
James adds, “And even on stage we’re always shooting shit and cracking jokes, and that’s why it’s so much fun.”
Their first single, Clyde the Turtle, was recorded within one week of forming, for a compilation CD released by Andrew Tolley for Bloodfeast.
Danny Mañetto recorded two singles for the band at UFO in New Lynn after becoming a fan of Annabel’s earlier work with Grrlfriendz, who also recorded their debut album there.
When I ask about Danny, Chris simply replies, “He lives at UFO. He looks like Santa.”
“He’s so funny with our tracks though,” Annabel says. “He gets really carried away with them, ‘cause he has way too much free time. After we’d first recorded I came to him and he was like… ‘Okay! So I’ve put all this STUFF in it. It’s aaaaall subtle, you won’t even notice.’”
“Like tambourine…” says Thomas.
Annabel laughs. “In the bridge he’s taken a loop of Kim from the Pixies talking. Like (American accent) ‘…all I know is that he was really into field hockey players and it was all so hush hush…’ We took that and reversed it.
“And at the very end you can hear one of the dudes from The Pixies going ‘AND THEN YOU FUCKING DIE’.” (laughs)
As for Annabel’s stream of “welcome-to-the-fucking-internet” frustration towards the end of the track, that was all done on the spot.
“We recorded the song with an instrumental at the end,” says Annabel, “and I was originally singing “Oo-ooh”, which you can hear, and he was like, ‘You know what you should do? A stream of consciousness.’
“So I did the first one, which is like rhyming and rapping a bit – talking about fucking weird shit like leather men (if you listen to it it’s fucked) – and then Danny was like, ‘That’s pathetic! Come on, give it more than that!’ So the second track is me yelling.”
Chris adds, “If you listen carefully, you can hear Danny yelling ‘motherfucker’ in the background.”
“Yeah, he just goes “MOTHERFUCKERRR!” laughs Annabel.
Annabel says being on the internet all the time inspired this song. “I got an iPhone and it kinda ruined my life, to be honest.”
I ask if Annabel feels there’s been much of a shift in content from Grrlfriendz to Miss June.
“Oh fuck yeah,” she says. “Such a shift. It’s ridiculous.
“When we did Grrlfriendz, to begin with I wrote half the lyrics and Toya wrote half the lyrics. And we were like, 16.
“It was just quite juvenile I guess. We weren’t concerned with much, we were just like, ‘boys suck, school sucks, let’s be angry’. Whereas this is just a bit more crafted. With Grrlfriendz, because they were punk songs, we’d just go into a jam and play and write and just pump out four songs, just like that. Whereas with these guys I’ll sit at home and actually think about the songs, and I think about how it’s going to sound with the band, and I take it to them and then craft it from there.”
I ask Annabel if she ever talks about the themes in her songs, with the guys in the band.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do,” she says. “I explain it to them. Most of the time they get it. They’re pretty onto it.
“I remember the first time I played a song to these guys, Tom just sat there on the drums and said, ‘Yeah… angry girls… I get it.'”
She agrees it’s cool because people tend to think 18 and 19 year-old boys are still growing up and perhaps don’t think critically about a woman’s place in the world.
“Yeah, totally. These guys are all sweet musicians, and I think they fucking love it to be honest.
“I think it’s really sweet for them, as jazz musicians especially, to have a female singer who isn’t doing scats or traditional jazz singing. I think my free reign over everything when we play live gives them a bit of freedom, too. I think they really vibe off it.
“A lot of my friends are very vocal about things that annoy them, but for a lot of people they’re not… so for me to be like ‘fuck this, fuck that’ on stage is for them to be like ‘Yeah! Fuck this!’ You know? A lot of the time I’ll go up to Chris when we’re playing and he just screams ‘Fuck you!’ in the mic, and it’s like, ‘Good! That’s what I want.'”
For a 19-year-old girl, Annabel’s self-confidence is pretty amazing. She’s been playing guitar since she was nine years old, but says her level of skill “doesn’t reflect that”.
“I don’t know any covers; I couldn’t play you a Jack Johnson song if you asked, but I’ve been playing guitar for 10, 11 years now. I just got to the point where I could play chords, and then I wrote songs. I was so into song-writing, and the first gigs I ever played were performing my own songs.
“I remember the first time I said I wanted to be a musician. It was when I saw The Mint Chicks live. My mum had taken me to the show. He [Kody Nielsen] was wearing a zebra-print onesie and he hung upside down off the railing above the stage and sang, and I was just like ‘…hhhholy fuckin’ shit.’ And I turned to my mum and said ‘Mum, I think I’m gonna start a band’. Never listened to the Mint Chicks, never seen them before. I would’ve been 13. And I went back to school and started my first ever band at boarding school.
“I still think about it though! I still think about him in his onesie hanging upside down, and it’s what I aspire to be. I think about it every time I perform live – I’m not even being a cheesy motherfucker, I genuinely do. It left such an impression on me.
“I’d seen a lot of people play live. I’d seen Neil Young Play live, I’d seen The Stones, I’d been to Guns N’ Roses, ACDC… but seeing The Mint Chicks was a whole other thing.”
Led by charismatic Annabel, Miss June has a fine future ahead. You can find their music at missjune.bandcamp.com, or see them live at The Psycho Roadshow on 11 July at the Kings Arms.