With his premier album, ‘One More Taste of the Good Stuff,’ Hank May offers an open wound, a blunt diary entry, of the transformative world that has colored his work.
by guest writer Lilly Eason
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Structured and recorded in his father’s home studio, the place where his high school band rehearsed, it’s no wonder that Hank May’s debut album, One More Taste Of The Good Stuff, brings a great sense of intimacy with it. In phrases like “every band on my binder got hired,” referencing Woodstock ‘99 in the opening track “NBC,” or the semi-true story of a secondhand guitar transaction in “Patsy DeKline,” May’s own life bleeds through each track.
These songs are the result of years of experiences, some great, some mundane, some tragic, which all blend together in this new release. “It took me a long time,” May said, “once I recorded it, to sort of plot out the release strategies. I haven’t had to spend this much time with my own music in my entire life so I feel differently about these songs than I have about any other songs I’ve written, and I would be lying if I said it was a good thing.”
Perhaps this intimate insight into the artist also has something to do with May’s feelings of solitude during the album’s creation. When discussing a track called “Offline,” May mentioned, “I got home and was just hiding in my practice space making music, I was definitely feeling a lot of isolation, so [this album] feels timely, that it’s coming out at a time when people are trying to reenter society.” He later noted that “I can be really friendly, but I also need my solitude.” May noted, however, that it was this album that brought him out from a place of isolation.
My life got a lot less lonely after I wrote those songs. Things turned around for me as soon as I stopped wallowing.
An LA native, May moved to upstate New York for his undergrad, transitioning to New York City for about four years thereafter, doing the “DYI lifestyle,” as May put it, in Brooklyn. “[My parents] raised us with this idea that New York was this lost promise land of coolness,” an opinion which May later contested. “As a place to make art, New York sucks,” May stated, blatantly. Faced with the duality of being the face of gentrification in his neighborhood while also hating its effects, coupled with living in an unforgiving city, May moved back to his hometown of Los Angeles, where he’s been living ever since. With plenty of time to create but less than necessary resources in NYC, LA became May’s springboard to this release.
While One More Taste of the Good Stuff is deeply rooted in May’s own life, he described it as “auto-fiction,” that space between the real and the fictional, an exaggeration of a true story. “If you’re drawing from your own life,” May said, “and you bend the truth a little bit, take some liberties, then you wind up writing autofiction. I think that’s really easy for a songwriter to do without knowing it cause that’s just what the process is like.” “Patsy DeKline,” the album’s third track might best show off the auto-fictional narrative style with which May plays with.
The song follows Patsy as May is buying a used guitar from this woman, walls clad with posters of Nirvana with a corgi nipping at her heels. In this song, May is a secondary character, being the narrator of a story about a woman, giving up her instrument, giving up things of her youth for another to use. “That’s a real experience I had mostly. I made up details, but it kind of felt like seeing a psychic. When you go buy something from somebody, when you go into their house, it can be such an intimate moment even though you’re just there to take out the trash and give them some money, but it was really emotional, I felt moved by this experience.” For May, the trip to Patsy’s house was a personal one, seeing someone give away something so intimate as a guitar. “I don’t expect to do this for my whole life, I’d have to get really lucky for that to happen…and so it was making me think about my own future.”
The album also discusses substance use and abuse a great deal, with one song even being titled “High On LCD.” This, too, comes from May’s own experiences, who’s seen the destructive effects of said issue in an inescapable way. “You reach a point in life,” May said, “where people that you know, they’ve either gotta get clean or they’re gonna die, people just turning into the worst versions of themselves. Most people who party, who find coexistence with drugs and drinking, if that works for you, after a little while you’re in trouble.” One More Taste of the Good Stuff, both the album’s title and that of its final track references a mindset of many who struggle with addiction, “that last cocktail or that last spliff before you quit,” as May phrased it.
The phrase echos of desperation and despair, pairing well with the blunt manner with which substance abuse is discussed in this record. The song describes losing people to their self-destructive tendencies, particularly drawing on an experience May had with someone close to him. “That song in particular,” May said, “it’s kind of haunting to me now. My friend who passed away, he’s in the lyrics of that song. He hadn’t died yet when I wrote it and I was worried he’d take offense to it but I lost him before he’d ever heard the song within like a month of writing it. There are verses in that song that I took away, it’s a haunting song to me.” Like “Woodstock 99’,” which is mentioned in the song “NBC” and described in almost gruesome honesty, there is nothing romantic about substance use in this record. It’s jarring and truthful to its horrors and devastating effects.
Listen: “NBC” – Hank May
At this, the release of his first studio album, May’s mindset is a mixed one- filled half with fear and trepidation, but also with hope. “When you have to send this thing out into the world that’s supposed to represent you, it’s like your ticket but it also has to get rejected like a hundred times so by the time you’re ready to release it’s just, ‘here you go, hope you like it.'” Nevertheless, May wants young artists to see him as something who they could become, but only if they work hard enough.
The road to release has been a rocky one, one which has grounded him, made him realize the difficulty of the field. Like Patsy DeKline, May has struggled, has stared at his guitar with the anxiety which the future threatens, but has now reached the summit of his career’s tough climb. “It’s all about doing the songwriting, opening up your heart to loving music. You can get jaded, there are parts of being a musician that can make you want to quit but the real thing that you can’t lose is being excited to listen to music and being inspired by it and you do that process enough that it becomes second nature. What you’ll find is that eventually you’ll start writing more and more and it’ll be less precious, so you’ll care less about the reception of the music but the music itself will be better and you won’t beat yourself up so much.”
This is, really, what makes an artist like Hank May. In those moments where adversity stares you down and pressures you to give up, yet you persevere, that’s proof of true passion. It’s always astounding to bear witness to an artist’s love for their craft, especially when it comes with an excess of roadblocks. Success is not an easy thing to come by, yet neither is talent. For May, it’s nice to see that one is catching up to the other.
A lover of music, writing, and literature, Lilly Eason is a senior English student at Sewanee and calls Nashville, TN home. She has an infatuation for the music and style of the 1960’s, a funky bassline, and a strong cup of coffee. Can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @lu_loveday99.
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