With the release of their first album Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? New Jersey band Little Hag has begun to make serious moves in the Indie music scene. By signing to the Bar None record label, the band has also made plans on a future release of a few singles, and a brand-new album for 2021. Last week I sat down with singer/guitarist Avery Mandeville to talk about the creation of the band's first album, and what goals the group has in store for the future. During the interview Mandeville revealed her favorite songs from the album, the process of making the music video for the song "Tetris," and what it's like to be a woman in a predominately male music scene.
Be sure to check out Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? Now streaming on all major platforms, and check out the accompanying review of the album here.
Rather listen to this interview? Click here.
Congrats on the release of your new album Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? What does it feel like now that its released?
"It's been a long time coming with Bar None and a lot of those songs are already released on different forms on different albums. With signing with Bar None and making the decision of rebranding as Little Hag, they wanted to give those songs another chance to be heard as this unit. I put out an EP in 2017 called Salty, and an album called Happy Birthday Avery Jane in 2018, so most of the songs are from those two things. They're also from a new single and a live version of the song called 'Encore. We just wanted to put this stuff together and give it a new life."
How does it feel to be signed to Bar None?
"It feels pretty cool! They've been such a pleasure to work with, and getting to know that team and how being on a real label works has been really fun and exciting. It's a lot of uncharted territory for me. My manager Emmy came to a show I played last Summer at the old bar I used to work at and they were like 'Yeah I have these connections with this label Bar None, they really like your music, you should come by the office sometime.' I was so excited but overwhelmed by that opportunity because it was like a new kind of dating. So, its been really exciting working with Bar None because they've put out so many iconic records, and started so many bands that I love."
You mentioned a little bit about rebranding. Where did you get the name "Little Hag" from?
"It started as a joke because I was going through a phase where I was changing my Instagram handle a lot, probably around 2016. I was 'Official Barbra Streisand,' I was 'Official Joey Fatone,' at some point that whole thing derailed, and then Little Hag became one of things and I never changed it again. It kind of stuck. Becoming Little Hag in real life was sort of - when I started getting 'Little Hagged' in public, someone would be like 'are you Little Hag?' So it's cool but also weird. We all have a strange relationship with the internet, even people that I know in real life I forget what their name is because I think of them as their username. I think it's a modern era sort of problem. When I started getting 'Little Hagged' in public, then I knew it was time to kill Avery."
Let's talk about your Instagram for a second. In your bio you mention to go to your brother's page about Advil and then on his page is an actual picture of Advil! What is this?
"It's just some kind of long running joke. He's 18 now so that account is pretty old. He probably posted that when he was 14 or 15. Once in a while, I'll post in my story and be like 'Is everyone following my brother Jack so they can see a picture of his new Advil?' Something about a picture of your NEW Advil, it's never not funny to me."
Where do you draw your musical inspiration from? You mentioned killing off Avery, that must have been something.
"I just wanted to put a little bit of separation in between my artist name and my human name. I also think there's a connotation with a person's name as a band name, or an artist's name. That comes along with the idea of like 'you're a singer/songwriter' or 'you're a solo,' which boxes you in a little bit. I find myself preferring band names that are not human names. I get my inspiration from real life situations that and a song winds up happening as the thing unfolds in real time. I wish I could write a different way; I would probably lead a more productive life if I could force myself to write, or be a little fictional. But I find if something shitty happens, on the drive home I'll be singing into my voice memo. I feel like most creative people always have a little notebook on them. I'll be at a show watching a band, and I'll feel something, so in the dark I'll have the pad up to my face trying to write something. I'll also be doing this while trying not to let whomever is next to me not see what I'm doing."
How long have you been playing music for?
"I've been playing guitar since I was 15ish, maybe 16. I was a chorus-kid in Middle School, so I've been singing since then. I picked up guitar because I wanted to sing without being beholden of somebody else. Once you learn four chords I mean, you're good. In my case I didn't get much farther than that. I got the basics, and at some point I learned how to finger-pick, which was a revelation for me. It was a vessel for the song so I didn't' have to rely on other people."
You have a pretty unique vocal style; did you sing that way in chorus?
"Probably, I'm sure if I watched an old video of myself, I could hear it from back then. The way I sing is not at all intentional, its due to not being trained in singing properly. I think if any voice teacher heard me sing, they'd be like, 'Oh god. You're damaging yourself.' I know I don't sing with proper technique, so I think that's where the sound comes from. It used to be more. It used to be more, how do I put it, goat-ie? Like the vibrato was intense, but I mean it's still intense but in a palatable way. It's definitely been a turn off for some people, but I've gotten better at controlling it, or knowing when to not be so vibrato heavy. But at the beginning it was something that was a natural thing I didn't even know I was doing."
Do you think that more of it will appear on the next album?
"Yeah. Well, I have been dialing it back a little bit just because, I think by using it for emphasis, rather than it being the constant mode, could be impactful. But yeah there's definitely a lot of it happening on the new stuff. God, yeah I'm really excited about the stuff I'm releasing in 2021 and working on the release plan for some singles moving forward, and yeah I'm really excited about them."
Talk to me about them a little bit, you have some singles and then an album in 2021?
"The first one is called 'Cherry' and it's coming out next month at some point. I recorded these songs in December of 2019 with Erik Romero, he's a pleasure to work with. I love the work that he does with bands like The Front Bottoms. He's a great person and a great friend. His band called stillhungry is the bomb. We did some songs in December, and I'm getting back in with him soon to do some more of what I wrote over quarantine. I was mad productive in May, I was like 'I'm gonna emerge from quarantine with the hits, I'm gonna learn Spanish!' I didn't do most of that, but I did write a lot of music in the first chunk of it. I'm really excited. I think its just as bitchy as ever, but in more refined and pointed ways. How life continues to disappoint, so I will always have something to draw from."
Do you think it'll sound similar to the Pop track "Get Real!" or will it stray into an Indie style?
"This newer stuff is more Rock n' Roll sounding I would say. 'Get Real!' was a left turn sort of Pop adventure born out of the friendship I had with my cowriter on that song. His name is Josh Perna, he's from this band called Saint Slumber, he's also got a solo project called King Leer. He's a really talented writer and one of my best friends for the past 10 years. One night we got together and – we've been friends for such a long time that we always say, 'We're gonna write stuff today' and then we get drunk and we don't do shit. One of the nights I was in the middle of a really heinous breakup and he's like, 'We're zonin' in baby. No more dicking around, we're gonna get drunk, but we're also gonna write something.' We started that night off with the song 'Knock Off' and I was so into it. I was like, 'This song is killer!' I was reading texts from my ex in the background of the track. Its written and recorded in one night. Then he gets an idea and started playing the riff of 'Get Real!' and I was like, 'I'm not interested in that, I wanna work on the other song more, I don't care whatever you're doing.' And then he's like 'I'm writing the hit. Shut the fuck up.' So he starts building that track and then he's like, 'Alright get bitchin now, lets crank it out.' I was very nonchalantly thinking about what goes on at shows that pisses me off, or the general sexism of being alive. That one just poured out of me, but that was a 2 a.m. middle of the night, just singing as I was going. That one completely spilled out of me thanks to my buddy Josh and my buddy Evan Williams."
Was the music video for the track made within the same night or was that more of a process?
"That was later yeah. That was a really fun project for me and my sibling Kylie. We just wanted to goof around, and my friends Dan and Linda, did the music video for the song 'Blood,' which will also be on this new record. 'Blood' and 'Get Real!' are gonna be on this new record redone. I loved working with them, they're the best team, they're so funny and they have great ideas. Dan will come out and be like 'I wanna do this crazy shot, and then we spin you in a chair and then we get this type of camera!' and then Linda will be like 'that's nice honey, how about something feasible and actual version we can do.' So that's how things like 'Get Real!' happen. And then I'm like standing in front of the green screen and I'm like 'How about some creamed corn in the background?'"
Let's talk about that for a second. In the background of 'Get Real!' you have the intro to the SpongeBob porn and baked beans being spilled out.
"Thank you for noticing! No one has ever been like, 'I know what that is.' That was us being like what can we not get in trouble for using. Just leaning into the weirdness of the vibe, because it was available. It was like 'We have a green-screen, what weird shit can we put on it?' Me, Dan, and Linda and Kylie, my sibling, are very fucking weird. Just wanna freak people out whenever possible. Kylie is my inspiration, they use they/them pronouns by the way. Kylie is my little baby and they influence me so much and my approach of not giving a fuck. Kylie has been not shaving their legs, not caring what people think since they were 13, its so cool. When I was 16, I cared what people thought, I wore makeup every day, shaved my legs a lot and was really just putting on this look. Which is no longer on my radar. There's something cool that comes out when you just don't give a fuck."
On Little Hag's bio on Bandcamp it reads that "Little Hag was conceived in a New Jersey basement and born-again during quarantine." When would you say Little Hag was officially formed?
"I would say the original formation of Little Hag came when I recorded that EP Salty, these songs were stuff I had written – I had always been a solo writer, I've been writing and stuff since I was 16. Just acoustic; playing open mics, playing the talent show in school, playing coffee-shop kind of gigs. These were songs I had written over a long period of time between when I was 16 and 21. When I got in the studio with Joe Pomarico from Telegraph Hill Records, my guitar player and the Vice President of Telegraph Hill, Matt Fernicola, the band sort of came in. Fern and I's good friend Owen became my drummer because we were like, 'Who do we have to play on these songs?' and that line-up wound up sticking. It was really organic, my bass player Chris, who is my mortal enemy, was never asked. I never asked him to be in the band, he just started showing up."
Your mortal enemy?
"Yeah, I mean the dude just sucks. But now he's my ride or die."
The new album Whatever Happened to Avery Jane was just released on all streaming platforms and this album is an emotional rollercoaster. It's full of joy, sadness, and raw emotion. What is behind the album's title?
"Glenn Morrow, one of the founders of Bar None is the guy who came up with the title. I hate that other people have amazing ideas; he just came out of the box with that. I'm usually the one who is like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'll come up with something better.' But as soon as he said it, I was like, 'Glenn, you knocked it out of the park. That is so spot on.' It hits every element for me because I'm not being Avery Mandeville as my artist's name anymore, and Happy Birthday Avery Jane was crucial to my identity as an artist. So, the play on words, the reference to the movie Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? It is a question that I don't have an answer to, and intriguing to present to people as Little Hag."
What are your favorite songs from the album?
"'Tetris' is my favorite, I think. It's the newest thing. 'Tetris' just rocks. That was the quickest turnaround I've had on a song because I wrote that at the very end of June because I was playing a show the next day because I was like, 'I gotta write a song because I feel like playing something new' and that one just poured out of me. It got a good response at the show, so I was like, 'Alright let's record this.' Between writing it and releasing it, it was like a two-month window, which is pretty unheard of for me, and I think for a lot of people. Things always take such a long time. It was such a Summer vibe song, that I was like, 'I have to have this out by the end of this Summer because that's where the roots of it are.' If people aren't listening to this with a sunburn, I have failed. 'Tetris' is my favorite but I also love the live version of 'Encore' at the end of the album. It was a very special recording to me and I think it captures some of the live energy and the fun that we have when we're playing. I have a version of 'Encore' that came out in 2018 on Happy Birthday that is solo acoustic. I recorded that version the day after I wrote it, which seems to be a pattern with me. I wrote it and was like, 'Let's just record this right now.' So, having a full band version - a live version, that sounds good was really cool. You never really know how you sound live until you hear it back. I was like, 'Oh! We were tight!'"
You can hardly tell 'Encore' is live because it sounds so similar to everything else on the album. It reflects that you guys don't overly edit your music to fit a production style. It's always raw for you guys.
"I think the new songs that are going to be coming out reflect that too. Also, the live version of 'Encore' sounds as good as it does thanks to Joe Pomarico of Telegraph Hill. He is a mastermind engineer behind that day, and he really knocked it out of the park. He wanted us to play it twice – this was at a real show, we were playing this event called Girlzilla at the Asbury Park Music Foundation. He was like, 'Can you guys play it twice so I can I can put it all it together?' I was like, 'That feels weird to make people listen to it twice.' Once we did the first one was I like, 'I'm not doing it again. Goodbye!' That was a fun crowd too, I can pick out my dad's voice, Chris's dad Dennis, my ex-boyfriend's voice, I can tell who is who. It was a super natural thing. I'm glad in hindsight that I didn't get weird about it. Usually I do a little banter in-between verses or something, I usually end up talking a little bit, and I'm glad I didn't overthink it."
How does it feel to have an ex on an album of yours?
"They're all in everything anyway. That's like one of my bigger inspirations, I guess. I don't mind it at all. I have really good relationships with a lot of my exes, for the most part. I'm grateful for the things they've taught me, or that I've taught them, or the experiences we've had. I'm not one to hold a grudge, it just benefits no one. I've always considered forgiveness as a gift you give yourself. I'm working on a video right now, and I don't know if it's ever going to come to fruition because it's been more of a pain in the ass than I originally expected. It's from one of the newer songs called 'Schlub' and it's gonna be on the new record. I sent it to some of my exes and was like, 'I need you to take a video of yourself listening to this song. Just give me a reaction video and I'm gonna cut it all together.' Of course, of the plethora of people I reached out to, I only got a couple back. So that's one of the benefits of not burning bridges."
The single "Tetris" was released earlier this year, and then made into a music video pretty recently. In the video you're dancing in your room and singing into an aloe vera bottle. What was it like to make the music video?
"It was fun! I have a little bit of video editing skills from a class I took. I'm also back in school for the first time since I was 20. I kind of put my toes in the water a little bit with this sort of video style by making a jokey video with a friend of mine. We did a cover of 'Mother' by Danzig, and I had a similar dancing in my room edit. I was like, 'What if I just use this as the quarantine vibe? Let me do some vibe science, and I'll dance around in my room lewdly, and see what happens.' It was really fun to make and it was the first time I've ever made a music video. It was a fun process for me."
It looked fun and it looked unique because of the way that person randomly walked into frame and then left.
"Yes! That was my sibling Kylie. That was just a natural thing that was happening. I did a take in each outfit and at some point, Kylie just walked in and was like, 'Hey…can I get your charger?' I'm glad you picked up on that because it's one of my favorite moments from the video because it's so brief."
There is some heavy imagery and outstanding storytelling in track six "Alexander," can you take me through the creation of this song?
"That song is very personal because I met this guy named Alex when I was in a psychiatric unit in Manhattan after a suicide attempt in 2015. It was a whirlwind of an experience, the hospital I was in is notorious for being generally bad. It'll be in movies or T.V shows and stuff, they'll name drop this hospital because it's horrible. I met this homeless guy named Alex who was from North Carolina but had been in and out of the hospital, rehab, and being on the streets. He was one of the only people I really connected with during my stay. I think about him a lot, and wonder how he's doing a lot. I wish that circumstances were different and that he had the support that he needed. He taught me a lot while I was there. That was a pretty intense point in my life, and he was like a little shining light during that time. I don't talk about it much and I guess it's because I feel so far removed from it now, like I barely recognize that person. Those dark horrible feelings aren't associated with me anymore. So, this song is kind of like a little time capsule to me. That time feels 1000 years ago, and I'm definitely not that person anymore."
On the track 8 "Predator" you get very intimate with the listener by singing about the rape or molestation of the girl in this song. "she's so trusting/but when she wants out/he closes her mouth/she can run but she's not that fast." What was it like to create this song and put it on the record?
"That's another one that just poured out in a natural way. That one is inspired by the abuser in my life that persisted for many years, to be a deeply troubling friend. It's about a real person, he's a real bad man. It's a complicated thing to live through and work through, because he was an abuser but he was also my best friend. Or, it felt to me like he was my best friend. It was really hard to unpack all that and look at it for how it really was years later. That song was really cathartic and helped me organize those feelings in a new way. I've done a lot of the work of reaching out to him, letting him know how he hurt me. Reaching out to friends and letting them know what happened. At the end of the day it ended up costing me those friendships and those people. But it was a blessing in disguise. Looking back now, you don't need people who don't support you. Writing that song was a real part of healing for me and it's such a bittersweet thing when someone else relates to it. That happens pretty much every time I play it live, someone comes up to me in the corner of the bar, long after the set, I'll get that tap on the arm and a whisper like, 'Hey, thank you for writing that.' It's people of every gender and age who say that too. It feels good to give a voice to victims, and you end up connecting with people through that."
On 'Tetris' you immediately start the song and album with the lyrics, "Everyone wants to fuck me. No one wants to see me cry." Do you actually feel this way?
"Yeah, this was also in the depths of the quarantine horniness, where I was like, 'I'm a shell of a woman, I am trapped in my body, and my body is trapped in my house, and my house is trapped in the middle of nowhere.' That's just kind of been a life theme in a way, as a woman in music its always a looming thing of, 'Hmm, does this guy actually want to jam, or does he just want to hook up with me?' Or like, 'Do I have an agenda?' That's just an element of my life that I like to exploit, its how I really feel a lot of the time, and I like making jokes about it because it's not so serious to me. I like having the ability to call people out on whatever it is that their deal is."
Now that you're signed, what merch can fans expect to see?
"I know I need to make merch! I have been sitting on some t-shirt designs for a long time, and some fun merch ideas. It's just a matter of printing this stuff. I want to make some Little Hag crap; I don't think there will be any physical prints of Whatever Happened to Avery Jane? As far as I know. I don't have any plans for a vinyl release because these songs are more of a compilation of songs to me. I guess if there was a serious demand for it, I would but there will definitely be vinyl for this new record, and t-shirts and stuff soon. I never know what people are gonna want. I like merch that is funny or weird or sarcastic. I was mocking up with my best friend and keyboard player, Noah Rauchwerk, t-shirts that say Mommy's Little Hag, or Grandad's Little Hag. I think that's something people can expect."
What was your favorite venue to play before the Coronavirus happened?
"The place I call home, and all of us in the Asbury Park music scene call home, is the Saint. Whether you're playing to a packed house, or just to the bartender and the sound guy, and Scott the owner, you're going to have a blast. I love the shows where Scott texts me, 'Hey I forgot to book an opener; can you be here in an hour?' Then you randomly play to no one, and I get the most confessional on stage. I just end up telling all my secrets."
What was it like to play at the drive-in show?
"It was so much fun, but it was also so weird! I'm such a social person so that show reset my quarantined brain. I needed to be honked at by a million cars in a parking lot. It was really cool, I'm thankful for the Clubhouse for putting on those shows in the Summer. I donated my cut of the proceeds to the Okra Project. They fund Black Trans Youth and help feed people."
If you could choose one album to be stranded on a desert island with, what would it be?
"Probably Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads. That is the live album to end all live albums to me. Even just hearing the recording versions of those songs on different Talking Heads albums, the live versions of those songs just blow the others out of the water."
As this interview wraps up, is there anything you'd like to say or anybody you'd like to shout out?
"I think you pretty much nailed it. I think you asked a lot of really great questions, thanks for doing your research. I definitely said things in this interview that I've never said before in any other interview. I would end this interview by saying to follow your friend's music on Spotify, and give them some streams. There are so many struggling artists that deserve your money and your streams."
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