Exploring everyday nightmares with Middle Kids

Middle Kids - Lost FriendsIt's already been a long road for Middle Kids. The fab three first delivered a sucker punch straight to our ears in 2017 when they secured the top spot in our Ones to Watch countdown. Their carefully crafted melodic indie pop was soon set in stone on a seminal EP, confirming the Sydney band's path forward; a journey that's taken them to the heights of the new music industry.

"We're stoked to be working with Lucky Number," says Tim Fitz, the band's bassist. "We really like the bands they work with, and the way they're quite thoughtful about each one. When you work with a smaller label it's nice because you don't get lost in the system. I remember when they heard some mixes from our album, they sent an email with a long paragraph about each song, and we really loved their take on it. They're great people! Also, they have great fashion."

Lucky Number isn't the only record label riding the Middle Kids wave: Domino has caught on, too. Teaming up with the indie giant to release their debut EP in early 2017, they still have a solid partnership stateside: "We met them on our first trip to New York. I guess that's kind of how it works with labels or any kind of collaboration in music, you have to be excited and they have to be excited. We never met the other branches of Domino outside the USA until way later."

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...And of course, then there are the live dates. Tellingly of their genre, Middle Kids have enjoyed stage time with Ryan Adams and Cold War Kids, and though they're yet to properly explore the shores of the UK, they stopped off for an exceptionally well-received taster session at The Great Escape last year. All of this has been in support of the release of their debut album, Lost Friends, which is - after a suspenseful wait - due out in the UK through Lucky Number on 5th May 2018.

"We signed when the album was in the final stages of mixing," explains Fitz. "We had met [Lucky Number] before, but it was cool when they heard what we had done and were pumped for it. We worked pretty intensely on this album, it was important to us that we did something that was focused and didn't drag on."

That sense of urgency is thoroughly injected into the full length, from front-woman Hannah Joy's emotionally charged vocals to the machine fire percussion. But instead of making for a fraught listen, somehow Middle Kids conjure up the cosiest of audible hugs. Lost Friends is made of sleepover secrets about growing up, getting out, and staying sane.

"In many ways, Middle Kids is just the more focused, intense incarnation of Hannah's project," Fitz muses when asked about the progression of the band, pointing out that the final track on Lost Friends - "So Long Farewell I'm Gone" - is the only song from Joy's solo career to have lasted the distance: "We probably rock that song a bit harder these days than when it was first written." Conversely, both Fitz and drummer Harry Day have enjoyed their fair share of the limelight in the Sydney music scene, as a producer and member of a slew of jazz projects respectively.

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Fitz continues: "[Middle Kids] is definitely a combination of our influences. The main 'voice' you hear is obviously Hannah because her singing and songwriting are quite distinct. She has a really amazing sense of the beauty in music, and quite a classical influence from her years playing the piano. She'll buy some Chopin sheet music at a book fair and then just come home and start playing it, it's amazing. Sometimes a song will come from that.

I'd say Harry is quite an expressive drummer with technical skills for days, coming from his jazz background. He has to keep it a bit more rocky for Middle Kids stuff, but at the same time, his parents raised him on Nirvana and all those 90s rock bands so that's a part of his upbringing. My tastes are pretty all over the place, but for this project, I sometimes like to think about Pavement, The Cure, Pixies... Alt-country stuff as well."

With so many influences coming at the trio, it's no wonder it's so hard to put a finger on what makes Middle Kids so special. Most critics have gone with a version of rock: indie, alt-rock and pop are all just as frequently mentioned, thanks mainly to the inclusion of guitar. But as the classical and jazz influences highlight, the band are so much more than that, and there's something constantly simmering under the surface - even if that surface is a barrage of amp feedback.

One factor that definitely imprints the consistency of their music is their collaborative approach to recording, and methods that they've implemented since they first formed in 2015: "The way Middle Kids started was that Hannah was writing songs and I was producing them, and this has been the model that we've kept throughout the EP and now the album," Fitz explains. "I've been working on [Hannah's] songs for so long now that it's pretty easy for me to hear something, either to support her idea or play against it, and we work out together [whether] it's vibing or not."

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As a band, the three of us have known each other for a long time so production chats are getting easier for us all. We were talking to a few producers when approaching the album, but at one dinner (in Brighton actually) our manager ended up just saying, "Tim, you should go for it!" So we bought a bunch of gear and went for it! Peter Katis mixed it - he's a legend, and I think he really helped bring a few things together."

Combined with killer songwriting about normal life tained with nightmares and arguments, it's a winning recipe: "I think one of Hannah's gifts in life is that she isn't afraid to look at [bad situations] and when she looks at it she isn't afraid to still be hopeful," Fitz agrees. "It seems like Hannah is always writing, but there's something that happens to songs at night when you feel a bit more melancholy, alone [and] peaceful. This is usually when I hear Hannah singing her most emotional songs that end up as Middle Kids recordings."

Ending on a promise to visit the UK soon, with plans in the pipeline, there's only one thing left to do: enjoy the music.

Middle Kids' debut album Lost Friends is out on 5th May 2018 through Lucky Number. Pre-order your copy here.

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2 Responses to “Exploring everyday nightmares with Middle Kids”

  1. Stephen Malip 12/06/2018 at 1:37 am #

    Hey, DRUNKEN WOLVE, I’m greeting from carliswaggblog

    have you ever considered making this tracks available for downloads??

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