On their debut EP, Middle Kids artfully subvert every expectation for a newly formed bands first official recordings. Grounded in vocals as towering as a skyscraper, sharply drawn lyrics bleed into adrenaline raising choruses to create a vivid sonic tone that can feel lush one instant and volcanic the next. It’s a thrilling combination that swings for the fences, illuminating elements of understatement and nuance between crashing rhythms and boundless energy. And so far from feeling like a sundry sample of demos from a group still calibrating their sound, their first release doesn’t just flicker with potential, it radiates every rush and spark from a band that has already delivered something special. Speaking to Pancakes and Whiskey by phone, singer/guitarist Hannah Joy, multi-instrumentalist/producer Tim Fitz and drummer Harry Day looked back on the making of their new EP and how its warm reception has already led the band to places they never expected.
“There are other things that are exciting that we didn’t even think about, like we got to play on TV last night, which is the first time we’ve ever done that,” Fitz said of the Aussie trios February appearance on CONAN, before confessing, “that was like literally something none of us would ever have thought we would be doing.” Barely finishing his sentence before Joy broke out into a laugh and readily agreed, it seemed as though the surreal experience of playing their debut single “Edge of Town” for a stateside television audience had yet to fully sink in. A crucial part of their story so far, the song is not only what had initially got them noticed back home in Sydney, but it incidentally ended up paving the way for the rest of their new release. “I think probably when we first made ‘Edge of Town,’ was the time where we really felt like it was a special song and like a really nice kind of template for moving forward in terms of what our sound was going to be,” Joy said. “And then the next few songs for the EP kind of came from that.”
Founded in early 2016, Middle Kids was originally born out of a previous musical collaboration between Fitz and Joy. At the time of their meeting, both were solo artists, although within six months Fitz had begun producing Joy’s music and performing in her band. “We were playing together for Hannah’s solo project,” he remembered. “And then we kind of just morphed it into Middle Kids.” Enlisting Day on drums completed the line-up and from there, things began to fall further into place. “We’ve all been playing for a long time as individual musicians and trying to work out our own craft,” Joy said of the bands beginnings. “So I think that by the time we formed we were starting to get more of a clear direction, personally as musicians, and then together as a group.” Mirroring the vast well of influences that exists between them, Fitz spoke about how the EP represents where those tastes coincide and diverge, before Day discussed his own specific inspirations and how they have informed his style of playing. “I grew up listening to a lot of British music, probably the most out of all of us because I have that British blood in me,” Day said. “So a lot of nineties bands from there like Blur and Pulp and those kind of sounds. I think that’s always like a lot of the direction I hear the drums coming from, but also even other types of music.” A graduate of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Jazz Performance, the drummer studied the genre in college and previously played in jazz projects. “That’s like a whole other world,” he said. “But it’s nice to have all of these influences. Then it seems like a wide pool to choose from when you’re trying to make something interesting.”
Saturating their arrangements with a remarkable sense of color, they recorded some songs at Sydney’s Parliament Studios and tracked others in Fitz and Joy’s garage. Among those that came to life in the home recording space are “Never Start” and “Fire In Your Eyes,” both of which Fitz described as holding a unique place in their growing catalogue. “‘Fire In Your Eyes’ is entirely self-recorded and produced. ‘Never Start,’ is as well, except for the drums, which we got our friend to record,” he said when asked how two of the highlights of their debut had come together. “So that’s basically like our sound, I guess the sound that we make when we record and mix and do it ourselves, which is nice. That’s probably why it feels maybe distinct, because that’s kind of our fullest expression in some ways.” And while the trio has already headed back to the same cramped garage Fitz jokingly likened to “a crack den,” to make new music, further work will have to wait until their current tour is complete. “Hannah started writing songs and we started a few demos, and so we’re hoping to be recording in a few months,” Day said before explaining how they had been tracking demos prior to prepping for their current run of shows.
Thrilled to be on the road, Joy spoke about the bands trajectory before voicing the enthusiasm they all share for live performing. “At first we just really wanted to make good songs that we felt like people, even just people around us, really enjoyed and that were meaningful to us and them,” she began. “And I think as that’s grown then probably our hopes have grown. We really love playing live in different places, so that feels like a really exciting thing to us to be able to play shows around the world.” Although these days, the band and their listeners seem to be looking forward to the same thing: more shows, more music. “I think it will be nice, coming back from this tour and having a lot of energy and getting into the studio,” Day said of the upcoming sessions they hope will result in a new release for the second half of the year. “We’re still working out a lot of the details, but the songs are getting there which is the most important thing.”
Article: Caitlin Phillips