Meeting up with the Middle Kids
INTERVIEW: The Rapid Rise of Middle Kids
How many bands have performed two shows on American TV before even releasing an album? Probably a few. But how many Australian groups can boast the feat? Not many.
Sydney band Middle Kids can lay claim to the achievement. The trio, consisting of vocalist/guitarist Hannah Joy, her husband and bassist Tim Fritz and drummer Harry Day, have had a meteoric rise to stardom in the two years since they’ve formed.
The indie rockers’ growth is somewhat a credit to their appearances on Jimmy Kimmel and Conan. Although, there’s a way that the producers of the TV shows got a hold of Middle Kids: the anthemic power of their indie-pop tunes, namely the group’s debut single, ‘Edge Of Town’.
The three-piece must have known they had something extraordinary in ‘Edge Of Town’, but Harry recalls that the band wasn’t expecting much when they uploaded the track to triple j Unearthed in May 2016
“We had very few expectations. We hadn’t released any other music or played a live show as Middle Kids, so it really was the beginning. We thought it was a special song and wanted to get started as a band, but we had no idea how much that song would get things started for us.”
While they hadn’t played a show as Middle Kids at the time, Hannah, Tim and Harry played in various groups for several years leading up to the conception of the band.
Also, Hannah and Tim generated interest with solo tracks on Unearthed in 2014. While Tim’s solo work displayed similarities to dance-rock bands like LCD Soundsystem, with slightly more of a rock edge, Hannah’s track ‘Shiver Whither’ revealed the bones of the Middle Kids dynamic.
Yet nobody could’ve foreseen what these two individual artists, along with Harry on tubs, would create when they came together to form Middle Kids two years later.
Following the upload of ‘Edge Of Town’, Middle Kids received massive support from triple j and little-known radio presenter Elton John, who played the track on Beats 1.
The 12 months after releasing ‘Edge Of Town’ saw the lives of the three Middle Kids members totally change and their ambitions realised.
“We’d all been playing music in different outfits for many years, so getting to play some festivals that musicians dream of playing was amazing. We were constantly surprised when people showed up to our midday sets and knew the music and were connecting with it.”
The three-piece’s initial track has now amassed just shy of 15 million streams on Spotify. Their next best is ‘Never Start’, clocking in at 3.7 million plays.
Although ‘Edge Of Town’ is streets ahead of anything else in their catalogue in terms of streaming numbers, Middle Kids won’t be a one-hit wonder. The 2017 self-titled EP produced similarly catchy songs. Now, the band has just rolled out their excellent debut album, packed with indie-pop gems like singles ‘Mistake’, ‘On My Knees’ and ‘Bought It’.
Lost Friends arrived a couple of weeks ago and has been making waves in Australia. The album debuted at number 10 on the ARIA chart, which is a massive achievement for a fresh group. Harry describes the record’s mood as “angsty hopeful,” as it explores relationships in our changing world.
“The album is very relational. There are a lot of themes centred around the joys and difficulties of maintaining healthy relationships in this age. Also, losing a friend is a pretty universal experience, whether in a more sudden and traumatic experience or just over time as you grow and change through the seasons of life.”
Initially, Middle Kids were seeking to upgrade their recording processes for Lost Friends, compared to the DIY-approach of the EP. However, Harry said the band stuck to the same path that has previously produced success.
“We did [the album] in a pretty similar way to the EP actually… A lot was recorded in our home and then we got some help from our friend Phan Sjarif engineering the drums and vocals.”
Middle Kids’ debut also received the seal of approval from the esteemed producer and mixer Peter Katis. The Grammy-winner has been working with the most successful indie and alternative bands of the last 30 years, including Interpol, The National and our very own Gang of Youths.
“A huge influence on the sound ended up being the way Peter Katis mixed the album. He definitely gave it 'a sound', which was in some ways a surprise, but sort of brought all the tunes under the same roof.”
Although Middle Kids have only just released their debut, fans and critics alike will be interested in how the band will progress on their sophomore effort. Don’t expect anything too soon, though, as Harry says the group will be experimenting a little more for the follow-up.
“We learned a lot about the mixing process for a record and how much that shapes the sound you arrive with at the end. We’ll probably take our time a bit more with that and try to experiment with some new ideas and sounds.”
Before they set their sights on constructing their second album, Middle Kids will be taking Lost Friends around the world. A true measure of the success of the band is the fact that they’ll be playing one of Australia’s most creative events, VIVID.
The taste-making festival has made a name for itself by booking only the best alternative artists on offer. This year, it’s represented by stars like Solange, Ice Cube and Mazzy Star.
“These are the biggest shows we’ve ever played, so we’re very excited. We’re playing at the Sydney Opera House for VIVID Live, so that’ll be a special homecoming show… The most special thing about these shows will be the album actually being out and people coming to the shows with their favourite songs and having some ownership over them. It’s special when you hear your favourite song at a show, so that will be nice.”
With just one album released, it’s still early days for Middle Kids. But Lost Friends indicates that this exceptional band has got the chops. Don’t sleep on them.
Middle Kids are currently touring Australia with Ruby Fields. Remaining dates:
- Wednesday, 23rd May - Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Victoria (SOLD OUT)
- Friday, 25th May - Karova Lounge, Ballarat, Victoria (SOLD OUT)
- Saturday, 26th May - Corner Hotel, Melbourne, Victoria (SOLD OUT)
- Sunday, 27th May - Sydney Opera House (VIVID Live), Sydney, New South Wales