From Sydney, Australia; the Middle Kids erupted into the indie/pop music scene during 2016 with the release of their first EP "Middle Kids." Gaining traction through catchy songs on the EP like, "Edge of Town" and "Fire in Your Eyes," the band consisting of; Hannah Joy on lead vocals, guitar, and piano, Tim Fitz playing bass, backing vocals, and production, and Harry Day on drums and backing vocals, would go on to release their first album Lost Friends in 2018. Following this success, another EP entitled "New Songs for Old Problems" was released in 2019. Tracks on that EP like "Real Thing" and "Call Me Snowflake" further represented how knowledgeable Joy was in the song making process, and gave further proof of the trio's talents. In 2020 the band released the single "R U 4 Me?" which was turned into a music video that same year. That song was also used to promote their new album entitled Today We're the Greatest which saw its full release in March earlier this year.
With 2021 coming to an end and the band closing the chapter on their latest North American tour, I sat down with Joy to discuss the band's latest album – and what listeners can expect from them next.
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You released your second studio album Today We're the Greatest earlier this year, how do you feel that you've grown or evolved since you first released the 'Middle Kids' EP back in 2017?
Joy: "I think it's been an interesting evolution if you will. I think because we really discovered who we were making that first EP; particularly around our single 'Edge of Town.' It was quite a new sound for all of us – we come from such diverse musical backgrounds – so once we found that around that first EP and our first record Lost Friends really led into that big guitar, and big drums, very much in that indie rock realm. But then we were using that as a launching pad in this latest album; just explore more nuanced versions of that. So whether it's like having different instrumentations – or I think even for me I was doing a lot more writing on the piano and incorporating that a little bit more. I still think it's still got that strong indie and guitar-based songs, but I think that there's more maturity in terms like the songwriting, and even a lot of the first record was in terms like 'argh!' and the second record is a bit more reflective and still."
I've heard that during your first record you mainly wrote it on the road, whereas on this record you were able to go into the full studio and really conceptualize it. Is that correct?
Joy: "Yeah and we were really excited but a little bit nervous too because it was so unlike what we've done historically, but we just felt like we really wanted to try new things and put ourselves in new environments. We felt that like that was the time to do that."
What has surprised you the most about this tour?
Joy: "To be honest it's been a delightful surprise that people know the songs. For us we get to know the record by touring it, and get to know how it's connecting with people through the shows. Because we haven't had that I've almost felt a little disconnected from the record. And even the songs, it's been like really cool just playing them and discovering them in a new way – and also with other people. It's been so special."
What do you wish fans knew about you or your songwriting process?
Joy: "Interesting… well something that has been cool to see is like; out of all the songs that I've been writing for these records – so many of them I have written by the ocean. Sometimes I'll go on little trips and do writing things, I mean most of them I'll write at my house – but a lot of the songs that make it onto the record have always come out of my little trips to be by the sea."
You recently released a cover of Olivia Rodrigo's song "drivers license" for Like a Version. What about the song inspired you to cover it?
Joy: "I think, - and a lot of people with this song – just the first time I heard it, I was really struck by it, and by the emotion of it. I felt like it was a song that when I listened to it, I was like, 'I really want to sing this' and even in that moment just to sing along with it. I think that those are really cool songs that when you hear them, they make you want to sing, and give some of your emotion voice. I felt like it was something that was naturally a fit."
Can listeners expect the band to release more music before the end of the year?
Joy: "It's a good question, I don't know. We're working on stuff now, but you just never really know. To be honest, going through what everyone was going through the last two years; I don't even want to say anything is for sure anymore. Things are just moving everywhere all the time."
On an interview with KEXP at Home you mentioned "This one we wanted more space to think about how we wanted to go deeper and broader with our sound and with our songs. It was really cool to find the soul of each song, and get to know the songs." What track on the new record speaks to you the most?
Joy: "It's a good question, funnily enough there's a song on there called 'Some People Stay In Our Hears Forever' and I think that I found that to be a really cathartic song for me to write. Just in terms of like – it's kind of about these moments in your life when you look back on them, you feel like you've got these ghosts in your past; and you feel haunted by them. It was almost like you are releasing yourself of those things. It felt like a very cool process to go through, even as a writer. I still, when I listen to it, love the chorus and how it's this big emotional release."
On track 2 "Cellophane (Brain)" you sang the lyrics, "You think you're a black umbrella holding off the rain, I think you're a silk white kite, blowing off course again." Could you describe the meaning behind these lyrics?
Joy: "I think that's a classic image where we feel like we're a piece of shit and someone looks at us and thinks that we're really precious and good. Someone has an image of themselves as dark, and someone looks at them and, like that kite image, are really light, fluffy, and pure."
What advice would you give to aspiring musicians?
Joy: "I would honestly just, it's kind of boring; but it just feels more and more true - just to keep digging deep into your well of creativity. I'm actually reading this book right now, I don't know if you've ever read Haruki Murakami; but he has this memoir about running. It's about like, 'If you want to be a runner, run. If you want to be a writer, write. If you want to be a musician, make music.' I think that the more you can sit in that space, then you are that thing. I think that you need to find your voice, and to find the music that is yours, and to share that. I think a lot of that takes time, being in the music and making your thing. So keep doing that."
What is your favorite record of the year thus far?
Joy: "Oh my gosh that's such a good question, I couldn't pick one really. I couldn't really even think of any – I'm coming up blank. Interestingly, we're in the van right now on tour, and we listen to a lot of different random things. But obviously this isn't new music, but we've been listening to a lot of Cake, so Fashion Nugget is a great album and I've listened to that three times in one day."
Do you have any news that you would like to announce to your listeners?
Joy: "Just that we're finishing up this tour and then we're going to get back into the studio when we get home. We're still trying to rebuild how to be musicians."
How was the Stephen Colbert show? What was it like to play?
Joy: "It was awesome. He's like a hero of mine, I think he's so great. So we've wanted to do that show for awhile and obviously it was a bit of a bummer because of Covid we didn't actually get to meet him. But just to be on his show was friggin' sick. It was cool because you get to make them, and you had full creativity. It was really fun to find a cool space and think about how you wanted to do it, rather than just go into a studio and plugging in and playing."
What is your favorite music video that you guys made for Today We're the Greatest?
Joy: "Actually, probably 'Questions.' It was just so fun because it was done all in one shot, which was crazy. Obviously there's a horse that's inside a bar, and the funniest thing about it was that - I think we maybe did it 15 times – and every single time the horse was perfect. It was all of us who were absolute dummies and made mistakes. Yeah I loved that video."
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