Michelle Grace Hunder

Middle Kids Keep the Global Alt Rock Sound Evolving

In one week, Middle Kids are supporting two iconic bands in Central Park, where $4 per ticket sold go to the City Parks Foundation.

Australian three-piece Middle Kids debuted on the scene in 2017. Since then, their alternative rock sound has kept fans on their toes. Release after release, the act keep evolving, maturing, and creating the sound of the moment.

Lead singer Hannah Joy shared with us that the threesome is currently adopting a more high-fidelity sound over their simpler days of strategic imperfection from when the group was just starting out. Accompanied by bassist (and husband) Tim Fitz and drummer Harry Day, the band ultimately completes each other as a tight-knit trio. The proof is in the beautiful harmonies they create. 

Middle Kids have a new single out now called “Bootleg Firecracker.” It’s a slight departure from what their audience knows as they are seen and heard slowing things down a bit. Listen close and you will hear a banjo and pedal steel guitar coming to the forefront of the tune. The song depicts any relationship striving for a warm connection. 

The Aquarian’s Robert Frezza sat down with Joy to talk about the band’s evolution, their upcoming album, as well as the passing of Sinéad O’Connor.

What is the meaning behind this first single off of the upcoming album?

We kind of made up the term, I guess. ‘Bootleg’ meaning something that is risky or something that’s not regulated or controlled. The image of that is the ‘firework,’ which stands for warmth, connection, and beauty. It’s a love song about putting yourself out there, but broader than love just in terms of any human connection and intimacy. Then, when that happens, the end result is a beautiful thing like a firecracker. 

I hear some banjo and acoustic guitar in the song.

There’s banjo and also pedal steel. It’s a quite an American instrument; it is hard to find to people who play pedal steel in Australia, but it made this beautiful soundscape. 

Is this the sound you are striving for on the next album?

Instrumentally, it’s a bit different for us. It has a mixture of synth bass and regular bass. We used the pedal steel before, but more sparingly. We used it before as a textured instrument instead of a featured instrument. These songs are less energetic that a lot of the other things we do. We are trying to create more reflective, more quiet songs. I still think it’s a mixed bag, though. 

Did you listen to anything in particular before making the new album?

Not in preparation, but we are big fans of Big Thief, so that might have [been] absorbed. We love HAIM, too. We don’t intentionally listen to anything before we make things. Obviously, the things that you like come out and are colored into what you make. 

Right, and you worked with producer Jonathan Gilmore who has worked with the 1975. What were studio sessions like with him?

We loved working with him. It was a step, for us, out of our comfort zone. We do a lot of prep and production in house. These songs that we made were with Jonathan, so we welcomed him into the songs that we had never done before with a producer. Jonathan had a hand in cranking things. We loved that. It was an intense time. We did five weeks with him in England. For an Australian band, it’s a big deal flying over the equator. He has a wonderful mind and beautiful music sensibility. 

How have you three grown since your debut EP?

That’s a good question. I think we have been through so much since than when we first started. I think it’s more collaborative now, particularly with Tim and I and the songwriting. I still often start the songs and bring it to him, but there’s more trust and intuition. I think songwriting, for me, has changed since becoming a mother– not even directly linked to parenthood, but it’s the places where it takes you. There’s a lot more depth for me. It’s a level up in production, in writing, and in recording. We are stepping away from the lo-fi sounds that we had when we first started out and moving to high fidelity production. 

How did it feel to be recommended by Elton John when you first debuted out on the scene?

It was really big moment for us in helping to get the song out there. I grew up as a pianist and a lot of my songwriting has been me and the piano. Elton John was a huge idol for me. Me and my dad listened to his records growing up. We look back on it and we were really stoked about the whole thing. 

What’s the Australian alt scene like?

We have our own little scene. We have a few little pockets. There’s a really cool sound that comes out of Australia. It’s a bit influenced by the UK and the States. Five years ago, it was more flourishing. There’s a lot of awesome punk bands from Australia, as well. The music is quite authentic and there’s an earthiness to it and there’s no pretense. EDM is huge, too, in Australia. 

How is the tour over here going with Jimmy Eat World and Manchester Orchestra?

When we were asked to play this tour, we were so stoked. The opportunity to play 30-something shows is a grind, but it’s an honor to play the grind anytime. For an Australian band to play the States, it just still feels like such a privilege. 

Lastly, any thoughts on the passing of Sinéad O’Connor?

It actually hurts. She was such a hero. She is such an image of bravery and she fought for a better story with her voice and musicality. She’s such a special artist that came out of Ireland.