HOT GIG ALERT: Middle Kids in Boston, MA (5/30 + 5/31)
Middle Kids are one of those husband and wife bands that indie rock fans find adorable. But it’s not quite the storybook those fans may picture. Hannah Joy and Tim Fitz are very much in love, but when it comes to making their music, it’s typically the product of multiple individual efforts put together.
“Even though Tim and I live together and we’re married, the work flows usually more when the other person is gone,” Joy says.
“Yeah, it’s not like we’re in the room together and say, ‘Hey, play that minor chord again, babe,’” Fitz says with a laugh. “We’re more like, ‘Get out! I’ve got some work to do.’”
“There’s a deep level of trust that comes with that,” Joy says. “I’m happy to give Tim a song to do what he wants with it, and he’s happy for me to have the space to do what I want.”
One listen to Lost Friends, Middle Kids’ 2018 debut album on Domino Records, and it’s clear that the rising Australian trio made up of Joy, Fitz and drummer Harry Day is aligned with each member’s own vision. The record’s 12 songs veer from brittle blasts of indie rock to elegiac piano ballads to pop anthems destined to ignite stadium singalongs.
Middle Kids’ debut is the kind of album that sucker-punches you in the gut, revealing its nuances only after repeated listens. They kept the songs’ edges jagged, the production clean, keen to let stray imperfections imbue warmth and a human touch.
The opening “Bought It” is an immersive introduction, capturing the band in miniature: It begins in a vulnerable place but flames out in a fit of sonic cacophony. Lost Friends brims with radio catnip, from the driving wall of sound that kicks “On My Knees” into overdrive to “Mistake” and its infectious chorus that could have been lifted straight out of a long-lost Fleetwood Mac album.
As the band’s lyricist, Joy is unflinching in her ruminations. “Don’t be hiding/ I am not that bothered by the stuff you’re fighting/ For no other reason that it/ Makes it more exciting,” she sings on “Don’t Be Hiding.” “You don’t have to sell it/ I am sold/ So give me all your garbage and your gold.”
She’s curious about the world, but her songs aren’t self-righteous about its topsy-turvy state of affairs. Joy insists it’s impossible not to reflect and process what’s going on around her.
“In a time where a lot of division is growing, we want to be part of the conversation that unites people around certain ideals that are universal, like hope and love,” she says.
“That’s so much a thread throughout this album: Even though things are tough, it’s worth believing in something good and in the idea that we can heal. And in some ways, I wanted the music to be beautiful and a respite from what’s going on.”
Their personal relationship is a huge part of what makes the music so beautiful. When Joy and Fitz met through mutual friends in 2014, she was taken by how “bizarre” (her word) and heartfelt Fitz’s own songs were. And the admiration was mutual.
“Hannah’s the only person I know who regularly makes people cry just by singing,” Fitz says. “When she’s singing about something she finds beautiful, there’s still a bit of chaos in there. Her songs will sometimes sound like how the world feels.”
When they started to work together on her solo material, the alchemy was immediate – and sort of singular. “Both Tim and I have been such lone rangers in many ways,” Joy says, “so it was exciting to feel like you could find someone else who makes you so much better.”
They ended up writing and recording most of Lost Friends in Joy and Fitz’s home, just as they did with their self-titled EP, which Domino released in early 2017. Buoyed by “Edge of Town,” which makes its proper entrance on this new album, that six-song sampler earned the three-piece praise from Rolling Stone and taste-making Aussie radio station Triple J. It also landed Middle Kids at South by Southwest and on tour with Ryan Adams and Cold War Kids.
All three members share at least one common thread, though: They know how to craft classic hooks and riffs that tangle up in your brain like taffy and choruses that linger long after the song has faded. And they’ve bonded over a greater sense of what their music should accomplish.
“We are obsessive about music, but we don’t see music as the end point. We see it as an amazing force of connection,” Joy says. “We feel like as we are growing as people and becoming more human, that influences the music. We’re really committed to each other as people first, and then the music comes out of that place.
“There’s a cool energy in this band,” she concludes, “because we know we couldn’t do this on our own. We’re a part of something pretty special together.”