Middle Kids take homely positives out of COVID-19 pandemic

TICKLED PINK: Sydney indie-rock band Middle Kids are ending their one-year break from touring to perform shows in Sydney and Newcastle for Great Southern Nights. Picture: Daphne Nguyen
TICKLED PINK: Sydney indie-rock band Middle Kids are ending their one-year break from touring to perform shows in Sydney and Newcastle for Great Southern Nights. Picture: Daphne Nguyen

EVER since Middle Kids released their self-titled EP in 2017 and the single Edge Of Town blew up internationally, they've been caught in a whirlwind.

It's been an unrelenting schedule. Tour after tour, many of them in the US where the Sydney indie-rock three-piece have appeared on Conan and the Late Late Show in front of millions of American viewers.

In between Middle Kids have found time to record and release their critically-acclaimed debut album Lost Friends in 2018 and a six-track EP New Songs For Old Problems last year.

Then last November and December they recorded album No.2 in Los Angeles, all the while frontwoman Hannah Joy was heavily pregnant.

In January Joy and her husband and Middle Kids bassist Tim Fitz welcomed the birth of their son and then COVID-19 hit.

Suddenly everything slowed down. In many respects, it was a welcome break.

"It's obviously been a weird time not having any shows, but it's been cool creatively," Joy says.

"We've just been making things and enjoying the freedom because it was pretty full on touring the last few years. We feel hungry and excited."

The reason for Joy's excitement is Middle Kids are about to end their year-long break from touring to perform a host of shows in Sydney and Newcastle for the NSW Government's Great Southern Nights initiative to reactive the music industry after COVID-19.

Middle Kids have long since outgrown Sydney venues like The Lansdowne and The Vanguard so the tour will provide a unique opportunity to revisit old haunts.

Middle Kids - R U 4 Me?

"We're so pumped because these are venues we used to play when we were a younger band," Joy says. "Some are my favourite places to go as a listener and we never thought we'd play them again."

Joy is also excited to return to Newcastle. Middle Kids last performed in the city last November at This That Festival when Joy was pregnant and prior to that they performed a raucous set at the Cambridge Hotel.

"We played at the Cambridge this one time and a full on death pit opened up," she laughs.

"We were like, 'This is not even our kind of music', but we were very into it. It made us feel really rock'n'roll.

"I remember there was a guy on crutches being thrown around in the death pit."

Middle Kids also have a new single to promote, R U 4 Me, the first slice off their forthcoming second album expected in early 2021.

The track expands the band's sonic palette of indie and Americana with synths and horns and features Joy's typically emotional vocals and uplifting melody.

Joy explains the song was inspired by the increasing pressures in society.

"There's always so much social messaging coming at us all the time," she says. "Lots of social pressure to perform.

"I think living life on the internet there's so many voices telling you what you're supposed to do or think. It's always happened, but it's in such high volume these days."

R U 4 Me has also marked a turning point in the development of Middle Kids. Joy wrote the song and album two from the ground up with Fitz, rather than her previous method of writing alone.

"I was a classical pianist, which is a very solo kind of musical experience," she says. "I never played in bands growing up.

"It's been a cool opening up experience and building confidence to know how to include people."

If the coronavirus hadn't happened Middle Kids would actually be living in the US.

But Joy refuses to allow herself to feel frustrated by the situation. Rather, she likes to focus on the positives.

"In many ways this is a very special time to just be quite present here," she says.

"We love Australia so much and often felt torn because you have to spend a lot of time in America to really do the rounds. In many ways it helps you concentrate your energy somewhere by default."

Asked if having a baby has changed Middle Kids' plans to eventually be based in the US, Joy says: "In some ways, especially right now as it's such a wonderful place to be with how the pandemic is.

"From the work side of things, I feel it's kind of nice that we're both in the band because it simplifies things in terms of travelling.

"We'll just bring a nanny or Sonny just rolls with us."

Middle Kids perform at the Newcastle City Hall on November 14.

This story Middle Kids refocus energy on home front after hectic rise first appeared on Newcastle Herald.