The Middle Kids Have a Family in America

Australian indie band Middle Kids have been making their way across the world one venue at a time. From touring as a supporting act, to summer music festivals, to now their own tour, they’ve been busy entertaining audiences. PATTERN had the chance to sit down with the band before their Chicago show where they chatted about the hype, what it’s really like being on tour, their favorite restaurants in America, and everything in between.

Allie Coppedge: How’s tour been?

Hannah Joy: Good. It’s been a bit patchy because we did a couple weeks of summer festivals.

AC: That’s right. You were just here for Lollapalooza. How did that go?

HJ: So much fun. We played on the day that it got flooded. But we were lucky because we played before it got bad. Then we got the heck out of there.

AC: How did you all get to play music together?

HJ: Tim was probably the middle man.

Tim Fitz: I met Harry many years ago. We played in a wedding cover band.

AC: Really? That’s awesome!

Harry Day: It wasn’t.

HJ: But you actually made money then.

TF: Then Hannah I met later. Hannah and Harry had gone to school together.

HJ: We didn’t know each other, but I knew of him. I didn’t attend enough for him to know who I was.

TF: So I was helping Hannah with her thing and then we sort of morphed it into a band.

AC: Where did your band name come from? Are you all middle kids?

HJ: We’re not.

HD: We read this fortune cookie that I got today and it says this: ‘In the middle of a busy life, take some time to be a kid again.’ And so I thought, why don’t we call our band ‘Middle Kids’… today.

HJ: He can create time loops. He has super powers.

HD: Retroactively.

HJ: No but really, there’s going to be a mythology around the middle child soon because families are getting smaller. Maybe middle kids won’t exist because people will have one or two children.

AC: How would you describe your sound?

TF: How would you describe it?

AC: It’s definitely not pop but it’s got some pop elements in it. It’s fun.

HD: You know what’s a good phrase? You can say pop sensibility.

HJ: Or melodic rock. That’s what I think of it. We’re kind of rocky but we’ve got a lot of pop fundamentals underneath.

TF: An indie rock band. I thought that’s what we were.

The reason we make music is because we think it’s so beautiful and powerful in terms of connecting people, creating culture, and community.

AC: There’s been a lot of hype around your music in the past year. Is that overwhelming?

HJ: It’s funny because I always think, we ourselves don’t even experience it that much. Obviously you feel it in the opportunities that you get. We’ve been able to play some awesome shows and travel. But in terms of the hype, it’s exciting because we get to come here and play. If anything, I don’t think it’s overwhelming. It’s so fun because we love playing music and if people want to listen then… yes. We will play for you!

AC: And this spring you toured with Ryan Adams and Cold War Kids. What was that experience like?

HD: That was really fun.

TF: Weird things have been happening to us. We’ll be thrust into the path of some of our favorite, influential musical icons. And we didn’t even plan it. It just happens.

HJ: Yeah, Ryan Adams and Cold War Kids are some of Tim’s favorites.

TF: And they were both very nice to us.

AC: Did they teach you anything?

HJ: Yes!

TF: They taught us about being a performer.

HJ: How to be human and a musician on the road.

HD: And how to be a band that’s functioning and healthy. Cold War Kids had a very special culture. It’s cool because they were the first band that we did a big tour with. So that was quite special.

AC: Speaking of touring, you’ve been doing quite a bit of that this year. What’s the hardest and most rewarding part of touring?

HJ: Playing shows and having people come. You get to experience the power of music in different ways in different cities. The reason we make music is because we think it’s so beautiful and powerful in terms of connecting people, creating culture, and community. Music can be such a powerful and positive energy. It feels fun to be a part of that. Conversely, I find it hard being on the road. It’s hard work but it’s worth it.

HD: It’s just strange being away from your community. We all have a strong community in Sydney. I mean we have a strong community in and of ourselves, but it’s just kind of like, it’s really weird. Continually being away from some of the major people in your life for three months at a time.

TF: When you’re on tour you’re really isolated from the world. So it can be really good or really boring.

HD: The emotional bandwidth is very high and low.

AC: What motivated each of you to start playing and making music? Were others in your family creatives?

HD: My mom was a music teacher, still is. I can’t ever remember feeling quite the way I do when I listen to or play music as I feel when I do anything else. I just always had that feeling. Whether it’s bringing people together or really enjoying this thing that I was listening to/playing. That’s really all I’ve worked on, so I can’t do anything else now.

HJ: Same. My family is super musical. Both of my grandma’s are pianists. I also have three brothers and we all sing together as a family. Now we’re at that point that when we’re all in the same place we get around the piano and sing together. It’s the best. I feel like my brother’s have a better voice than I do but none of them make music.

TF: Imagine being someone who’s not a family member at that dinner. As I have been. They’ve all got voices of angels.

HJ: Harry, you’re family is musical too.

HD: Yes.

HJ: But no one in our families is really pursuing that as a thing. It’s more of an enjoyment for them.

TF: Charles Ives, the famous American composer, said that the only pure musicians are the ones that don’t do it for a job.

We know that the music is so much bigger than us. That’s when you can step out of the way and let the music do it’s thing.

AC: Are there any bands or musicians in particular that have inspired you in sound or just in life?

HD: One of my favorite musicians in life is Damon Albarn, originally the frontman of Blur. Then he made that project Gorillaz. A huge departure from what he was doing. I think that’s so amazing that he took his songwriting sensibilities and then morphed them into this other thing. Then he put a solo record out a few years ago. It’s kind of a different thing as well. I really love musicians who can have all of these different sort of moments they can create.

TF: I’ve always liked musicians that feel very rebellious. It doesn’t look the same. Musicians that feel like they have trajectory that is set by their values. They’re not looking to society for their identity.

HJ: I like musicians who use their music in a way that feels like they’re a part of a bigger picture. There’s so many of them like this. They’re channeling the music, but it’s not about them. And that feels important to us. We know that the music is so much bigger than us. That’s when you can step out of the way and let the music do it’s thing.

TF: That’s what will happen to you. Hannah will be playing piano and she’ll just get a song. She’ll feel like she’s receiving a song.

AC: I wish I had that gift.

HJ: It’s amazing, but it’s also a little scary. When will they stop coming?

AC: Onto a couple of more fun questions. What’s your favorite place to eat in America that’s not in Australia?

HJ: Chik-fil-A.

TF: There’s so many other places. Like Shake Shack.

HD: I used to say In-N-Out. But they haven’t been performing lately when I go. I’m in a bit of a crisis.

TF: Also Chipotle.

AC: Can you think of something that surprised you when you all first came to America? Anything weird about Americans or American culture?

HJ: Yes. Something that really surprised me was how much you guys like music. This is good obviously. Australians, we love music. But Americans love music in a way that is so much more a part of your identity. They want to give so much of their time, body, and imagination to music. So it’s so fun for us to play music here.  

TF: Also Americans are much more affirming and emotionally generous. They will interact with you in a much more affirming way than other, more closed off societies.

HD: One other thing is Americans talk about and follow their dreams a bit more. I don’t know if it’s just because they think that nothing will stop them. It can be a really healthy thing. Where I’m from, people don’t talk about their dreams enough.

All photos taken by Sydney Poland.