When it comes to writing music, inspiration can come from fictitious tales—or personal events.
But when music becomes your life, what do you write about?
This is conundrum for Middle Kids, the Australian indie-rock trio that includes a married couple—singer Hannah Joy and guitarist Tim Fitz—as well as drummer Harry Day. Joy pours real emotion and reflection into their music, which you can witness for yourself when Middle Kids performs at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Thursday, Oct. 14.
“It’s huge to be playing in general, because it’s been a minute,” Joy said during a recent phone interview. “In Australia, we had a glimpse of real life; we played some shows in April and May, but everyone had to be seated, and we had a lot of restrictions for it. This is going to be the first time playing real, stand-up Middle Kids shows in almost two years, which is crazy. We’re excited for that generally, but then also, just coming to America is very fun for us.
“We’ve also heard about Pappy and Harriet’s before; it sounds really cool, and they’ve just moved (the show) outdoors as well, so I think it’s going to be super fun. I don’t think we’re going to know what to do with ourselves with all of this pent-up energy.”
Touring in more than one country during a pandemic has been a weird experience for Middle Kids. While the pandemic has not hit Australia nearly as hard as it has hit the U.S., Australia has endured some restrictive lockdowns.
“The whole thing has just been so crazy, but I think for Australia, our last two years have been so different,” said Joy. “We’re now in the thick of it, in terms of lockdown; we’ve been in lockdown for months. But, just like everyone, every day, we’re like, ‘What’s going to happen?’”
The band appeared on a couple of American network late-night shows over the course of the pandemic—but rather than playing live in a studio, Middle Kids pre-recorded the segments and sent them in.
“We played some talk shows a few years ago, so we got to have that cool experience of being in America, and meeting the hosts, and having that experience—but it was very insane,” Joy said. “You go in; you plug in; and you basically have one take, and you play, whereas doing them at home is so different. You have to kind of curate the whole thing and have some sort of vision for it. … It’s so separated and removed that it doesn’t even really feel like what it actually is, but it was kind of cool from a creative perspective to think of a cool way to perform a particular song, and we’ve had fun being able to make these videos and make them interesting.”
As the band progressed, the members of Middle Kids became creatures of the road.
“We released our first song, and then it got traction in a way that we were quite surprised,” said Joy. “We just started touring and never really stopped until we had to, and got to the point where we’re like, ‘Oh, shit, we need to make an album.’ We were always on the road. We had a home studio, so if we had a couple days off, we’d pop in. But we just love playing so much, so it kind of makes sense why we would tour a lot, because every night, we get to do our favorite thing. “We make a lot of the music in this kind of piecemeal way. I’ll often write the song and then workshop it, and then we might record guitars one day and something else another day. We’ve never really done the ‘go into the studio for a month and hang out’ kind of thing.
“It’s been so hard for us during this time, because we don’t know who we are. You get so used to being a little road doggy. It’s like such a different way of life; now I’m trying to be like a normal person at home when I just want to be hung over and eat burgers all day on the road.”
On the other hand, Joy said the band appreciated the downtime.
“It’s really cool to have some space and be able to reflect,” Joy said. “When you’re touring so much, you just kind of go go go, go go, and then you can be like, ‘Oh, where am I?’ It’s been really cool for us to be like, ‘Who are we? Who do we want to be?’ Particularly musically—we are trying to make the next record, and it’s really nice to have the space and not feel like the creativity has to be fought for on these little patches between a lot of touring.”
In March, Middle Kids released sophomore album Today We’re the Greatest.
“So much of the music and what we make is just an overflow of life, and I really have felt that the more I try to stay present and live life, that really influences the music that we make,” said Joy. “For the last record, I felt like I was striving to have more of an emotional spectrum. … The songs only come if I’m present and raw, and to match that sonically is where a lot of exploration comes for us as a band. Being an indie-rock band, it will always probably stay in that kind of indie-rock format with 3 1/2 minute songs with guitars and synths—but it’s cool to see how you can grow as an artist, even within the confines of your genre.”
Experimentation and honesty in any band can be difficult—let alone a band that’s basically family.
“Sometimes things just kind of roll the way that you roll,” said Joy. “We are all very close, and we all have an alignment in terms of wanting to live an integrated and holistic life. It can be intense, but I think life is always intense, and you just have to deal with that. We’re all seeking a big, exciting life, so that becomes like the creative manifesto just by default.”
Middle Kids will perform with Deep Sea Diver at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 14, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $20. For tickets or more information, call 760-228-2222, or visit pappyandharriets.com.