MIDDLE KIDS – Interview

Foto © Daphne Nguyen

Seit ihrem Debüt Lost Friends, das 2018 erschien, haben Middle Kids getourt, getourt, getourt und wurden zu einem der erfolgreichsten Indie-Rock-Exporte aus Australien. Am 19. März erscheint nun endlich ihr zweites Album Today We’re The Greatest bei Lucky Number. War das Erstlingswerk noch durch dynamische Gitarren und energiegeladene Lautstärke geprägt, wird es auf dem zweiten Album intimer, mutiger und ruhiger.

Wir haben im Februar mit der Frontfrau Hannah Joy per Videochat gesprochen. Im Interview erzählt sie, warum sie jetzt bereit waren, sich musikalisch und kreativ für andere zu öffnen, nachdem ihnen ihr DIY-Ansatz vorher so wichtig gewesen war. Außerdem sprechen wir über die neue Verletzlichkeit in den Texten, wie sich die Dynamik innerhalb der Band verändert hat und warum die Pandemie eigene Unsicherheiten in den Hintergrund gedrängt hat. Darüber hinaus erfahren wir, warum ein Pferd der heimliche Star des Videoshooting zu Questions ist und inwiefern es heilsam war, sich in dem Song mit dem Thema Alkohol auseinanderzusetzen.

We’re excited to hear about your new album! You have published an EP between both records. When did you decide it was time for round two album wise?
I don’t really know, why we did that EP – just to get it out of the system, I guess. I could see songs coming together and I felt the growing body of work. When I got pregnant, I really wanted to put the trigger on this, because I didn’t know what life would be like on the other side. That push was cool. We just came back from tour and were ready to sit with these new songs creatively and to get the next album together. It flowed organically and that was a great experience, because you can get a bit scared making a second album.
Yes, your first album was a big success in Australia, but also internationally. When you talk about nervousness about making a second album, does the success feed on that pressure or does it give confidence with your art?
Confidence! I personally struggle with confidence. But the more as we grow as band, the more I feel like I’m finding my voice. It feels exciting to make the next thing, because I feel like we’re stepping into a new space. You’ve got to make the music that is on your heart. That’s all you can do. That takes away the pressure and the nervousness. With art and creativity, that vulnerability of giving is what you have. We have already been doing that, so it’s just the next thing.
As a listener, I have the feeling that the new record is more intimate and more vulnerable than the previous record. Did it feel the same when you wrote it?
I really think it is. Our first record was louder and lyrically it was more in my head. Now, I intentionally want to share my heart more as the music that I love and that is very profound to me comes from artists that are willing to share their hearts. The music follows suit, there are a lot quieter songs. It’s more dynamic and I really like that. If you listen to the arc of the album, it feels like a journey with peaks and troughs.
Talking about journeys, your single Questions talks about relationships and alcohol. I feel like that’s something that has been more openly discussed in recent years within the music scene. Why do you think it’s such an important factor?
In Australia, drinking is a very big part of our culture. There’s a part of drinking, which is celebratory, fun, and beautiful. But easily, it can be something that you need. I’ve been through that. In the music world, it’s almost like a currency. For your first gigs you get paid in beer or vodka. For a lot of people that’s fine, but for me and some of my relationships it wasn’t fine. I couldn’t hold that healthily. It’s something I’m still mindful of. I wonder if it is something that people are talking about more. I’m not sure. You can see the potential of the destructiveness very quickly, but it’s not like that for everybody. It can be a great fun thing, but it was definitely a big crutch for me. And I can see that it is a crutch for a lot of people. For me, it was helpful writing that song to work it out.

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The one-shot video for Questions is really cool and quite lavish with a horse and many people in the room. Who came up with the idea? Do you think the lack of possibilities to play live has put music videos on the spot more?
We had a lot more time to think about the other creative elements of this project. If that’s videos or even what we wear in them. When we released our first song, we started touring straight away and we were on the road for the next four years. That’s something you have to do as an Australian band, if you want to get out in the world. For us, this album is really cool, because we have been able to be a lot more creative and thoughtful with the visuals. The clip was the vision of our director W.A.M. Bleakley. He wanted to do one shot and we thought it sounded very hard. And it was hard! We did it 16 times. You would think the horse was the hardest part, but the horse was flawless. In every take, she was perfect. It was more human error. But it was a lot of fun. For the next clip we worked with him again. We feel that he was able to catch the spirit for each of the songs and communicate that visually. That collaborative process of getting someone else with another distinct gift and letting him interpret it and going with that is just wonderful. We truly just loved working with him.
In older interviews you were very emotional about doing every yourselves in your own homes. You liked being in control. This time, it seems to be quite the opposite as you said. You recorded the album in Los Angeles, very far away from home and you’ve worked with the producer Lars Stalfors. What made you willing to give up the control and to open the door for other people?
We wanted to mix it up. Everything we made we made in the house and it almost drove us crazy. You can’t separate yourself from it. Everything is there. We were excited for a new space, but we were also very protective of the songs. The only reason we could do it is that when we recorded the demos, we knew quite clearly what the songs were. They already had a strong identity and so we were confident to go out and work with someone else. We had a clear vision. And we loved a lot of what Lars has done. It was a wonderful experience. Since we knew that we loved these songs and we knew their spirit, we could allow space for someone else’s input. It was very helpful for me recording my vocals. I could let loose more because he was a great captain of the ship.
It reminds me of something you said for your previous record that I loved. You mentioned that with your first album you became a “real band”. What are you now? How would you yourself describe the changes between young middle kids and adult middle kids?
That’s so true! There is so much more growth as friends, there is such a deeper trust and loyalty that happens as we’re working together. Especially without being able to tour, you see how easily something can be taken away from you. I’ve often been quite insecure about my voice or my music, but now it doesn’t matter, because you realize how fleeting everything is. We feel bolder. There is a newly found gratitude and delight. Before, I would be quite anxious and now, I just want to be out there. And we all feel that way.
Is that the sentiment behind the title Today We’re The Greatest?
Yes, probably. That song really encapsules a lot of this. Basically, in the everyday it can be boring, it can be painful, it can be beautiful, it can be everything. When we are present – that’s when we are great. And we can be great, even amongst the messiness of life. Which we have been experiencing and fought to believe amongst all this chaos around us.
Thank you for the interview!

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