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Middle Kids play their latest singles in The Current studio

Middle Kids – studio session at The Current (music & interview)The Current
  Play Now [16:23]

by Jill Riley

September 18, 2023

Australian band Middle Kids return to The Current studio to play their two latest singles — “Bootleg Firecracker” and “Highlands” — as well as a song from their 2021 album, Today We’re The Greatest.

Afterwards, band members Hannah Joy, Tim Fitz and Harry Day chatted with host Jill Riley about the origins of the new songs, the making of the “Bootleg Firecracker” video, and how their friend may have coined a new name for a genre: yearncore.

At the time of their visit to The Current, Middle Kids were touring the U.S. supporting Manchester Orchestra and Jimmy Eat World, giving Middle Kids a chance to play some amazing venues, including Red Rocks in Colorado. They also got to enjoy the comfy amenities of a proper tour bus … although they did experience one leak-related mishap that, were we to sensationalize it, could be construed as a case of yellow journalism (ahem).

Watch and listen to the entire session above, and read a transcript below.

Four people enjoying a conversation in a recording studio
Jill Riley (at left) interviews the members of Middle Kids — L to R: Harry Day, Hannah Joy and Tim Fitz — in The Current studio on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023.
Evan Clark | MPR

Interview Transcript

Jill Riley: Hey, I'm Jill Riley from The Current. It's another in-studio session. We just had an in-studio performance from the Australian group Middle Kids. So welcome to The Current, welcome to St. Paul-Minneapolis.

Hannah Joy: Thank you.

Tim Fitz: Thank you very much.

Hannah Joy: Very happy to be here.

Harry Day: Yeah.

Jill Riley: Yeah. So you're on tour with Manchester Orchestra and Jimmy Eat World. How has that been going?

Hannah Joy: It's been awesome. It's like a dream run. We — it's big for us. It's like 30-something dates and just, you know, this is our first bus tour, so pretty cool. But yeah, we've been fans of them for a long time. So it feels very special to be out with them, and they are amazing musicians and people, so we really hit the jackpot.

Jill Riley: OK. Oh, well, and I should say, by the way: Hannah, and Tim, and Harry — Middle Kids right here. I just kind of jumped right into it there! So now OK, your first bus tour. So, I mean, like, you're on like, you've got a tour bus. I mean, this is like, taking it up a notch.

Tim Fitz: Oh yeah. It's official. We're a band.

Harry Day: Yeah.

A man poses outside a large, deluxe motorcoach
Harry Day of Middle Kids poses outside the band's tour bus.
courtesy the artists via Instagram

Jill Riley: And now you're official! After these after all these years, you're a band. But you know what? That does, I mean, that kind of feels like kicking it up another level, especially when you're out in another country, you know, here in the U.S. So like, what have been some highlights so far of having this kind of space to travel?

Harry Day: I just feel like I have full permission to be a diva now.

Jill Riley: Right!

Hannah Joy: You've created a monster.

Harry Day: Star power engaged! I just don't really lift a finger anymore.

Hannah Joy: But you know, something that's been really good to like combat that energy is that our bus leaked urine all over our luggage. So, you know, it's like, you're in the tension of keeping yourself humble, and then you know, so it's good. Life gets ya! 

Jill Riley: All right, so on the road, you know, as as the opening act for, you know, Jimmy Eat World and Manchester Orchestra, and so, I mean, you know, bigger, probably bigger theater shows and amphitheater shows. You know, what has the crowd been like, on the tour?

Tim Fitz: It's really interesting. I feel like there's discernible, you know, spirits in the room in different, in different cities, right? Like Oklahoma City, there was like, just a very enthusiastic crowd. Minneapolis, very enthusiastic crowd as well. And yeah, so you just never know what you're gonna get, particularly as the opener, because, you know, another one was like Denver, Colorado, we did Red Rocks, and everyone showed up for the opener, which is very unusual. So it was like a full, you know, I guess because it's an amazing venue.

Middle Kids at Red Rocks
Middle Kids pose onstage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado.
Ed Davis / via Instagram

Jill Riley: Yeah.

Tim Fitz: It was a full house for us. But yeah, usually we're just kind of like, you know, we're the first litmus test of what the crowd is going to be like, and sometimes it's, you know, very friendly and sometimes you feel like they're a bit, you know, reserved. And so you want the other bands what's coming.

Hannah Joy: And then you realize it's actually just you.  They're into the bands no matter what.

Tim Fitz: Yeah! And they hated your band.

Harry Day: Yeah, it's been a good bill, though. I feel like both those bands have been doing it for a while, so they've got quite dedicated fan bases, so the shows have felt like the fans are very engaged, and there's a lot of music lovers out there. And a lot of shows they have kind of turned out early. And I feel like we've, you know, like the three bands, we've kind of got different bases covered in the alternative space. So I feel like it's a nice, nice spread. 

Hannah Joy: We're trying.

Harry Day: Yeah.

Tim Fitz: Three-course meal.

Jill Riley: I've never heard anyone put it that way before! I like that. I'm talking with the band Middle Kids here on The Current. You know, like going back to, now, maybe you haven't been at it 30 years like Jimmy Eat World, but you know, going back to what, the year 2016, with that debut single.

Related: 2017: Middle Kids stop at The Current on the way to SXSW

I mean, from there, it's just like, things have really been happening, been moving. You know, two full length records, two EPs. I know that a couple of new songs are out. We've been playing one of them, which you performed today in the studio, "Bootleg Firecracker." So I wonder if we could just take some time to talk about the new songs. "Bootleg Firecracker," if you could tell me how that song started or what was the inspiration for it?

Hannah Joy: Yeah, I think that song, that song really went on a journey. It started out, I kind of originally wrote it as some like weird, upbeat dance song. And then Tim was like, really pulled it back, and I think found, you know, its like beauty and the heart of it, I think. But I feel we've been on a journey with our songs in, you know, kind of wanting to have a cool balance of the head and the heart in there. And I think that it feels like a really beautiful moment for the heart to come out in that song. And yeah, it feels like we were really just trying to create a warm, you know, beautiful space that was intimate and colorful. And yeah, it feels like a special song. It's a bit different for us, a lot of that sound, and just the tempo and pace of it, but it feels like a cool, you know, moment for the soul.

Tim Fitz: Yeah. And something we were trying to do with the lyrics in the chorus particularly was like, the idea was kind of like, can we describe this thing, which is essentially love, without talking about love? So like, using different images just sort of placed next to each other. Which is cool way to do it, I think. Just a little bit more open and inviting. And then the song kind of feels like that as well; like, I think it, sort of the way it sounds, it sort of, it doesn't hit you in the face. It sort of invites you in, which we felt really happy with.

A woman sings and snaps her fingers in a recording studio
Hannah Joy of Middle Kids performing in The Current studio on Monday, Aug. 14, 2023.
Evan Clark | MPR

Jill Riley: Yeah. Because with I guess the idea of fireworks or a firecracker, I mean, that can, I guess, hit you in the face. I mean, literally, but also, I mean, if you're talking about love in that sense, I mean, that can be something that's kind of a big, you know, like, initial explosion, like a firework, and then, you know, then it also settles. I mean, is that part of it, too? Like, you know, the fizzle — I hate to say the love is going to fizzle, of course now you're seeing like my point of view in the world, but...

Tim Fitz: There's lots of ways it can be taken, even just like the danger, like we were talking about, like backyard fireworks, right? It's like everyone, you get taught that they're dangerous, but they always draw people, you know? There's always, there's an attractiveness to it. There's a danger, there's a, you know, there's you could, there's 50 metaphors for fireworks and love, I think.

Hannah Joy: Yeah, so quite multifaceted, and we really liked that about it. Because I think everyone's experience of love is very different and vast, and it's you know, it also can be painful and also extremely beautiful. But I think you know, yeah, we're always asking the question, what is love? And that was a cool way to explore that.

Jill Riley: Yeah. So everybody have their fingers — all fingers accounted for?

Hannah Joy: Yeah, everything intact. 

Jill Riley: Now here, you know around the Fourth of July, the you know, fireworks season I think starts three weeks before and three weeks after; that's been my experience living here. When people gather for fireworks, I mean, in Australia, like, what's kind of the biggest event that you find that people get together for fireworks?

Harry Day: Well, fireworks aren't really like legal in a lot of parts of Australia, so it's only like licensed companies, so it's like, you know, big kind of like, I guess, parties. But there's a big like New Year's Eve one in Sydney where we're from. And like they'll put like, it looks amazing like on the Harbour Bridge, they'll like load it up with fireworks, and you know, have barges in the water and just they pop off.

Fireworks explode
Fireworks explode over the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as New Year's Eve celebrations begin in Sydney, Friday, Dec. 31, 2021.
Dean Lewins | AAP Image via AP

Tim Fitz: So that company who does those New Year's Eve fireworks, they did the fireworks in our video clip for the song.

Jill Riley: Oh, OK! I was gonna ask if you, like, happened to catch a fireworks show or if you had to, you know, hire a company and make it happen. Yeah, talk about that music video.

Tim Fitz: Well, they had... So we shot it out on a farm outside of Sydney, and it was supposed to be at sunset. And they had two pallets of basically the $5,000 worth of fireworks on each one.

Hannah Joy: Our entire budget!

Tim Fitz: So we had two takes, right? And then we get there and it starts snowing, which is very unusual in Australia, not unusual here.

Hannah Joy: It was a freak snowstorm.

Tim Fitz: Yeah, so we were just out there in the snow, and we use the second take. And it just ended up being really magical. And they'd timed the fireworks to the song. So it was, we, there was just a lot of faith that that would all look good. We had no idea how it looks, so we were just performing the song looking away from the fireworks, and the director Toby Morris did an amazing job.

Middle Kids
Middle Kids - Bootleg Firecracker (Official Video)

Jill Riley: Yeah, and you would almost have to be looking away from the fireworks like, "OK, we got one shot here."

Hannah Joy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

Jill Riley: As you're ooh-ing and ahh-ing, it's like "No, we need to get back on track!" I'm here in the studio with Middle Kids, currently on tour with Manchester Orchestra and Jimmy Eat World. We're talking about the song "Bootleg Firecracker," and also another new song. So you've got — what? — two new singles out now. So can you talk about "Highlands"?

Hannah Joy: Yeah, "Highlands," we released it last week, maybe? I don't know time is — what is time, but...

Harry Day: I feel that you guys say "last week" every week!

Jill Riley: Especially when you're on tour, it's like what is time?

Hannah Joy: I know, I know, it's crazy. But yeah, it's cool. This song's got a lot of energy. Our friend refers to it as a "yearncore" song.

Jill Riley: Yearncore? I haven't heard that. What does that mean? 

Hannah Joy: Well, it's just kind of like full of longing and intensity.

Tim Fitz: Yeah.

Hannah Joy: Which you know, this song has got a lot of unhinged howling at the moon, so I feel like that kind of makes sense. But it's just kind of, this song, just to me, just kind of like goes and then collapses in a heap at the end. But I feel like, originally used the image of the Highlands like the Scottish Highlands being a space that... It was, like, always an image for me growing up, as some of my ancestors are from there, but kind of as a free place, and I've always wanted to be free, but I've never really felt free and trying to always get free, but...

Harry Day: I want that one so bad.

Hannah Joy: Yeah, come on! And yeah, there's like a lot of imagery of feeling stuck in your home and where you've come from and how often we can long to be somewhere else, but often that's actually just a spiritual journey, like, to find that inner freedom, but we can project it on to where we are, you know? So, yeah, we really like this song. It's so freakin' fun to play.

Tim Fitz: It has, it reminds me, there's something in the spirit of the verses that feels like that song "Your Heart is an Empty Room" by Death Cab for Cutie. It's kind of that teenage feeling of sort of wanting to get out and get out of the house and be out there in the world. You're looking for something, you know?

Jill Riley: So the band, based in Sydney, are you all from Sydney? Or are you from, like, smaller towns around there? I just wonder if anybody has like that small-town experience.

Hannah Joy: Oh, interesting.

Tim Fitz: We all kind of grew up in Sydney.

Jill Riley: Yeah.

Tim Fitz: But I feel like that experience is also a suburban experience. You know, it's like that feeling of, and really, it's just anywhere, anywhere you feel like the real life is somewhere else. Maybe it's better to say it's a domestic experience. 

Hannah Joy: Hmm. 

Tim Fitz: So yeah, we have the suburban version of that.

Jill Riley: The grass is always a little greener. But yeah, like you'd said, that it was more kind of about the journey, because you can change the place. And then like, what, like, you could just be the same.

Hannah Joy: You're still you in that place with all your stuff.

Jill Riley: Yeah! Exactly. So that song is called "Highlands." So "Bootleg Firecracker," "Highlands," and I don't know that you have an answer for me, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I wasn't asking if this is all sort of leading toward an EP or a new record.

Harry Day: How dare you!

Tim Fitz: This will be one of those interviews, you know, where it'll be like "Middle Kids storms out of the interview." 

Hannah Joy: For absolutely no reason!

Harry Day: We're not at liberty to say yet where this is all going.

Jill Riley: OK!

Hannah Joy: We've got, yeah, we've got more singles. We're just gonna keep making things.

Tim Fitz: Yeah, we've, but like, we've, we have a collection of songs.

Hannah Joy: Yeah. But what do you call a collection of songs?

Tim Fitz: Read between the lines.

Harry Day: Yeah, we've got a library we've been sort of adding to periodically.

Jill Riley: It's sort of like you keep them all on record. OK, I see. But, you know, there are times where it's like, maybe this is just a single, or does this belong on a record?

Hannah Joy: Oh yeah. There's a collection of songs we made. We we flew to England last year and recorded with this producer, Jon Gilmore, who we adore. So we had a very special time making some songs with him. So it definitely feels like they're a part of a family that we're excited to kind of keep sharing.

Jill Riley: OK. More to come on that. We'll see what happens. In the studio with Middle Kids: Hannah, Tim, Harry, thank you so much for coming in. And safe travels the rest of your journey on your very luxurious tour bus. Hopefully there are no more accidents with anything leaking on to luggage. Augh! It's all right, we're up for whatever.

Harry Day: Makes me feel like more of a rock star just stinking, smelling of urine.

Tim Fitz: That's the quote for the day, let's tease that.

Jill Riley: You feel a little more underground?

Hannah Joy: Yeah.

Jill Riley: All right. We'll take care of thank you so much.

Hannah Joy: Thank you.

Tim Fitz: Thank you.

Jill Riley: All right, you are listening to The Current. 

Video Segments

00:00:00 Highlands
00:03:26: Bootleg Firecracker
00:06:34 Stacking Chairs
00:09:45 Interview with host Jill Riley


Hannah Cameron – vocals, guitar
Miles Elkington – guitar, vocals
Tim Fitz – bass, keyboards, guitar, vocals
Harry Day – drums, vocals


Guests – Middle Kids
Host – Jill Riley
Producer – Derrick Stevens
Video Director – Evan Clark
Camera Operators – Evan Clark, Peter Ecklund
Audio – Eric Xu Romani
Graphics – Natalia Toledo
Digital Producer – Luke Taylor

Middle Kids – official site