For those of us who have been in bands, we all know what it’s like when you put out your first few songs and begin playing shows. Most of the people who share your song around are just friends, you’ll get 1,000 views on your crappy low-budget video that was filmed by your mate from uni and you run the very serious risk of having the bar workers as your only spectators for your first few shows. It’s a cruel, tough and unforgiving wilderness.
Then there’s Middle Kids, the Sydney upstarts who have basically re-written the rule book for new bands. Their rise reads like a script that you only dare to dream about when you start out before reality kicks in. A debut song premiere on Triple J followed by a booking deal, back-to-back tours with Julia Jacklin and City Calm Down, a slot at Falls Festival and now a huge, two month North American tour including a run alongside Cold War Kids, a slot at SXSW and most recently, a chance to perform to millions of Americans on Conan O’Brien.
The power of a catchy chorus has proven one hell of a strength for the Sydney trio, so naturally, a huge amount of hype and excitement surrounded the arrival of their self-titled debut EP last week. Here was Middle Kids’ chance to prove that they were not just a flash in a pan, but an act that can produce a well-rounded body of musical work.
Kicking things off with the bright and upbeat Your Love, the group play it safe for the beginning of the disc with the band’s thre previously released singles all coming in succession and giving a round-up of the different sounds to come. Where the former is poppy with a bit of bite, breakout single and Hottest 100 should-have-been Edge Of Town is an anthemic slab of alternate-rock, steadily building towards a triumphant climax that sees vocalist Hannah Joy show off her incredible vocal range from the low murmurings of discomfort and anxiety to the powerful falsetto of the conclusion.
However, it’s once the original big two singles are finished that the band begin to open up on their musical palate and give a further glimpse into the future. Latest offering Never Start opens the door to folkier influences, with driving acoustic guitar and drums simmering nicely beneath arguably the catchiest chorus on the whole EP. This extra dimension to their sound is further apparent on Fire In Your Eyes , a bluegrass flavour pervading the mix of guitars that never quite leaves, carried by the organ that runs throughout.
Further adding to the experimental element of the back-end of the EP, Old River arrives, a dark pop tune soaked in grungy guitars and bombastic lead lines that hit like a sucker punch and retract all too quickly. Something that stands out about this band is that they don’t pointlessly expand songs for the sake of making things longer. The shorter cuts of Old River and Your Love are all the more infectious due to the limited amount of time the listener has to enjoy them. Despite being only one EP deep in their career, Middle Kids have already got an impressive grasp on how to take away from songs rather than add to them for the sake of the best possible product.
After dipping their toes into stadium rock, folk-pop and grunge, it seems fitting for the band to close out the EP with the solo piano ballad Doing It Right. Reverting to the good old (and largely forgotten) trick of story-telling, the song seems to tell the intriguing tale of someone struggling to understand if they are moving through life in the “correct” manner, an all too common anxiety for us young adult listeners. After such a diverse range of sounds, it’s refreshing to hear the band close with a statement so vulnerable and relatable. “This don’t feel right but I’m hanging on.”
Strictly musically speaking, there is a lot here that IS right and paying dividends for the band. With such a diverse mix of sounds and abilities, six songs are going to be a tough ask to tide us over before their debut LP arrives later this year, but until then, enjoy this group while they are still playing smaller local shows, that’s not going to last much longer.
Middle Kids EP Tour
Friday, April 14- Northcote Social Club, Melbourne
Saturday, April 15- The Foundry, Brisbane
Friday, April 21 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney