Middle Kids’ Hannah Joy on Faith Crisis Pt. 1, becoming a mum and rediscovering herself

Sydney’s very own Middle Kids are dropping their third studio album, Faith Crisis Pt 1 TODAY! Produced by the iconic Jonathan Gilmore and recorded in England, this album is nothing short of fantastic. I caught up with lead vocalist Hannah Joy just weeks out from having her second baby, and she was keen to chat all things motherhood, creativity and of course Faith Crisis Pt 1.

I’m really interested to learn about your recording process for this record, what can you tell me about the writing and recording process, and also how the name of the album came to be?

“I think, you know, the album itself definitely grew as it went along, I don’t think I had a singular vision… it took me a while to find the songs after the last record, you know after having my first son and at pretty much the same time having Covid… I know it was a very fruitful time for a lot of artists, but it was not a very fruitful time for me. I get a lot of energy and inspiration from living life and connecting with people… not having that, when I was looking inside I was like, “I don’t wanna look there, I don’t even know what’s in there!” It took me a while. “Terrible News” was the first song that I wrote that there was an intensity and an energy that I felt, it was kind of almost like an opening and then a lot of songs started flowing out from that place.

We got a whole bunch of songs and we went to England and as we were making it there was a very clear thread even though there were different emotional weights and vibes, there was a theme of really grappling with belief and a lot of that came out from me through having a faith crisis. But then also all of us realised we are always having these little crisis’ all the time in the sense that you might have a belief and then you might have an experience which challenges that belief and you’ve gotta go, “Well, what do I do with that?” These beliefs can be with anything, and they can get broken down and built back up, and this record is a real journey of that. And then we went with “Part 1” because of the assumption that there’s always going to be more, not even more music but more crisis’.”

You mentioned before that you had your first child during the pandemic, and you’re about to have your second child, I’d love to hear about your motherhood journey and the impact that this has had on your writing, how do you think it has influenced you creatively?

“I think, you know, it was a real challenge at first creatively speaking. I had to re-learn how to find space to get in touch with that part of myself. The energy of a mother is so immediate and responsive to the needs in front of you, moment by moment… I think that’s such a beautiful privilege to be in that place an pour yourself out like that, but then, that’s where you’re pouring yourself out! And then you’ll be like “Oh, well they have a nap so maybe I can do like 2 hours”, and then you’re like “Fuck that! I need to sleep!” So I found that quite confronting because then I’d get these little windows where I’d want to be making things but then I’m like “Well, actually, I just need to shower”. But then as he got a bit older I could find a bit more time to actually get a bit more space. That almost felt like a discipline because part of me didn’t want the space, I just wanted to be mum, but then I knew that I actually needed to do this.

It’s kind of cool, I actually ended up writing this record in all of these little weekend trips over two years where I’d go away for a night or two and just get a little shack by the sea, just cause I needed that physical space. I feel really grateful to have been able to go on that journey and find a new way to make things and see how that fills me up in such a way where I feel like I have even more to give…Your heart is so raw, being a mother, and you’re in these deep places a lot more, so I felt in terms of where I was going artistically that it was so influenced by being in this new mother position. It’s really cool to see!

When I was younger I always had two paths, either I was going to be a dysfunctional, messy musician for the rest of my life or a good mum/housewife, and both paths just looked like oil and water to me, but it’s been so amazing to see how they can actually feed each other so beautifully.”

Your husband is also your bandmate, and a lot of your lyrics are really introspective and quite heavy- do you find it difficult to be raw and open and honest, or is it easier having him there, being so involved?

“Because I write a lot of it on my own initially, having that space to do that makes it easier in some ways and I would say that sometimes I write songs and I’ll be like “Oh, shit, I think something’s going on”, because I tend to just push the emotions down and I feel like the songs are a gift to me because I’ll be writing songs and be like, “Wow you really need to check in on yourself!” And so I can be a little disconnected, whereas Tim is a lot more comfortable with the emotional mess, which is a real gift to me.

Often I’ll bring him a song, and sometimes I look back and think “That’s kinda intense!” But even in our relationship it’s something I’m always amazed by because whenever gets overwhelmed by it, and he’s an amazing writer himself and we work on a lot of songs together and he writes a lot of the lyrics, so he understands. And also, when you’re writing things it’s not always the full story, its a piece or it’s an expression of something.”

Your album was produced by Jonathan Gilmore, who has worked with some amazing artists- how did that opportunity come about and what was it like recording with him?

“We actually tossed up the idea of working with Jon for the second record, we’ve been a huge fan of The 1975 for a long time- of the way they make things and the way it sounds. So we got put in touch with him, because two of the records of theirs that he worked on I really really loved. It’s cool because all three of us come from different backgrounds musically and have very different tastes, so it’s nice when we find a project or a band that we all love. So when we do, we get on that. I think for this record we really just wanted to bring someone else in a little more.

Although most of it was written before we got to England, we gave Jon a lot of freedom to just get his hands on it, and we wanted that in terms of growing and trying to elevate the sound. We just love the sounds that Jon pulls and love the way that we works. He is intense, we did six weeks straight with two days off and went so hard. It was an epic experience, I was absolutely destroyed afterwards but that’s good!

I feel like it’s a worthy thing to spend yourself on. We loved making it with Jon and we loved what he was able to pull out. Particularly with some of these songs he really got in there production-wise and found a new sound like with Dramamine and Go To Sleep On Me. It was awesome, we feel so grateful to have had that experience with him. And for Tim too, because Tim produced it with him. They just worked so well together, so it was really cool to see.”

I know you’re going to be really busy in your personal life soon, but you’ve got the album out in February, what else have you got on the cards for 2024?

“We’re going to start touring the album in Australia in May and then head to America and Europe. We weren’t able to tour our last record in the way that we wanted because of Covid so we feel really lucky to just get to play these songs, so we’re just going to be touring for the rest of the year. I’m trying to get as many songs out before the baby because all bets are off for a while, and hopefully we can make the next record within the next year. So we’re really excited for 2024!”

Faith Crisis Pt 1 is out today – you can read our review HERE and stream wherever you listen!

Be sure to catch Middle Kids on their upcoming Aussie tour by grabbing your tickets HERE.