The Midnight paint with vibrant sonic colors as they prepare their new LP, tour the world [Interview]
Tim McEwan and Tyler Lyle are exhausted—the good kind of exhausted that comes from performing in countless venues around the world.
“We haven’t slept in six months,” Lyle says. “It’s all one big blur.”
The duo, known to the music world as The Midnight, have been touring almost nonstop since the release of Kids, their third LP released last September. They’ve spent most of 2019 on the road, kicking off in Norway in February and hardly slowing down since then. On a stop in St. Louis in the midst of this heavy tour schedule, DA caught up with The Midnight to hear about their journey across the globe and the promise of new music on the horizon.
McEwan and Lyle jointly form one of the most celebrated acts in the modern synthwave scene, but they don’t like to put their music in a genre-confined box. They simply enjoy making music together and delivering the end result to their fan base and beyond.
McEwan and Lyle first got together in 2012 when they were paired up in a studio session. They didn’t know each other prior. McEwan, who’s from Copenhagen, comes from a production and studio background, and Lyle grew up in Georgia and has a songwriting background. While their backgrounds were largely different, something happened the first day they got in the studio together: They wrote their first song as The Midnight, “WeMoveForward.”
“[Lyle] wrote the verses pretty quickly, but finding out what the song was was a longer process,” McEwan recalls. “We didn’t know we were going to make a band called The Midnight. It was all about finding and figuring out where to point the ship.”
Both artists agreed that the tricky thing about meeting someone you could do anything with is that it’s both freeing and overwhelming. They spent their first EP figuring out what The Midnight sounded like, and from there, it was a natural progression.
“It’s a palette of colors we’ve been working with,” Lyle notes. “We’re still going to use those palettes over time, but we’re going to grow.”
Mono no aware fuels The Midnight’s music—whether it’s in the form of the dramatic “WeMoveForward” or the final Kids track, “Kids (Reprise),” from last September. They’ve grown tremendously as a band since those early days and are constantly seeking to evolve their sonic palette. Many fans were initially thrown off by the absence of saxophone riffs in the Kids album, but McEwan and Lyle insist that the recent album had a different story to tell than its predecessors. Kids is—as its title plainly reveals—about what it’s like being a kid.
“Sultry sax doesn’t go hand in hand with being 10 years old and riding around on bikes,” McEwan explains. “The people that connected [to Kids] connected in a very deep way. They really got it. There’s a pain and a sadness inherent in nostalgia that I think [Lyle] was really good at tapping into.”
Lyle expounds, noting that they’re “trying to broaden and deepen the palette” with their new material.
“We’re writing songs in different corners of the room,” he says. “Hopefully with the next record, we’ll bring a little more sunlight out.”
Where Kids was about growing up, McEwan and Lyle see their next album as a natural progression in life into the teenage phase. McEwan says they’ll look to capture “the angst and the turmoil of being a teenager, the highs and lows, the hormones going crazy” in their next body of work. The way their writing process is going, they see this series as “maybe a trilogy,” telling an overarching story.
For those who can’t wait for their next dosage of The Midnight’s new material, the duo’s second remix EP landed on Silk Music on Sept. 27, featuring reinterpretations of tracks like “Arcade Dreams” from Timecop1983 and “Shadows” from Uppermost.
“I always love hearing a different take on our songs and my tracks and what elements are used and how they’re using [Lyle’s] voice,” McEwan says. “It’s so freeing to hear. I’m really excited about these songs being dressed up differently for people.”
For now, though, The Midnight are on a brief tour break after trekking across the States for much of the summer and early autumn. In late October, the duo take off again across the pond to play shows in Germany, the UK, France, and many more, wrapping up one of their heaviest tour years to date in the later days of 2019.
As a singer, Lyle thrives off the energy he gets from crowds, noting that his favorite part of his job is the moments when he can feel the connection in the room.
“I spent 10 years as a folk singer in much smaller rooms,” he remembers. “It felt like a heart-to-heart connection, but this feels like a spiritual energy with a whole room. There’s an energy there that’s hard to simulate any other way.”
McEwan lives on the other end of the spectrum, calling himself a “studio guy.”
“My real high comes when I’m working on a track and I crack the code,” he says. “You have the promise of something great, but you haven’t had to do the laborious work of executing it yet. You’re riding the high of all the possibilities, and you know where to take it.”
Combined, these two personalities and skill sets are unstoppable. With their music, The Midnight has touched countless lives with their ability to reach and comfort their fans—fans who “need to be told they’re OK, they’re loved and that they’re not alone,” Lyle says. “We’re trying to build up the mythology, singing about monsters and vampires… But at the end of the day, the connection seems to happen when we just sort of recognize that human struggle is universal, and we’re all in it. Music is this magical thing that helps us feel a little less alone.”
McEwan agrees, saying that all of us “are the same when it comes down to it.”
“It sounds like such a cliché, but music is a way to unite people,” he says. “It’s the feeling of knowing that you’re meeting all these kindred spirits. You’re writing a song, and three years down the line you’re playing somewhere in Germany or St. Louis and someone comes up to you and says ‘you got me through a hard period of my life.’ That’s something that’s bigger than us.”