The Midnight had one of their most successful years yet in 2023. After releasing their fifth studio album, Heroes, in late 2022, they spent most of the last 12 months on the road.
When I last saw them play live, they blew me away with how seamlessly they blended live music, heart, and synth magic.
One of their biggest shows in 2023, though, was the Bonnaroo Festival. The Midnight headlined the show for the first time. Now, they’re coming for the UK festival scene. The Midnight were recently announced as the first headliners for Radar Festival 2024 – marking the band’s first-ever British festival slot.
I caught up with one half of The Midnight, frontman Tyler Lyle, last month to discuss this historic announcement, and the pressure they’ve put on themselves to make it great. “We’ll try and pack as much of a punch into every second that we have,” he teased on Zoom while taking a walk in a park. “Because we know that we can’t tell a long story. Usually, those [festival] sets are an hour or an hour and 15 minutes instead of a [headline tour’s] hour and 45 minutes, two hours. It’s just the highest energy that we can bring.”
Tyler seemed fairly resolute in his confidence for taking on Radar. As the band’s singer and frontmost member, he probably can’t show any sign of weakness… But this assuredness likely comes from the preparation The Midnight made during the run-up to their Bonnaroo performance, and the lessons they learned along the way. “Bonnaroo was our first major festival,” he grinned. “Like, it was a headline, and a major festival the day after Korn playing the same slot. So we were very ambitious.”
Going into some more detail, Tyler said: “Royce, our MD, kind of set out to make a big electronic moment for us. And all of the transitions kind of rolled into other things and it was this very complete artistic statement. And we worked in rehearsals for weeks to get it right.”
Despite being “exhausting” Tyler was elated by how “worth it” the strict preparation was. The Midnight even used the same transitions on their autumnal tour throughout the end of the year.
This time around, The Midnight will conclude their British visit by headlining Radar Festival following a string of UK tour dates (tickets are available now) – a scheduling detail Tyler is pleased about: “I’m glad that Radar Fest will be at the end of the tour so that we can kind of go into it feeling used to [the performance], or feeling like the muscle is there. So I think it’ll be a better step because of that.”
Would Tyler give fans a tease of what to expect for Radar Festival’s setlist, though? “The festival is the quick and dirty. Usually we start with Vampires and it goes up in energy from there. So it’s kind of like a greatest hits.”
Most importantly, though, Tyler confessed the band are excited to return to the UK as it has become a bit of a home away from home for them. “The UK has been a wonderful place for The Midnight,” he explained. “In terms of live music. We’ve grown there pretty quickly – quicker than most other markets, honestly. It’s outpaced Europe in terms of fan engagement.”
If this tour and festival announcement weren’t enough, The Midnight also just confirmed a huge tour in the US, as well as their first-ever graphic novel entitled Shadows. Taking on the band’s visceral imagery and mythos as inspiration, the story builds a universe around the synth-rockers’ well-established style. And Tyler noted how it would take dark inspiration from their upcoming, as of yet untitled record: “There’s going to be some tie in to the music. The record itself is going to be a little bit more of a dance record. A little happier, a little darker. But certainly more on the electronic side. And will slow rolled out but there will be some overlap with the graphic novel.”
On top of “leaning on a lot of science-fiction” themes, the new record’s darkness, while stylish, feels like it could stem from a very real place this time around, though. On New Year’s Eve 2023, Tyler confirmed on his Instagram account that his wife was battling Hodgkins lymphoma. “It was a really heavy year,” he said. “I wrote some songs personally about that. But as far as The Midnight… I don’t think there’s a tonne of overlap, except that when you’re in the darkest place and, you know, often when tragedy is real and not just imaginary, there’s a place in your heart that opens up and you can appreciate and receive a little bit more of the goodness.”
Thankfully, Tyler’s wife’s condition seems to have improved (“her last scans look good”), and he was keen to keep talking about the new record.
Looking back, Tyler described Heroes as a “hopeful record written in the despair of COVID” while working with the conceptual archetypes of Kids, Monsters, Heroes and runaways. Comparatively, looking forward, Tyler “wanted to think about The Magician and The Labyrinth & The Minotaur,” he detailed. “And kind of this puzzle. I wanted to have almost like a spy record, something that’s kind of dark and sinister and comprehensive. And thinking in that space is fun. It’s just a… it’s a kind of creative escape.”
While Tyler couldn’t put a release date on the record, he noted how fans may hear some music soon (“We should have at least one new single from the next record out by [the UK tour]”).
On top of this new album and the graphic novel, Tyler briefly mentioned some other hush-hush projects going on behind the scenes that are sure to leave fans feral. For example, he made oblique references to a “Yacht Rock Massacre” album which may or may not be coming in the near future – something in the same vein as The Midnight’s Horror Show EP.
Tyler was also quick to mention (and quick to stop talking about) the tenth anniversary of Days of Thunder, the band’s debut EP, and one of their most popular. “We’ve got a special… we’ve got some special ideas wrapped up in that,” he grinned. “They’re not quite real yet, so I don’t want to share them.”
With tours, albums, EPs, and special projects, Tyler proudly smiled: “It’s going to be heavy, man.”