The Midnight: “As far as we’re concerned, nostalgia is limitless…”

Tyler Lyle talks the evolution of The Midnight ahead of their UK debut as headliners at Radar Festival

Formed over a decade ago after meeting during a co-writing workshop in California, The Midnight are a musical duo fuelled by curiosity. 

Proof that opposites truly do attract, the project merges the talents of Southern-born singer-songwriter Tyler Lyle and Danish-bred drummer and producer Tim McEwan. The former’s all-American storytelling charm intertwining with the latter’s penchant for cinematic soundscapes and infectious pop hooks, what’s formed at the intersection can only be described as magic. A marriage of synthwave, dance, and pop that invokes the neon imagery of the 80s, the duo basks deeply in the wonder of nostalgia, inviting the world to do the same.

With the release of their 2022 rock-influenced album Heroes seeing them make the leap from playing 500-capacity clubs to selling out Brixton Academy, in 2024 – The Midnight are hitting even bigger heights. Making their first appearance as UK festival headliners this July at Manchester’s Radar Festival, we spoke to Lyle about pushing boundaries, finding connection, and their ambition to create something that stretches far beyond music.

The Midnight - 'Brooklyn. Friday. Love.' (Official Video)

It’s been a couple of years now since you released Heroes, a record that marked a new chapter for this project. Those songs felt significantly more earnest than anything you’d released prior, which – whether they knew it or not – was probably what people needed after the pandemic…

More importantly, it’s what we needed. Going into that album, that was part of our MO. We went in with the intention of creating something that we needed, and after two years of being stuck at home not playing shows, we wanted some big songs to sing in big rooms full of people.

The songs are rooted in the anthemic rock sounds of the 80s and 90s, presenting another significant evolution for The Midnight. How important is it to retain creative freedom and explore whatever sounds feel fresh and exciting to you in that moment?

Tim and I are creative people, and we want to push boundaries for both personal and creative reasons. We want to see what’s possible, and we’ll never be slaves to the algorithm. If you repeat the same sound too many times, you will always have to repeat the same sound, because you’ve set that expectation. If you build it into your narrative that you’re always going to test the boundaries, then the fans stick with you. They go into each new album expecting a challenge, as do we, and that’s a more exciting way to create music. I’ll never be certain if our fans feel the same way about our need to constantly evolve, but they tend to stick with us, which is a good sign.

Coming out of a period where the live music industry was stagnant, Heroes marked a real step up in your performance too. It felt as though the songs on that record were made for the live experience… Was that something you were conscious of going into the recording process? 

By the end of 2019, Lelia Broussard [live guitarist] was performing with us, and we felt confident that her then boyfriend, now husband, Royce [Whittaker] would jump in and play lead guitar too. He plays the ripping shredded parts that we aren’t equipped to play, and we knew that we were going to be at least a five-piece band going forward. After the COVID break, it was established that The Midnight were evolving into a big live band, and it wasn’t going to be an EDM DJ project anymore. On the last album, we were leaning into that.

The Midnight - 'Heart Worth Breaking' (Official Audio)

That idea came to fruition at your Brixton Academy show in 2022, and then was amplified even further when you played the Hammersmith Apollo in 2023. Have you noticed anything special about the energy of UK crowds?

We’re very grateful that the UK keeps coming out for us, and we’re excited to play some new areas of the UK this year. There’s a special appreciation for us there, and for music in general, especially in cities like Manchester. London is a world unto itself, but we played Rock City in Nottingham last year and there’s such a unique energy when you travel further afield from the capital. The crowds are amazing, and we’ve had two incredible shows in Manchester. The vibe in the north of England is special, and people are just so excited for the music. It’s such a joy to play.

What’s special about The Midnight’s live performance is that’s where we see your individual personalities come to life. As musicians, is it important that who you are truly shines through the things you create?

Personality is often built into your art because you draw from your own personal experience. However, because you are a human being, it’s also a universal experience. Everybody experiences loss, alienation, regret, and growth, so the things we explore in our music are universal. I don’t think any art made by a human can lose those things, because it’s built into the process, but that becomes more pertinent in our live show. The Midnight isn’t a confessional project, and my name is not on the headline banner, but there’s something freeing about not having to make it so confessional and so personal. Who we are shines through whether we intend it to or not.

With that universality, people can apply their own narratives to the songs and form their own unique connections. How integral is the idea of connection and community to everything you create? 

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim calls it collective effervescence. In our day-to-day life, it’s rare to be able to lose the ego and the sense that you are an individual. In a concert setting, you get to lose it. You’re in a room full of people singing along, who are excited to lose themselves together. It’s one of the closest secular modes of transcendence we have as humans, and my role in that is to disappear into the moment. Each one is new, and no show is like any other. There’s a unique momentum, and you have to be mindful of that. That is the true challenge and joy of what I get to do. It’s all about connection and alignment, and the band is connecting with each other whilst the audience is connecting with the band. It creates this moment that is unrepeatable, and that’s the live music magic that we come back to night after night. It’s why we do it.

Pull quote from Tyler Lyle of The Midnight: "We want to see what's possible, and we’ll never be slaves to the algorithm"

It’s an event, an experience, and so much more than just a show. As a fan of music, have you always felt the importance of creating something that transcends the music?

I grew up in the Deep South, and my father was a music minister at a small Methodist Church. We lived out in the country in a very rural area, and on the last Sunday of every month, a musical guest would come to perform. It was either a Black gospel choir from across town, or a bluegrass group. Honestly, I felt a little cheated when Mumford & Sons became big all of a sudden. I had the roots of actual Americana without that generational gap, and I wasn’t rediscovering something that happened in the 1950s. It was an integral part of my childhood because the rural South still exists. That was the water that I swam in, and I think that’s what sparked that joy for finding magic within music.

Another huge thing about The Midnight is that everything seems to be done on your own terms, and that’s led to a distinct family feeling within your band, your crew, and your fans. Has fostering that community been an integral part of your success? 

Absolutely. The fans found us, and the music continued because they paid attention. They showed up, and they kept demanding that we make things. That’s where you want to be as a musician and a creator, and Tim and I both had ten years of a career before The Midnight found its legs. We were walking up an endless mountain, knocking on doors in the music industry, so it’s overwhelmingly wonderful to now feel the wave of support. Everything is in alignment, things are clicking, and people want to hear what we’re making. That’s the best position we could be in, so we want to honour that faith in us. The Midnight is not a world that Tim and I occupy exclusively, the fans are co-creating this world with us. Like The Velveteen Rabbit, as it is loved, it becomes more real. 

That symbiotic relationship has led to you making your debut as UK festival headliners in 2024. With your live performance growing to accommodate a five-piece band and bolder production elements, have you got anything special planned for your set at Radar Festival?

We try to keep a couple of special things in the back pocket. Like I said, every live show is a dialogue, so we’ll pull out something special. We won’t be making any major plans ahead of time, it all depends on what the energy feels like leading up to the show and what we feel in that moment. 


You’ve also recently announced your first graphic novel The Midnight: Shadows, working alongside some incredible names in the comic world. How does it feel to be able to expand the world of The Midnight further beyond the music?

Tim’s strengths and my strengths live in different worlds. He is a visual guy, he is the sonic guy, and I rhyme words and dream about world-building. I’m a huge Joseph Campbell fan, and I’m very interested in the monomyth, heroes, monsters, and shadows. The graphic novel is our attempt to expand these three-minute-long songs into something more. We have these little vignettes, but now we’re forming a narrative that can tell a full hero’s journey story. It’s something that we just couldn’t do with music, though we can hint at it. Zack Kaplan [comic writer] has been a friend of mine for a long time, and I used to play at his poker nights in LA. He was a TV writer for a while before he became a comic writer, and so as the team was thinking about a graphic novel, he came into the process pretty early on. We had tonnes of talks before, during, and after about what we wanted to see in the world of The Midnight, and I’m delighted to see those ideas coming to life.

Are the two of you big graphic novel and comic fans?

Absolutely. I was visiting my parents recently, and I asked where my old comic collection was, but they threw it out when I left for college. That was gutting, but I’m watching the X-Men ‘97 show with my son now. I’m getting to explain all the powers and the mythologies, and we’re having all these conversations about which superpowers relate to which mythologies. I’ve read a few graphic novels recently, but Alan Moore’s Watchmen and V For Vendetta are still favourites. They do something that a typical novel doesn’t quite do, and it feels more like a well-told videogame narrative. I love the medium. The last one I read was Sweet Tooth, which is incredible.

Looking forward to album six, then… How far along the process are things?

It’s almost done, minus a track or two. We’ve finished our commitment with Counter Records, and we’re in discussions about who our next label partner will be. The creative part of the record is done though, and hopefully by summer we’ll have new music out. It’s going to be angsty, and Tim is stretching himself in ways that I find fun. A lot of darkwave stuff finds its way into my running playlist, and I think some of these new songs will fit very well within that world.

So, you’re moving back into the electronic space, having explored the rock world a little more on Heroes?

Yeah, we’re going back to the electronic world for a little while, but we’ve got some collaborations with producers who live in between those two worlds. Whilst the next record is creatively locked, we’re starting to branch into… I shouldn’t say new wave directions… but whatever we do after this will be a little more in the Thompson Twins universe. That’s my hope, but we’ve only got a song or two written for it so far. We’re constantly on the move.

Despite how long you’ve been in this industry, fun still sits at the centre of it all for The Midnight. It’s clear that it’s important you’re always enjoying the things you create…

As the emails pile up and the expectations from other people grow, it’s very easy to think of it as a job. During my time in Los Angeles, the best lesson that I learned was that talking about the work isn’t the work. The actual work is the creation, and the imagining of these deep new worlds that you want to inhabit. That’s the fun, that’s the nectar, and that’s the thing that is evergreen. It’s always renewing, and I’ve never had an extended period of writer’s block because that part of the process is invigorating, joyous, and exciting. If you have a strong sense of ego, you can lose yourself quickly in the business side of it. However, having spent over a decade in the industry together before we even saw any success, Tim and I have a sense of perspective. That allows us to feel very grateful that we’re able to do what we do, and we know what the stakes are. We know how lucky we are to be in the position that we are, so we try and create great things to make the fans happy. Ultimately, we want to see how far down the rabbit hole we can take ourselves as creatives.

That ethos of constant evolution is what keeps this growing, and it’s a brilliant foundation to build a project upon. It’s hard to get bored of something when even you as the artist can never be sure of what’s coming next… 

We were faced with a lot of doubt early on, and everyone asked whether there was a limit to what we could do with our sound. Nostalgia has always been the premise of this band, and as far as we’re concerned, nostalgia is limitless. You find it in corners everywhere, and there’s ten lifetimes worth of music you could make within that theme. We’re very grateful to be in this position, and we’re going to have as much fun as we possibly can with it.

The Midnight headline Radar Festival in Manchester this July. Find tickets here