When it comes to songwriting, Australian artist Hannah Joy has an adage-based rule of thumb: The one who travels fastest travels alone.
So even though she shares a serene Sydney home life with Tim Fitz — her husband and bassist in her band, Middle Kids — when either senses a serious composition coming on at their house and part-time recording studio, the other goes out until that work is complete.
It’s how the group arrived at its quirky, drolly-observed new debut disc, “Lost Friends,” and its cascading single “Edge of Town,” which Elton John championed on his popular Beats One broadcast.
Joy, who brings Middle Kids to The City this week, says the laissez faire concept only gradually occurred to her and Fitz.
“It’s almost like our impulse is to not be here when the other person is making something,” says the singer, who will go for long walks or otherwise disappear when her hubby is feeling creative. “I don’t really want to be around; I just want to let him do his thing, because I just know that that’s when a lot of his golden nuggets are going to come out. The same goes for me. It just depends on whoever gets into that mindset first.”
Joy is that serious about the purity of her material. Before she met Fitz in 2014, she sang hymns and learned intricate four-part harmonies in her minister father’s congregation, and began writing tunes with no fixed sonic backdrop. As she perfected her oblique chords and Tim Burton-ish lyrical studies, she grew more determined. “Now every decision is made with the song in mind, in order for it to reach its full potential,” she says. “We’re always asking ourselves, ‘What’s best for the song?’ It’s a very helpful North Star for us, to just follow the song.”
With the same offbeat but charming humor that characterizes much Australian art, “Lost Friends” — easily one of the best records of the year so far — finds Joy delighting in lifting the pastel façade on placid neighborhoods to unearth the misanthropic creepiness lurking just beneath the surface.
“Surprise!” she says with a chuckle. “I think that’s something I can’t help seeing. I grew up in the suburbs, and there’s spirit of dissatisfaction and oppression there that’s in all the little nooks and crannies.”
Every once in a while, Middle Kids feel that same oppression simultaneously in their equipment-laden digs. After claustrophobically cutting most of the “Lost Friends” instruments at home, Joy says, “I went into an actual studio to do my vocals, because I just couldn’t handle it in this madhouse anymore. It was like being in some crazy laboratory.”
IF YOU GO
Where: Independent, 628 Divisadero St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. June 27
Tickets: $15 to $18
Contact: (415) 771-1421, www.ticketfly.com