The Middle East – the grandest sound around
Need To Know
* The Middle East are the only Townsville band to have played outside Australia
* The Middle East have never been to the Middle East
* The Middle East will be opening for Mumford & Sons on their full US tour
I’d say we were characteristically small-town folk,” says The Middle East’s bristly guitarist Rohin Jons, gazing hopefully over at his two mute bandmates, only to be met with sheepish shrugs. “Touring, or much of the music machine, isn’t always the easiest thing for us to be a part of.”
NME is sheltering from the heat outside a saloon near Denton, Texas, where these ‘small town folks’ are recording their debut long-player, far from their home, the sleepy coastal outpost of Townsville, Queensland. No joke, that’s actually its name.
This displacement was kick-started when the band’s EP ‘The Recordings Of The Middle East’, featuring a little song called ‘Blood’, absconded to thousands of bedrooms across the globe.
Trailing the unexpected success of their record, the band’s seven-strong touring clique, featuring flute, banjo and xylophone, and fronted by the introverted Jordin Ireland, have been justifying their hype as the next rootsy combo to shoot skyward.
Touted by Marcus Mumford as the most inspiring new band around, how is the group’s reluctant centrepiece enjoying folk being at its most en vogue since the ’60s?
“I’m not sure anything interests me less than being fashionable,” Ireland whispers to his shoes, shooting a sideways glance to flautist Bree Tranter. “Mumford are a great band, but we sound nothing like them. So being lumped in together feels bizarre.”
So, who would you ‘lump’ The Middle East in with then? Jordin recalls the feeling of elation when he first heard Sufjan Stevens. Certainly, that swell and rush of expansive prettiness – those dive bombs from total serenity into absolute jubilation – heard on their calling card ‘Blood’ could nestle up to anything on Stevens’ iconic ‘Illinois’.
Just to clarify though, guys, how does one go about defining ‘small-town folk’?
“I think it’s placing more value in the smaller, simpler interactions with a tight group of friends and family, rather than a broader picture of a city’s regime,” offers Rohin.
“People often tell me our music makes them think of landscapes,” adds Jordin. “But the only ups and downs I fixate on are those of people’s lives around me.”