Jordan Ireland and Rohin Jones, co-leaders of The Middle East are in Dublin to promote their album (and for the Guinness). The name, they hasten to mention, came about strictly out of necessity and not just to make Googling the band more difficult. Jones stresses that the name “meant nothing then and still means nothing now.”
Rohin and Jordan met in their mid-teens and started jamming together in a room in Townsville, Queensland. They liken the creativity of their formative years in Townsville “bouncing ball smashing around a small room until it found a window to get out of.” Though playing in other bands at the time they formed The Middle East as a platform for songs that the two had written. “We were only meant to play one show but then… we ended up playing more than one show and now we’re in Dublin doing press,” Rohin remarks grinning.
The new-folk wave which ushered in their success has been a double-edged sword as far as the band are concerned. The EP which preceded their debut album was an upbeat folk affair. This was in stark contrast to the darker ‘I Want That You Are Always Happy.’ The album became a reaction to how the attention they gained as a ‘folk’ band had become confining.
”It’s a fantastic scene and I’m happy people enjoy it but bands tend to be get limited in their ability to write whatever they want because everyone sees them in that light,” summarises Jones.
The folk-renaissance has also seen the bastardization of the banjo as The Middle East see it. “It’s kind of been destroyed in the past five years. Before that it was some sweet obscure instrument that you’d find in a small town and now every Tom, Dick and Harry can play it,” says Rohin.
Musically, Rohin cites Bill Callahan as an influence while Jordan nods to Cohen and Elliott Smith. Both pay homage to Dylan as a source of inspiration but Rohin is quick to add that his influences rarely have an overt impact on his music. It is not a direct link in terms of sound but rather that listening to these giants of music make him “so excited about music and about life in general that usually something comes of that.”
They feel that they are growing as songwriters from their “toddler fumblings”. Jordan sparks the ideas and focuses on the detail while Rohin arranges. The two are excited to get back to writing songs when the press interest calms. It will certainly be interesting to see what the band, who were never meant to be a band, do next.