Best of What's Next: The Middle East

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Hometown: Townsville, Queensland, Australia
Album: The Recordings of the Middle East EP
Band Members: Mike Haydon (drums, accordion), Jordan Ireland (guitar, lead vocals), Rohin Jones (guitar, lead vocals), Jack Saltmiras (bass), Mark Myers, Bree Tranter, Joseph Ireland (all multi-instrumentalists)
For Fans Of: Bon Iver, Doves, The Antlers

The history of The Middle East is decidedly less conflicted than the band’s name might suggest.

The seven-piece formed in 2005 and played gigs around Townsville, a remote shore town in northeastern Australia, then disbanded when guitarist Jordan Ireland decamped to Germany. Now that he’s back, the band is up to its old tricks, creating densely layered songs that reside somewhere in the volatile territory between folk and post-rock. Their debut EP, released last October, at first seems to be all quiet moments and rich, delicate harmonies, but it’s sporadically interrupted by bursts of enthusiastic horns, drums, glockenspiel and squealing electric guitar.

Though the band has had a bit of fun with its name (the EP is titled The Recordings of the Middle East, and their MySpace handle is “visitthemiddleeast”) co-frontman Rohin Jones insists it doesn’t have any profound political meaning. “When we first started, we just needed a name for a poster for a show that we were doing. And I was watching a documentary on Yasir Arafat, and was like, ‘Why don’t we call the band The Middle East?’” he says. “I don’t think we’re trying to ‘say’ anything—though I guess it could seem like a controversial name, at the moment.”

The band is green enough that it doesn’t even have proper press photos, though all of the members recently quit their day jobs for their current spring tour. The route won’t land the band anywhere near southwestern Asia, but will take them across Australia and to the U.S., including stops at SXSW and Coachella. “We’re definitely not the most let’s-go-crazy kind of band,” Jones says. “Nothing really dramatic has hap- pened on this tour. Oh, actually, I broke my collarbone … I’m still kind of healing and it’s still kind of painful, but I’m fine. Doing great!”