Interview The Middle East: Recording Our Debut Album Wasn’t A Pleasant Experience

Touring, strained inter-band relationships and hazardous recording environments

The Middle East are preparing to release their debut album ‘I Want That You Are Always Happy ‘. On a rare visit to the UK, we grabbed Rohin Jones & Jordan Ireland for a quick coffee on the Southbank to talk about touring, strained inter-band relationships and hazardous recording environments.

Where’s the rest of the band?
Jordan:They’re still in Australia. They’re all over the shop.

Did they not want to come?
Rohin: We decided it would probably be too expensive to get seven people over here. Plus, it would probably be annoying trying to speak to seven people in an interview at once.

So there’s seven of you?
R: Seven’s the perfect number, am I right? Not for bands but in general.

How do you all get around?
R: We just all pile into a van. It’s kinda squishy. That’s when I regret most, maybe second most, having seven people in the band.

When’s the most?
R: When we’re trying to write a song.

How do you all fit on a stage?
R: Some shows are alright. It’s kind of just shoulder to shoulder, I guess. It’s pretty tight. I’ve definitely taken a few guitars to the head.

Good for getting people back though?
R: No, that’s exactly right. Oh, it’s a small stage, Joe’s been pissing you off. There you go.

So you recorded the album in a self-built studio. Who was responsible for that and who did most of the engineering?
J: Well, responsibility is an ambiguous term but it was ourselves and Mark Myers.
R: It was pretty much Mark, let’s not play anybody here.

So what’s in this studio? Where did you get the equipment for and what did you use?
J: We just bought it. It’s all kinda middle range, home studio recording equipment.
R: We’ve got the old, 70’s Sennheiser mic.
J: Yeah, that’s a good one.

Are you heading out on tour? There have been rumours!
J: We’re not planning anything at the moment. Especially a tour to overseas but that’s because it’s been such a hectic time for us over the past year and we all kind of feel like doing our own things for a while before we implode. It’s been really stressful with inter-band relationships and that kind of thing. But we’re really keen to come over here again at some stage.

What’s the album like? Can you describe it for anyone that might not have heard it yet?
R: It’s kind of long, kind of droney, kinda slow, I guess, which is indicative of the time we spent recording it. I guess there is some lighter songs on the album but it kind of opens up quite depressingly. I don’t know why, it just kind of happened like that.

Are you happy with how it turned out?
R: It kind of comes and goes. I think we could’ve done a lot better, heaps better but the environment was kind of hazardous that we recorded in because we’d just got together after 2008 and rather than spending six months writing songs that we could have recorded and spent a lot of time on, we just went straight into tour and playing old songs. We were kind of just always playing catch up, trying to write song and trying to piece it together. It didn’t kind of flow, it wasn’t a pleasant experience, recording it.

You split up before and you’re saying it wasn’t a pleasant experience but there must be something that brings you all back together?
R: It wasn’t all bad, don’t get me wrong but it was just intense. I guess we’ve always played music together since we were teenagers. When we came back, things were starting to happen, like there was a label interested, which was exciting obviously. I think we just made some decisions about touring and about how we were gonna run the band and stuff that perhaps weren’t the greatest decisions and caused a lot of stress. Like we decided to go on tour for five months straight overseas. That was so intense. But there’s heaps of sweet memories and heaps of fun times as well.

With their being so many of you, how do you make the big decisions?
R: Me and Jord, I guess, because we write the songs, have a bit of sway. It was kind of our project to begin with. But I guess there’s a whole lot of diplomacy that goes on as well. You want to respect everyone and make sure people are happy with what they’re spending their time doing, especially as pretty much everyone in the band could write the record and they’ve all got other projects so if they’re just playing an instrument in our band, you’ve got to keep them happy because they’re investing a lot of time in it. Which is also kind of why we’re having a break.

Are you going on this break straight away?
R: We’re going on tour in Australia in June and then we’re just gonna have a bit of break and then reconvene.

What will happen when you get back together?
R: I don’t know. I want to write some more music, write a better album than this one.
J: Sounds good to me.

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