Australian band Expatriate has been a bit quiet for the past few years in regards to the local scene. Instead, since their accomplished debut 2007 release, In The Midst Of This, picked up an ARIA Award nomination, the band instead chose to pursue a career path overseas, basing themselves in Germany and signing with (PIAS) International. The decision to relocate in Germany calls to mind how The Birthday Party, after experiencing an apathetic reaction to their music in England, relocated to Berlin where people seemed to understand and ‘get’ their music to a greater degree.

One could say the same has happened for Expatriate. Over the past four years, the band supported Placebo on a big European arena tour (lifting their profile immeasurably), played almost every major European festival, while also writing and recording music. This has obviously been a truly invaluable experience for the band in shaping their sound.

Formed in 2005, the band’s name comes from Ben King’s experiences growing up, being an Australia expatriate living in Jakarta. The music definitely has that wonderfully observational and ‘outsider’ sense to it. Over the course of one album and two EP’s, the band has forged a strong sense of musical identity and being.

Best known for the wonderful track “The Space Between” Expatriate display a wonderful sense and grasp of classic left of centre pop old and new, recalling to mind such great bands as The Replacements, The Smithereens, Teenage Fanclub and the criminally underrated Big Star.

The band have returned home recently and released their great new single, “Miracle Mile”, off their forthcoming album, Hyper/Hearts, set for release early 2012.  Tone Deaf’s Neil Evans recently spoke to Expatriate front man Ben King on the eve of a short Australian tour happening next month.

“I went to an international school in Jakarta,” begins King. “My sense of musical discovery sprung from mixtapes that both I and other students would make, whether it be when we were at school on when we went home annually for the December/January break. Also, other kids would come back to school with bags of new music.”

So what made King want to pursue music as a full-time career? “I kind of fell into it by accident,” replies King, laughing. “I had always done noodling about and writing songs on guitar since school. My friends really pestered me to get my music out there and let the world hear it. Things basically snowballed from there, with forming Expatriate and releasing a debut EP.”

Being based in Berlin has helped the band to mature and grow immeasurably as artists. “Living and working together has really strengthened us as a unit,” says King. “It helped us become tighter as a musical entity, both in regards to recording and particularly playing together as a live act.” This was, undoubtedly, helped by playing some of the major European festivals of the past few years. “Definitely. The common factor of these big festivals is that combination of older or reformed bands from days past along with younger bands just getting started in the business. It definitely makes you lift your game in order to compete.”

Having released an accomplished debut LP In The Midst Of This King explained what listeners could look forward to with the new album, Hyper/Hearts, set for release around February/March next year. “With the first album, I always felt it was incredibly varied with what it sounded like. I’ve always appreciated the process of recording and production. With the second album, the band was aiming for a more focussed and tighter sound; a deeper sonic palate is probably the best way to describe it,” says King. “We really took our time with the new album. The last one always felt a bit rushed to me. Also, it has been wonderful and gratifying to explore different musical terrain and direction as a band. At one point, we were almost tempted to put out an album that sounded like Massive Attack, which would have totally confused and alienated our older fans,” he laughs.

Before the release of Hyper/Hearts, the band will be doing some shows in Sydney and Melbourne on the eve of the release of the lead off single off the new album, “Miracle Mile”, which will give listeners a taste of what is to come. “I’m a bit nervous playing these shows,” admits King. “It’s been such a long time since we’ve played in Australia. At the same time, it is exciting. I’m looking forward to the shows and reminding people of the band and hopefully they will rediscover what the liked about us and The Space Between so much.”

– Neil Evans.

Expatriate Miracle Mile Show Dates