Just Mustard Are Our New Favorite Band From Dundalk, Ireland

Live photos: Naz Kawakami

Five friends from a mid-size town in Ireland—Katie Ball, Shane Maguire, Mete Kalyoncuoglu, David Noonan, and Rob Clarke, from Dundalk—are pushing out what is quite possibly the most unexpected and exciting sound in rock ‘n’ roll today.

They are the five parts that make up Just Mustard (named for the color and not the condiment), a band that has played with The Cure, toured with Fontaines DC, and is about to release their highly anticipated second album, Heart Under, on Partisan Records, on May 27th. Their first album, 2018’s Wednesday, gave us tracks like ‘Tennis’, ‘Pigs’, and ‘Deaf’—this last song packing a melody that sneaks into your eardrum oozing strife and release, with a crunchy, voided finish. The record is brimming with hypnotism and Lynchian discomfort. It is an album that sounds like it knows you at your worst, and lets you be worse—a comforting sort of uncanny musical companion. 

Just Mustard’s forthcoming album tilts its head, living somewhere slightly above and harder to find than its predecessor, indecipherable and undiscoverable in a midnight mist of fuzz and stalking pedal noise. ‘I Am You’ lumbers, throbs, and thrusts its momentum at you, as Katie’s voice tantalizes, raising you up to some strange blue height only to set you back down again. Heart Under pushes the band’s technical ability with bolder drum patterns and a more unexpected approach to guitar arrangement and effect implementation, while revealing thoughtful yet simple lyrical imagery. I was able to catch them in the lobby of their hotel in New York City for a quick and painfully early morning interview.

Thank you and I’m sorry for meeting me this morning. Is it cool if I condense most of your answers together for the sake of length and clarity?

Yeah, that’d be fine I guess.

You just played two sold-out shows with Fontaine’s DC in Brooklyn. How’s New York been?

It’s been class. Sad to be leaving. 

Seems like you’ve been touring nonstop for a while. How’s that life been?

It’s a mad experience. Once you get into the swing of things, you forget what life normally is. It becomes normal. Being on the road starts to get fun. It’s weird because last time we were home, we were there for a week. Before that, we were only home for a day. You get back and think, ‘I’m comfortable here now; I don’t want to go back out again.’ But then once you’re out again, it’s great. 

A lot of bands have said that when you come back from a tour and then leave again, you begin to question where home is. You guys were touring your first album in 2019, and then Covid hit. How’s that contrast been, pre versus quasi-post-Covid?

We started right before the pandemic hit and got to do a little bit of touring. It was a weird time to put out an album. I don’t think we hated it though, it gave us time to get ideas together and get a better sense of what we wanted to do and sound like. We just didn’t think it’d be this long. Since coming out of the pandemic, it just got really busy really quickly. Before, we would build up to albums and tours and stuff. Now, things are happening very quickly and very often. 

This is an obnoxious question that I love to ask: what kind of music do you think you make? How would you put a pin in it?

I don’t even know. When people ask, I try to take the easy way out and say rock and roll, but it isn’t quite as simple as that. You don’t want to put a pin in your genre if you don’t have to. Don’t pigeonhole yourself. We’ve been called some interesting things. What was that recent one? Neo Goth? 

I don’t know if you’re very goth, you’re pretty chipper people. 

On stage, I think we are a bit serious and straightforward, so I get it, but when we are off stage, we go back to being normal fairly happy people, and we are off stage most of the time. 

You’ve got a highly anticipated album coming out on May 27th, Heart Under. What differentiates this album from the previous one?

With Wednesday, sound-wise, we wanted the listener to feel like they were standing at the other side of a room listening in on us playing. With Heart Under, we wanted to place the listener in the middle of us, surrounded by the sounds. Thematically this album is much more of a congruent piece and we wanted it to feel like each song is part of a greater whole, lyrically and musically.

What have you all been listening to lately? What’s the tour playlist looking like?

All sorts of stuff. We have a lot of shared influences, but each of us has a certain taste. Band-wise, we are all into the Pixies. Well actually, that isn’t even a shared like, is it? It’s not that I don’t like the Pixies, I just haven’t really gotten into them. Aphex Twin is one that we all bonded over. Portishead. I found out recently that Bowery Electric is from New York, and I love them. They’re class. 

What outside of music influences your music?

Photos. Definitely film. David Lynch. We use a lot of Pinterest boards while writing. 

I did not peg you for Pinterest people.

Oh yeah, we love a bit of Pinterest. We have a load of different boards. One for lyrics, maybe one for each song. A mood board with a well-designed aesthetic really helps everyone get the idea and helps the writing process. 

It’s interesting that you make music based on visuals. 

It’s hard to talk about how a song should feel, it’s difficult to describe the mood of a sound that you want. Having imagery helps because you’re translating that feeling or mood into a different sort of tangible thing that you can show to someone. We also like to include a lot of imagery in the lyrics to create… images… 

What do you guys consider a good show for yourselves?

When it feels like there is a good energy in the audience. As performers, a good energy in front of you makes for a more fun set. If I manage to sort of lose myself in the music for a bit, that’s a good gig. I do a lot of overthinking on stage, so if I can just not think, that’s a good show. 

What are the overthinking thoughts on stage?

I don’t know. Everything, anything. Does my hand look weird? Who’s that? Why are they looking at me? 

You mean the audience?

Yeah, you all in the crowd are looking at us, and it’s different looking down on a thousand of you, you overthink. Just random thoughts. Last night while we were performing, I started thinking about primary school. 

You guys are a big part of this new sound and new era of rock and roll that is very unique and exciting and very identifiable. By this, I mean that you playing with Fontaines DC makes sense sonically. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Been Stellar or Catcher—

Oh, they’re really good friends of ours. They’re the only bands we know in New York City. 

Alright well, they are sort of the New York City branch of this new rock and roll sound that is occurring in scenes all over the world. How might you define or explain or identify this new sound?

I think it’s exciting, I’m definitely enjoying it. We see the similarities that you’re talking about in bands in the UK. It’s hard to know where or why it’s starting or coming from. When we started, we were making music that sounded like our influences, and we would make a sound that interested us and we’d roll with that. A lot of writing and experimenting and comparing. We come from a small town outside of Dublin, and those are the sort of terms I think in. I don’t see us in a grander context than the five of us being a part of the small music scene that we came from. 

What’s the scene like in that small town?

Really good! There are good bands and a really good small music venue. Everyone’s playing different kinds of music, which is great. There’s no sense of competition, just a lot of diversity, everyone doing their own thing and making their own good sort of music. 

What advice would you give to other smaller town scenes?

I think having access to a good space/venue to play music in and cheap gigs encourages music scenes. Also having a venue that brings good bands into your town is inspiring. Just make the music you want to make. Don’t listen to what anyone says. Make your music. 

Where are you guys off to after this interview?

Right now we are on our way to Seattle, finishing off the last run of support shows with Fontaines DC in the US, then heading to the UK for some in-store shows for the album and Irish shows.

How do you manage the grueling tour schedule?

Finding a balance between doing your job and looking after yourself. Haven’t found it yet. 


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