Just Mustard have had a strong year by anyone's standards, but chatting to Katie (vocals) and David (guitar, vocals) gives the impression it's all been taken steadily in their stride. Case in point: during our phone call the Irish five-piece are in Amsterdam readying themselves for a show at the Paradiso, and yet their easy lilt makes it seem like any other Sunday. Equal parts humble and thoughtful, it's clear they take their craft seriously.
In a lot of ways that calm coolness makes sense. The band's brand of atmospheric trip-hop-driven shoegaze distinguishes them from a lot of their brasher contemporaries, and that mood is further reflected in their attitude toward hype. "We try to not pay any attention to anything anyone says about us, or let it affect what we're trying to do," says David, before Katie interjects: "It's cool though still." There's a beat before David picks back up: "Right of course, of course – thanks so much!" It's warming that press pressure doesn't stop the duo being polite.
Thankfully that warmth also masks a certain measure of dry humour. When I ask what meal the Just Mustard's music would best serve as a condiment for, they both laugh, before Katie gives a pretty resounding answer: "A pint of stout." As that old adage goes: you can take the band out of Ireland, but you can't take the malt out the band.
There's more than a love of stout to their Irish heritage though, and the band have clearly grown musically alongside their peers back home in Dundalk. "There are DIY bands all around the country – Belfast, Dublin, Limerick – a bunch of good bands," says David. "And that inspires you to try and write better songs. It's pretty tight-knit." "There's no danger of everyone playing the same music either, so it never really feels like there's any competition or whatever," Katie continues. "Everyone's very supportive of each other, and that helps the whole scene go further."
As for the origins of the name Just Mustard, they're similarly self-effacing. "It was a bad joke when we started, and we could never really come up with something good, so now we're stuck. And we have to live with that…" I try and chase the bad joke in question, but it's so bad David can't even seem to recall it. "It wasn't even a bad joke I don't think, it was just one of those stupid things. It was just a working title for the band that never changed."
Much like a bad smell, that bad joke has managed to catch the attention of an increasingly lofty list of names during 2019. There've been shows with fellow Irish rockers Fontaines D.C., multiple tours around the UK, and, most loftily of all, a support slot for The Cure for which the band were cherry-picked by Robert Smith himself.
"Playing with The Cure was definitely a highlight this year. I think Robert Smith got a giant list of names and he picked us out from that list," says Katie. "He got in touch, and we sent him a record, and it went from there." "Yeah, he was really nice," continues David. "It's just really cool cause obviously, The Cure are a mega huge band, but he still takes so much care curating the line-ups for the shows. It just seems like he really cares about music."
In terms of takeaways from that experience, Just Mustard seem to be exercising a similar amount of creative control in their own pursuits. Each of their beautifully-realised music videos feature multiple band member credits on a production level. "I studied film in college," explains Katie, "so I really like making videos, and so does everyone else in the band. It'd feel weird giving them away. You can change the song in your head by putting it over imagery, and then when we play the song you're like 'Ah! That reminds of part of the video'. It's so funny."
It's not just music videos they keep an active hand in, but their entire output. That's why they're still working exclusively with Dundalk-based Pizza Pizza Records. "Pizza Pizza is ourselves, our manager Joey and a guy called Shane Burn, and they're kinda the head honchos," says David. "Basically anyone on it is helping do it. Every album that we've put out on Pizza Pizza has gone some way toward putting out the next vinyl. It's a nice way of being able to support each other and make the whole thing more collective."
What's the forecast for 2020 then? "Writing loads and loads of new songs," says David. "We've started writing towards another album now, so hopefully that'll be somewhat together by then... and as much gigging as possible. Just trying to be as busy as we can." "2020 has a nice ring to it for a record," continues Katie. "New decade." "Very symmetrical," adds David. "Perfect vision," finishes Katie. It's a fitting end for a band with such a strong outlook.
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