'I have very vivid dreams'
Ryan McConnell
15:36 23rd February 2022

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Dundalk-based five-piece Just Mustard—consisting of singer Katie Ball, guitarists Mete Kalyon and David Noonan, bassist Rob Clarke and Shane Maguire on drums—are currently closing out the UK leg of their sold-out tour. They’ve just played to a capacity crowd at Edinburgh’s Sneaky Pete’s, and anthems such as ‘Pigs’ and ‘Deaf’ have me wishing I’d been quicker to the party and gotten myself a ticket... 

Just Mustard’s sound has a way of placing you in a certain headspace, thrashing you around and piquing a wave of emotions, capturing you in a particular moment of self-reflection that most bands can only dream of doing. Their balance of instrumentals and vocals is near perfection, with Katie’s ethereal voice acting as a comfort and soothing guide on the journey—the cold yet sunny autumn surroundings of my first listen are the perfect backdrop for their powerful shoegaze.

Off the back of their fully-formed 2018 album Wednesday, Just Mustard rose to immediate underground success, again hitting music headlines in 2019 with the release of double 12” ‘Frank’/’October’. The former became an instant fan favourite and, Katie reveals, “it’s one of my favourite songs to play live”. The track, which is as evocative as a waking nightmare, was written by a singer-songwriter fascinated by dreaming: “I have very vivid dreams,” Katie reveals. “I also sleepwalk and I sleep talk. If we’re on tour and there’s bunk beds, I can’t sleep on the top bunk!” 

“I love hearing other folks' dreams and I love talking about them. Some people don’t like hearing about other people’s dreams, but I love hearing them. I think they’re hilarious.”

A career in music wasn’t something that singer Katie envisioned during her teenage years. Back then, she struggled to find work; but a fondness for karaoke and playing songs with guitarist David Noonan saw both her outlook and fortunes change. “I always sang as a child. I grew up in pubs so I’d always do a lot of karaoke, but I didn’t do much as a teenager. And then I met up with David and we started playing a lot of his stuff: I didn’t know what I was going to do before that, I didn’t seem to be getting any job that I went for.”

Having studied film at college, Katie realised she didn’t like working in that industry, and jamming with David led to a simple realisation: “Now I’m doing music, I can't really see myself doing anything else. If you had told me as a kid who was singing Elvis Presley on karaoke that I’d still be singing now I wouldn’t have believed it: being a singer didn’t really feel like an achievable thing.”

It still isn’t, in a way. Not as a viable full-time option just yet, anyway. “Some of us are still working and it can be tiring to fit it all in. It’s like two different halves of you,” Katie tells me. “I had tried waitressing for a while but it was terrible. I was only working for like an hour or two a week which was shit, so I didn’t last long at that.”

“But,” she adds, “I’ve been doing the same job for a number of years now making candles. It’s very relaxing, but it does get busy at Christmas; people really want their candles at Christmas! I like having a job creating stuff rather than serving people, plus it smells really nice.”

The hard work is starting to pay off. Just Mustard recently signed a deal with the Brooklyn/London-based label, Partisan Records, home of IDLES, the Kuti family, and Fontaines D.C. “We weren’t sure when we first started if we would ever get onto a bigger label at all, but it’s great! They’re all nice people and really easy to work with.”

“We wanted to go into the studio, record and come out with a finished album, but it was hard because you didn’t know if it was going to get locked down or anything. So if you got a studio you were like, ‘right let’s get in quick and get it done’. I ended up re-recording all of the vocals at home at my little home studio I had growing up. It felt a lot more comfortable doing that.”

‘I Am You’, their label debut, and the first single-proper to drop from the band in over two years, is, Katie says, “actually a pretty old song. We were going to release it around the same time as ‘Frank’/’October’ and ‘Seven’, but it wasn’t really finished and we wanted to make a few changes so we put it on the back burner for a while.”

Remaining tight-lipped, Katie didn’t give too much away regarding the band’s larger forthcoming project, but did confirm that two tracks, ‘Seeds’ and ‘Mirrors’ (both performed at their ‘Live In Dreams’ livestream) will be making an appearance. “Both of [the songs] have actually changed a little bit since we filmed that. It was actually recorded back in December 2020. We’re a lot better at playing those tracks as well now: that was the first time we had ever played any of them live.”

The livestream promised to combine fan favourites and new tracks—and on that it delivered. It also showed a band lit on a moody stage, the darkness of their surroundings matching the richness of their sound. A combination of Katie’s film studies background and the band’s fondness for surreal movies made the livestream that way—and also feeds into Just Mustard’s music videos.

“This isn’t going to make much sense because our music wouldn’t suit the movie, but Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze is my favourite film! There’s this line in it, “pain don’t hurt”: it’s the stupidest but funniest thing in the world! There’s a band in the movie that plays inside of a cage, and everyone’s throwing stuff at them. I'd definitely liked to have been in that one,” she laughs.

“We’re all into a lot of surreal films and music videos so we are influenced in that way, especially sort of non-linear music videos. We don’t like the video to add too much emotion to the song: we let the song do that”.

With their signing to Partisan Records at the forefront of their minds and a new slew of songs to follow ‘I Am You’, Just Mustard are nicely settled into a new era, one that should require your every attention. 

Heart Under arrives 27 May via Partisan. 

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Photo: Niall Green