It’s not often that leaning into an experimental brooding sound fairs so well for relatively new acts — yet, Just Mustard’s new album ‘Heart Under’ does exactly that. The Dundalk residents find themselves continuously pushing boundaries with their instruments, including Katie Ball’s lead vocals in such an endearing and sonically inviting method.
Catching up with Katie Ball and David Noonan on the horizon of a worldwide tour was a delight. Supporting peers such as Fontaine’s D.C. on their tour of the United States and IDLES, a headlining show in NYC, and a live session with Seattle’s famed KEXP — the awe-inspiring Just Mustard has an incredible path lay out to convey their passion and ethereal art to the world. After some brief introduction, we dove right into the beautifully ominous second album by the Dundalk dwelling band.
Northern Transmissions: Heart Under strays far from what you would expect of a rock band — it’s ethereal, tense and innovative, and even from ‘Wednesday’ it’s much more pensive, less shoe gaze and very exact in its execution. Was this how any of you imagined your sound to end up?
David Noonan: “It was our intention to be more clear and direct, the aim with Wednesday was a band in a room. [With ‘Heart Under’] it was a broader spectrum, with this we wanted to be unified.”
Katie Ball: “Ah yes unified, that couldn’t sum it up any better, that’s what I feel and hear when I listen to ‘Heart Under’ everything sounds so together.’ There’s so much restraint and spatial awareness in this album?
NT: was this writing style a collaborative effort?
DN: “We got this bright idea early on that we should record demos, every Sunday, so for five days a week for three months we would rehearse and write then record every Sunday, it was quite intense. Some songs came to the room written, some were written in the room. [There was] a lot of demoing we had this terrible idea of demoing the entire album every Sunday. We had to find a way to step back and listen to [the songs] without be able to play them in a live setting so that was how we did it.”
NT: This album sees Katie taking all of the lead vocals, pretty well all the vocals, how did that change from ‘Wednesday’?
KN: “With each song we’d go “Yea should David sing the song? — Nah, and we’d just go would this be made better with other vocals or is it okay as is? [With] Wednesday we shared a lot of the writing of the vocals and lyrics. [This time] there was a lot of rewriting done, popping words out in place of others. With the lyrics being so personal it would’ve been so weird if someone else was singing them.”
NT: There’s so much weight without feeling chaotic or destructive to ‘Heart Under’, were there ever any doubts or conflicts about leaning into a more experimental sound?
DN: “It was a natural progression, we started experimenting with Frank // October so it felt like [quite] a natural progression to continue writing that way. When everyone is on board, [writing like this] it usually grows legs on its on if everyone’s excited about it. It was never one person’s vision that everyone had to get on board for.”
NT: Did you draw from external influences at all, like literature, politics, world events, or did writing come from an internal space?
DN: With music it’s conferred, it creates a mood. I listened to a lot of Brian Eno [specifically] the Apollo soundtracks. Nothing really from the external world, we focused on what was in the room, how it felt and sounded.
NT: How did your experience of writing and recording on your own develop the songs?
KB: “It was interesting, we had always said that we wanted to go into the studio and come out with an album. We went in with demos and a firm idea and realized how much more we had to do. We ended up having to do a lot more recording at home [in the end] [even after] two weeks in the studio.” David mentions he had recorded most of ‘Wednesday’, Katie answering “I was used to recording vocals that way [at home or with David] but then I wanted to do it in the studio to have that experience.”
DN: “There was elements of the bass and guitars that would change in such a subtle way and then just stand out in such a different way, when before they were in the background. Recording is quite easy when you know how it’s supposed to sound. I definitely know how things are supposed to sound, so it’s [only] a matter of getting it right. It’s really easy to record your own band, but then mixing is another thing. You’ve heard [the songs] so many times at this point. With David wrench mixing the album there were loads of subtle elements that really opened everything up.”
NT: From March until November you’ll tour with so many great headlining and support acts —Have you ever toured like this before, what are you looking forward to the most?
KB: “Longest we’ve done before is three weeks. It’s something I’m looking forward to, I’ve heard from a few other bands that the most awkward ones are two or three weeks, and with the longer ones you get more of a routine. I’m looking forward to getting into a routine. To see how that feels I don’t fully know what to expect yet. Especially the places we’re going, I feel like I won’t even need a book in the van, I’ll just be looking out the window watching everything.”
NT: What are you most excited for with this album release?
KB “I’m quite nervous about the album coming out. I really can’t sleep, I didn’t relate it to the album at all at first but then after not sleeping for a while I’d be like, oh yea that’s why. I’m excited to tour and it’s something I’ve been waiting to do for years now, especially to get into that routine and see where it takes us.” David replies “I think when [the album’s out] I’ll stop wondering what people will think of it. A lot of the time your perspective on it changes once it’s out in the world. I haven’t finished my perspective on it, so I’m really looking forward to that.”
‘Heart Under’ succeeds Just Mustard’s 2018 debut album ‘Wednesday’ — which had earned much acclaim. The band’s sophomore album is sure to continue to push the envelope in regards to the expectations of a rock band. This is an album that has incredible depth, restraint and an exact and undivided execution in its art. ‘Heart Under’ is set to release May 27th, 2022 on Partisan Records. This is an act to keep your eyes on and ears open for. Incredibly insightful, fascinating at every turn and devoted to their craft — Just Mustard continues to push every boundary in front of them.
We know, we will be first in line, when Just Mustard hit our shores. Can’t wait: