Just Mustard: “We had time to experiment” | Interview

“We wanted to make everything feel much closer and more immediate than we had previously.”

– David Noonan

Let’s talk about the gap between this new record and the previous one. What developments have you felt you have made as a band during this intervening period?
David
: It wasn’t a big intentional gap. It was just the same thing that happened to everyone else, those two great years with nothing. When we signed up with Partisan at the end of 2019, around Christmas, we said to ourselves “Let’s release an album”. Then we said “Let’s wait, I suppose”. Everyone slowed down, at a slow pace. Writing was fast, but after that there was a lot of that … slowness. Personally, I don’t think much has changed.
Katie
: I don’t think those two years are numbered. I thought we were all making a deal that didn’t matter. I’m still 24, it’s okay …
David
: I think the album we made needs a long gestation period anyway. We were lucky that everything slowed down. We did ‘Wednesday’, the first album, for a long time, so it was pretty good that we got a similar process, just us splintering it, trying to get it done.
Katie
: There didn’t even seem to be any rush, because the world had stopped.

There is a lot more experimentation on this record. You seem to have abstracted your sound a lot, even the lyrics. What attitude did you have during the registration process?
Katie
: A lot of the sounds you hear on the album, we were writing them. We were writing and producing the sounds as we went.
David
: Because of the early hardcore blocking stuff, everyone was creating snippets of ideas on their own. There was a pool of noises and chords that we could draw on. Not all of them became songs, but there were ideas for sounds and things that we had developed.
Katie
: We just had time to experiment and build a bank of things to use.
David
: For the recording we wanted to make everything feel much closer and more immediate than we had previously – not all dark and smoky in the background like the previous album had been. We wanted it to feel organic.

Where do you think the urge to become more direct with your sounds comes from?
Katie
: We had already done the dark thing, shoegazey and just wanted to change it! I know I wanted the voice to be much clearer. I prefer the sound of drier voices. Being able to hear and understand the lyrics is something I wanted.
David
: The first album we wanted it to sound like you were in our rehearsal space, but you were standing across the room, watching it. There was a distance between the listener and the band. But [for this album] we wanted it to sound like you were among us. Even playing live, things sounded more directly on bigger PAs, so it was nice to try to replicate that, to have that feel on a record.

What were the vibrations of the recording session like?
Katie
: It was pretty intense because we had a lot to do. Those were long days.
David
: We tried to break it so everyone jumped in and out. It wasn’t like, two days of battery, three days of battery. We were building it all at the same time. Towards the end, we haven’t necessarily run out of time. It took us so long to record in general, we were trying to record everything, it was difficult to fit everything into it.
Katie
: We started to compromise towards the end. I’d be like ‘Yeah that’s a great idea’
David
: Then we had time to go back and deal with the problems everyone had. If it wasn’t for the pandemic and things like that, we should probably register it and do it in a couple of months. It was nice to sit at home with it and mess with it for a while.

You recorded the voice at home, right?
Katie
: I recorded a few in the studio but in the end I didn’t like them. I knew I could do better. The difference is incredible, I think, from what we were about to do, to what we have now.
David
: We also did some other pieces. We played [the songs] so much and we have demos them so much, we knew what it was supposed to sound like. So we might as well redo them until we have corrected them. It was nice to have time to focus on those really important pieces.

You described the album as “very blue” and how it was written during a busy time for you, personally.
David
: With the “Blue” stuff, there were a lot of images that we talked about in the songs, the music and the instrumentation.
Katie
: There were a lot of water themes in the lyrics. The image was very blue to me. So let’s let that inform the instrumentation and the flow of the songs. We imagine rivers and bodies of water.
David
: There was a song where you said something in particular about the waves. We had a visual moodboard during the recording, which had a lot of water, different dark blues and blacks, different colors. At the time we used it as a reference to say, “This is what the images of music are.”

And Graham Dean’s artwork fits these images perfectly. Tell us a little about this too …
Katie: I thought choosing the artwork would be so difficult. Was it on Instagram or YouTube, or something like that, we ran into this watercolor artist and we were like, ‘Ahhhh .. here’s how we can tie [the artwork] in with these water themes’. She really had similar emotions that I feel are in music. Everyone agreed and everyone loved it. He was sending us some options for the album cover. What we used right away was: ‘Yes, that’s all. Here, here’s the album! ‘. In the end it was so easy. In the artwork, it appears that the figure is standing in a body of water, as if up to their heart. And then, I had a lyric on the album ‘The heart under the foot’. It just came together!

“Heart Under” will be released on May 27 via Partisan.

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