Just Mustard arrived at SXSW shrouded somewhat in mystery. The Irish quintet first emerged in 2016, but went dark during the pandemic, finally breaking their silence with new single ‘I Am You’ in late 2021. But apparently Just Mustard’s silence shouldn’t have been confused with inaction as the band just recently announced a fully completed album, ‘Heart Under’ (out May 27), and can now proudly call Fontaines D.C. and Geese labelmates following their signing to indie titan, Partisan Records. SXSW offered one of the early public glimpses of what the band has been up to in the intervening years
Although Just Mustard has been billed as a shoegaze band, their show at The Velveeta room on 6th Street proved that descriptor only approximately half right. Some of the obvious hallmarks were unmistakable – the jet engine roar of the guitars and the heavily reverbed, breath-on-glass vocals – but the band’s deliberate sidesteps are every bit as riveting.
The four new songs played this evening, in particular, provided a tantalising preview of the band’s remarkable leap forward. Surprisingly danceable backbeats on songs like ‘Mirrors’ and new single ‘Still’ proved simultaneously hypnotic and fierce, delivering propulsive blasts that eschewed shoegaze’s ethereal tendencies. And while much has been made of the calamitous racket whipped up by dueling guitarists David Noonan and Mete Kalyoncuoglu – not dissimilar from the spectacularly loud early efforts from The Twilight Sad – singer Katie Ball’s soft coos reveal a vulnerability to Just Mustard’s sound that is uniquely their own.
It’s easy to see on tonight’s evidence why the band piqued Robert Smith’s interest and why they were handpicked to open for The Cure. And their rapturous reception here at SXSW is a testament to their startling evolution as well as the excitement that can only come from watching a band just beginning to realise the full extent of their powers.
Fittingly, they close the set with another new song, ‘Seed’, which punctuates tonight’s proceedings with such searing ferocity that it feels like we’ve all watched a rocket launch from just a few feet away. As the final strains of feedback die away, one astonished onlooker to NME’s right, still catching his breath, turns to no one in particular and gasps: “That was fucking fantastic!” We can’t say fairer than that.