By Thomas Dunlap
Mustard Service is a gang of young, jovial musicians making their way out of Miami. Comprised of five energetic twenty-somethings, the group creates zestful and vibrant indie-rock. The rhythm and lead guitars bounce around each other on every track, popping up with funky licks that immediately inspire the head and hips to sway side to side. The lively drum tracks are accompanied by bubbly and enthusiastic bass lines, creating a spirited and ebullient experience. Their first, and only, musical release is a ten track project, entitled Zest Pop. This album is a collection of mostly upbeat, popping tracks that could be heard anywhere from a house party to a coffee shop.
In September of 2018, I was fortunate enough to catch them on their first tour out of Florida. They were opening up for Hinds, an all female outfit from Spain, on a sixteen date tour, stretching round-trip from coast to coast. I caught them when they were almost halfway through their tour, on their first pass through Texas. Even though they had already been on the road for a decent amount of time, the woes and weariness of constant travel and nightly performances seemed to have no effect on their energy or enthusiasm. If anything, the excitement and adventure of being on the road encouraged them to stay positive.
Simply put, their performance rocked. The frontman and rhythm guitar player, Marco Ochoa, took the stage hostage with his exuberant personality and playful crowd interaction, even going as far as kissing a crowd member who was nice enough to donate a beer. Despite the laid-back and chill vibe of their music, seeing Mustard Service live in concert is hardly a relaxing or calming experience. Not only are they proficient at their instruments, they play them with passion and vigor – in true rock n’ roll fashion. During their performance they played some old songs, some new songs (with lyrics in spanish), and even a cover. Although their set was short, only lasting about thirty minutes, they were entertaining to watch from beginning to end.
Before the show, I had the unique opportunity to sit down with the band and conduct a very informal interview. I met them outside the venue, where I found them chilling out and eating burritos in the shade. I introduced myself and quickly became acquainted with Adam, Leo, Marco, Gabriel, and Augusto. The following is an abridged transcript of our friendly and pleasant conversation…
Thomas Dunlap: What’s the music scene in Miami like?
Marco: It’s getting a lot better, still not a point where you can make a living off of it, because people have a hard time paying more than ten dollars for a show. But it’s getting better.
Adam: The popular type of music differs from what we play.
TD: What’s the main style of music that’s popular in Miami right now?
Adam: Electronic. Latin Jazz. A lot of rap – you know, soundcloud rappers.
TD: What are some bands from Miami that are on y’alls radar?
Marco: Foom. Foom is this jazz/hip-hop band that they’re in [pointing to Adam and Leo]. We love ‘em. Palomino Blonde is also good. Miami has a good hardcore scene. So there’s a few punk bands and hardcore bands that are solid.
TD: So whose idea was it to start a band?
*Everyone points to Marco*
Marco: Well I was in a band with Tuto and our ex-drummer, Armando, for like a month before they kicked me out. They kicked me out because I was the bassist and I didnt have a bass, or a bass amp. So then a month later I wrote a song called “Taking Up Space,” and then I took that song to our ex-drummer, who is now our producer, and then started recording an album. And then I brought in the boys.
TD: How did y’all decide who was going to play what instrument?
Augusto: Well obviously Marco is on guitar and he sings. He’s the boss now so he does whatever he pleases. Then you got Gabriel, who plays guitar.
Marco: Then we needed a bassist so we got Augusto. We all play guitar, but we couldn’t find a bassist that we liked. So Augusto took one for the team and he said “you know what, I’m going to play bass.” Which is good, because he’s a beast at the bass. And then I met Leo through my girlfriend, and asked him if he was down and he said “whatever.”
Leo: She was my girlfriend at the time.
Marco: We were in a ménage à trois. And then when our ex-drummer Armando left, we luckily got this beast right here, Adam, to fill in for the drums. And that’s the current Mustard Service.
(In the summer of 2018, Mustard Service announced a graphic design contest on their social media. They asked for anyone to send in art that they would like to see as merchandise, and they [the band] would personally review and select the winner.)
TD: What was the inspiration for the graphic design contest?
Marco: Basically none of us do graphic design. It was Augusto’s idea at first. Well we thought it would be cool to interact with the fanbase. And we wanted to see if anyone had any cool ideas that they would like to see on a shirt or something. I don’t know, kids have fun designing sh*t. And we thought it would be fun to do that with them.
TD: What was the review process like? How did y’all decide which were good ones and which weren’t?
Marco: Basically we’d get it on our phones and then we’d be like “Boys! What do you think?! Nah that sh*t sucks! Oh, this one’s nice!”
TD: If you could come up with a unique term or word to accurately describe your style of music, what would it be?
TD: How did the tour with Hinds come to fruition?
Gabriel: An Instagram DM.
Marco: They DM’d us.
Adam: The drummer found us on Spotify.
Marco: Yeah I think I was taking a sh*t when Tuto told me.
Gabriel: Shout out the drummer, Amber! We love her.
When was this?
Marco: This was a month ago.
Leo: We were performing in New York, first time out of Florida.
TD: I’m sure the shows and parties in Miami can get pretty hectic. Is there a favorite “night-out” story that y’all like to share?
Adam: Too many.
Marco: I don’t remember most of them. There was this one time… oh wait no, that was yesterday. All I remember from Miami is that kids love to f*cking mosh. Our music isn’t very “moshable” but kids love to f*cking mosh to it. There’s this kid called Edward James who always likes to be a little ridiculous. He likes to crowd surf and start moshes.
Leo: Shoutout Edward James.
TD: How often do y’all practice a week?
Adam: Once a week. We have Thursdays.
Leo: When we have a big gig coming up we add a couple more rehearsals that week. Maybe like three to five times if there’s a big show.
TD: How does an average practice session go down?
Marco: A lot of f*cking around.
Leo: Lot of noodling.
Marco: It’s because it’s hard to get down to work with friends.
Adam: But the noodling ends up coming together with a song in the end.
TD: How long does a normal session last?
Marco: Can range from two hours to ten.
Leo: However long were allowed to stay at a certain place.
Augusto: We don’t have a specific place. We’ve been meeting at Marco’s house recently. We used to go to our ex-drummer’s house.
Marco: Sometimes FIU.
Leo: Yeah sometimes Florida International University’s drum room.
TD: What’s the story behind the Zest Pop album cover?
Marco: That’s an interesting story. So I was in Mexico, because my family is from Mexico. So I was there on vacation. I was walking around in one of those little markets, because Mexico has a lot of flea-market style places or whatever, and there was a bunch of caricatures of skeletons like smoking a cigarette at the beach chilling. And I saw one with a yellow toilet. And the skeleton was taking a sh*t and smoking a cigarette on the toilet. And when it came time to make the album cover I didn’t know what to do, so I got the little caricature and put it on a pink surface and I just took a picture. Did some editing.
TD: Any new projects on the horizon?
Marco: Yeah, we have a new album coming out in December. That we’re thinking of calling “Slaps”. We’re trying to work out what song is going to be the single. Which one should be the single? I don’t know, were very indecisive. It’s probably going to be eleven or twelve tracks.
TD: Is this next album going to differ a lot in style from Zest Pop?
Marco: It’s a lot different. The first one is old songs that took a long time to record. So it does differ a lot. We’ve learned a lot more musically. So this one is a little bit more sophisticated. Leo makes fun of me because it’s not as sophisticated as he’d like it to be. He’s a jazz nerd.
(“Rosie,” a song whose lyrics contain questionable meaning and explicit language, has caught some heat and has been deemed offensive towards women.)
TD: Could you please explain the lyrical message behind “Rosie”?
Marco: Rosie, I do need to explain that because I got a lot of heat for it. People think it’s a very misogynistic song, but it’s really not. It’s a song that came out of nowhere. I actually wrote “Rosie” before Mustard Service, when I was in a different band. And my drummer at the time was super sad about his girlfriend or whatever.
Leo: He was in the development stage of a relationship.
Marco: Yeah, he was really in love but she had done some f*cked up sh*t to him. So he was sitting super sad in his bed, and I just grabbed my guitar and started singing “Rosie please stop being a b*tch.” And I cheered him up. And that’s how that song came to be. I didn’t realize that it would be so offensive. But whatever. I love that song.
Due to their absolutely ardent performances and satisfyingly pleasant tunes, Mustard Service is undoubtedly an act worth watching. Their “zesty” tracks are available anywhere music is streamed.
Featured Image by Thomas Dunlap and Caroline Janes.