That Quirky Ska Band Mustard Plug Is Still Having Fun

Long-running ska band Mustard Plug skanking after thirty years.
Long-running ska band Mustard Plug skanking after thirty years. Courtesy Mustard Plug
Ska may not be the most mainstream type of music now, but for those who remember its heyday in the mid-1990s, the subgenre that mixes horns with up-tempo, pop-punk riffs will always be fun.

Mustard Plug vocalist David Kirchgessner knows this, and fondly recalls those early days when he and his bandmates didn’t have many responsibilities outside of gigging and drinking beer. The fact that the Michigan ska band has kept it going for three-plus decades is surprising to him, too.

“We never thought we’d be in it this long. If we did, we would have called it a better name than Mustard Plug,” he says with a laugh. "We thought we’d be around for, like, six months playing in our friend’s basement. It’s been crazy that we’ve stuck around this long.”

Making a name for itself with records like 1993’s Big Daddy Multitude, which has an all-time album cover, Mustard Plug quickly became one of the quirkiest ska bands of the ’90s, alongside contemporaries Reel Big Fish and the the Mighty Mighty Bosstones. In true ska fashion, the seven-piece routinely takes the stage in mustard-colored suits and has a skanking mustard bottle mascot. If it sounds slightly strange, that's because it is. And that’s also what makes it a lot of fun.

“It’s always been about having fun, doing what we want to do on our own terms. That’s been the key to our success,” Kirchgessner says. “I think some bands push themselves too hard on the road, or they put too much pressure on to write a hit song. They burn themselves out. We tour because we enjoy touring, and we write songs that we want to hear. That’s kept it going.”

While the band hasn’t released an album since 2014’s Can’t Contain It, Mustard Plug is in town this month to record at the Blasting Room in Fort Collins, where the group has completed three previous releases. The group is also playing the Gothic Theatre on Friday, January 27, with Voodoo Glow Skulls and the the Dendrites.

Kirschgessner explains that “real jobs” and family life has contributed to the unintended lull between records, though Mustard Plug hadn’t stopped touring, but he’s realistic about the role the band holds in his life at this point in his career.

“It wasn’t really a planned break. In the 1990s, when we were in our twenties and had a lot of energy and a lot of free time and not much responsibility, we could crank out a record every two years. Since then, every record that we put out takes longer, to the point that we’re at eight years between records. It’s just a matter of energy and time,” he says. “I had a bizarre midlife crisis in a way. Most people are like, ‘I have this shitty job and I hate it. I wish I did something else with my life.’ I’m like, ‘Dude, I’m fifty years old in this band. This is awesome.’ It’s kind of the opposite of what most people do. It makes you appreciate it more. If I don’t have to stop and people are still coming to shows, why stop? It’s fun.”

He admits that Mustard Plug has pulled back on touring, only playing around fifty shows a year nowadays, but in a way, it makes performing that much sweeter.

“It has evolved. In the ’90s, when ska was at its peak, that’s all the band did. We didn’t have jobs. We just toured. It was cool, but then the early 2000s hit ska bands like a brick wall. At that point, a lot of bands had to make a decision if it was worth doing anymore, because it became really, really hard to support yourself. But it’s cool because it has its own culture — a really deep culture that goes back to the early ’60s. There’s a fashion. There’s a philosophy,” he says.

“I think the main thing is we try to create a lot of energy, and then we feed off the crowd’s energy, as well. There’s just a lot of positive vibes in the room. People are dancing. Our fans really appreciate the fun of it. There’s very little drama. It’s an escape from a lot of things, as well. It’s high-energy fun for everyone.”

Mustard Plug, 7 p.m. Friday, January 27, Gothic Theatre, 3262 South Broadway. Tickets are $25.
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