Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with New Haven’s Wow Okay Cool! Together we discussed the origin of their name, capitalism and society in general, their favorite Connecticut artists, and so much more! Check out the interview below!
1. Hello! Mustard appreciates you being here. How are you?
Mustard, the pleasure is all mine. I’m doing quite well! I got married just a few weeks ago, and the weather has been glorious the last few days.
2. Mustard often hears humans say “wow, okay, cool.” How did you come up with your name?
I do a writing exercise from time to time where I set a timer for 15-20 minutes and just try to rattle off as many sentences or phrases as I can. As a constant overthinker, this makes me a bit more comfortable with getting words on a page. “Wow, Okay, Cool,” just fell out of my brain one day. It originally was spoken in my head in a passive-aggressive tone, like if your boss told you you’re going to have to go into work on Saturday even though he knows it’s your daughter’s birthday. It fits with the lyrics I tend to write, so that’s what I went with.
3. Could you describe your creative process?
My process is fairly tedious and arguably less organic than writing with other people. I’m always looking for new ways to improve and streamline it, and I like to ask artists I respect how they write. A song typically starts with a hook or drum part playing on a loop in my head. When I have a few minutes during the day I’ll bang out the tune on whatever instrument is lying around and record it on my phone.
Next is the part that makes me regret choosing to not have bandmates: I’ll play that recording on a loop until I have a part for the other instruments. Lyrics tend to come last, though not every time. I’m pretty certain “Haruspex” was built off the lyrics to the chorus; “saw me in half and use my guts to read my future” was something that came out in one of my stream-of-consciousness writing sessions and it made me chuckle so I just rolled with it. I try to keep journals scattered throughout my house so I always have a place to write down anything interesting that pops into my head.
4. In an Instagram post you claimed that capitalism will kill us all. Unfortunately, Mustard is a product of capitalism. What can humans do to better improve this system?
It’s ok, Mustard, no one is untouched by the cruel and unrepentant hand of capitalism. If I recall correctly, the post was about political inaction on climate change, though frankly it could have been the erosion of human rights, democracy, or quality of life in the United States. I tend to discuss those topics a lot.
The way I see it, the particular brand of capitalism employed in the United States and throughout much of the world is completely irredeemable, and I’m dubious of the notion of even a heavily-regulated economy being enough to counteract the harm that has already been done. The only thing that capitalists care about is “number go up,” with little-to-no consideration for how it affects the earth or other humans. Any attempt to restrain it is merely putting a bandage on a gaping wound gushing buckets of blood. Inequality and exploitation is the point, and no matter how many “carbon credits,” emerging technologies, or other private industry solutions we employ to solve these existential crises, the inequality and exploitation will persist.
For clarity’s sake, I identify the most with anarchism, politically, since I believe every human has the inherent right to live their life the way they wish as long as it doesn’t harm others, and no human is more important than any other. Typically the next question people have is “Tim, how could a modern society operate without a large governmental structure to coordinate things?” and to that I say: there are people who are much, much smarter than me who have spent their lives imagining ways in which this could work, and I’ll happily point you in their direction if you ask.
5. You’ve described yourself as a ” one-person post-punk band, with live shows involving me yelling and banging on a synthesizer.” What do you like to yell about? What do you think humans should yell about more?
I’ll yell about just about anything if you give me half a chance, haha. My lyrics tend to touch on topics ranging from the lasting effects of American imperialism, my personal struggles with mental illness, and the gatekeeping and exclusion I’ve experienced throughout my life that I probably should get over at this point but hey, I never said I was perfect. I’ll yell about positive things sometimes, but I tend to do that less often because I’m admittedly a fairly pessimistic person.
To tie this to my previous answer, I believe that people should yell about anything that seems to be hurting anyone more marginalized or vulnerable than themselves, even if they don’t know everything there is to know about the topic. Do you see an increasingly militarized police force disproportionately jailing or killing black people? It’s fine to yell and mobilize against it without knowing how the police state came to be or the complete logistics of providing public safety if we were to abolish the police. Believe me there are people who do know these things, but right now the most important thing is mass mobilization of people who feel strongly about making positive change. I spent an enormous chunk of my life not feeling confident enough to express myself politically, and I don’t want good people to feel the same way.
6. Disproportionate Responses is your latest EP. Is the title a response to modern society? What can be done to better improve human’s conditions? What sets EP apart from your others?
Disproportionate Responses is actually a tongue-in-cheek reference to the songs on the EP themselves, in the sense I tried to take whatever emotion I’m trying to convey in the song and crank it up to 11. I’m a person of extremes, and I think that’s reflected on this EP.
The second question is a biiiiig one that I could probably go on and on about, but I’ll try to be concise. Building a local community outside of the standard governmental and capitalist structure – one which includes and provides support to those who need it most – can go a long way toward improving one’s life and the lives of others. Things like food banks, tool and seed libraries, or even DIY art and music venues, are all simple examples of this.
I’m really proud of what I was able to create with Disproportionate Responses. I set out to write songs that drew from as any of my inspirations as possible while maintaining a coherent sound and theme throughout, and I believe I pulled that off for the most part. It was also recorded entirely at home which was quite the challenge for me since I have a severe allergy to gear and technology, but I’m very happy that it doesn’t sound quite as offensive to the ear as some previous recordings have.
7. New Haven is known for its pizza. Would you agree with the statement that New Haven has the best pizza? What pizza places do you recommend readers visit if they are in the area?
Are you baiting me because you know I’m originally from Long Island, Mustard? Are you trying to get me beat up at my next show? 🙂
New Haven pizza is very good, and I’m grateful I live in a city with an abundance of very good pizzerias. However, nostalgia is a hell of a drug, and I have so many awesome memories attached to ::drifting into a thick Long Island accent:: Saviano’s, Little Vincent’s, Tony’s-which-changed-its-name-to-Mamma-Mia-in-the late-90’s, etc.. I prefer New York pizza.
Also a special shout-out to Chicago deep dish. If it wasn’t so labor and time intensive I’d make that all the time.
My go-to New Haven spot is One 6 Three in East Rock. They make a great pie and their fried pickles are awe-inspiring. If we’re picking between the three big New Haven spots, I have to go with Sally’s.
8. What Connecticut artists do you think readers should pay attention to?
Connecticut really has a wealth of bands doing really interesting things: Perennial, Intercourse, Big Fang, Minus Points, The Human Fund, Psychic Newborns, Pineal, Too Much of a Good Thing, Glenn Very Close, Big Sigh, Dr. Martino, Might Moon Chew, and so many others. Simone from Dr. Martino put together a pretty awesome playlist of many of these bands here: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3IAYIlzDOEA9iLejcerHil?si=bab9ca651bed4d01
9. In “That’s a Good Little Beast” you claim that the collateral damage is unavoidable. Could you elaborate further?
That line, “the collateral damage was unavoidable,” is spoken from the perspective of some soulless government official justifying bombing a wedding in Afghanistan or a school bus in Yemen as just the cost of doing business. It’s a deeply insidious white-washing of atrocities the United States does fucking constantly, and I felt this was the best way to convey the absurdity of calling the outright murder of scores of innocent people just “collateral damage.”
10. Are you working on anything new?
I’m in the process of writing to eventually release a full-length album, and with any luck I’ll have something to release by the end of 2022. In the meantime I intend to put out a single or two or perhaps a split EP if that ever comes to pass.
11. Where can readers listen to your music?
I’m on all the usual things like Bandcamp and Spotify. (https://wowokaycool.bandcamp.com/album/disproportionate-responses)
I’m on the social media where I share gig information, political things, and pictures of my cats and chickens at @wowokaycoolband .