Don’t pull the Mustard Plug

Connor Rice

DeKALB | Twenty years, 1,500 shows and countless beers.

Ska legends Mustard Plug will return to DeKalb at 7 p.m. Friday at The House Café, 263 E. Lincoln Highway. The Takeouts, Shortstop from Tokyo and Fluffy Puff & the Ice Capades will open the show.

Before setting foot amongst the corn again, Mustard Plug founder and frontman Dave Kirchgessner gave the Northern Star a few minutes to sit down and talk about the Michigan band’s long-running history and never-ending tour schedule.

NORTHERN STAR: You played in DeKalb last December. How was that?

DAVE KIRCHGESSNER: Great! We’ve been on a great run. The last couple times we played have been really, really good. It’s a really cool, fun mix of mainly college kids, but it’s a fun town and [The House Café is] a really great venue. We really like it.

NS: To someone who doesn’t really know ska or music all that well, what would you say sets you apart from other ska bands?

DK: The thing about Mustard Plug is we really focus on the live show. Our songwriting is basically pop song structures; we try to write really catchy fun music, generally speaking. I think we really enjoy performing live, and I think that expresses itself when you see us live. We try to basically approach shows…like it’s our own party that we’re inviting everyone to. Or, maybe they’re inviting us to [laughs]. I don’t know which one.

NS: Going back into the history of the band a little bit, Mustard Plug is a group that the line-up has rotated constantly. How has the band kept going through all of that?

DK: The key thing is that we’ve always had a really solid core. Myself and Colin [Clive], our guitar player, have remained constant through 20 years of it, and then our horn guys, they’ve been doing it for at least 12 years, maybe 15. And then, even like, the “new guys…” they’ve been doing it for over five. So, over the course of 20 years, we have gone through a lot of people, and it’s just a matter of finding people that want to do it. It takes a big chunk of your life to be in a band that does play out as often as we do… but having a core group of guys… that really just enjoy playing live and have similar goals is really the key.

NS: You guys have played over 1,500 shows. How has this ceaseless touring shaped the band and its members?

DK: I think one of the cool things about touring is that it forces you to be open-minded about life in general. You meet so many different people, and you’re also forced to deal with so many different situations and just kind of make the best of it. Being on the road, you never know when your van is going to break down, when the show’s going to get cancelled due to a blizzard, when you might be stuck at an airport because of a volcano or a terrorist attack … [Constant touring] has shaped me as far as my overall outlook on life.

NS: How would you say the music has changed over the last 20 years?

DK: I’d say, as far as in the last 10 years, I think the main change is that we have a new rhythm section… those guys have really helped us. They’re technically the tightest rhythm section we’ve ever had. It’s made the band a lot more solid – live, especially – but in the studio as well. So that’s been kind of the main thing, really. As far as general songwriting… everyone has their own subtle influences, but we’ve always had the basic blueprint of playing punk-influenced ska music – but to do it with pop sensibilities. That’s stayed the same. Probably the biggest ongoing challenge for the first ten years of our career: we were writing ska/punk songs, and then it’s like, “Okay, now how do we write a new ska/punk song that doesn’t sound like our old ska/punk songs [laughs]?”