Mustardfish Biography

Read ol' Fips the Cat's biography of us, I guess!

A: This Is Mustardfish!
An Introductory Essay

Mustardfish is a concept project based on the notion that pre-existing music, when explored in a different light than its original incarnation, can be virtually considerable as new music.

Founded by RØB Severson and Ron Warner in early May 2001, Mustardfish began on what can basically be considered a whim. Severson, in practicing a few songs at Warner's on-campus apartment in Webster Groves, Missouri, for an on-campus coffee shop open mic gig he was to play that night, was asked by Warner if he'd like some accompaniment, at least for one of the two or three covers Severson was planning on playing. After practicing together for a little while, it was decided, and Warner joined Severson on stage as Mustardfish, named at the last minute by Severson for the brisling sardines in mustard sauce that the two were so fond of eating (and are now fond of distributing at shows†heads up!).

In spite of their seemingly capricious formation, Mustardfish has remained together, as a two-piece act, to the present and has under its belt a handful of extremely well-attended on- and off-campus coffee shop performances, a 13-minute video documentary (created by Severson in summer 2001 for a videomaking class) entitled What Is Mustardfish? (the documentary has actually been broadcast on some local cable access channels), well-attended shows at St. Louis's own Galaxy, Creepy Crawl, Hi-Pointe, and Way Out clubs, a five-song generally distributed demo release entitled Stage Presence Not Included (available from either member of the band for $3.00), several Àwandering minstrel performances” at local art openings and shows, the 2002 first prize award for the costume contest at annual local performance art expo ÀNadadada,” and a network of friends in the local music community including but not limited to members of the PTA, The Floating City (formerly Surkranikhan), Visibility Troop, Corbeta Corbata, Phallus Chalice, Prune, The Whole Sick Crew, Disturbing the Peace, Googolplexia (formerly the Roadkill), In Media Res, Detuned Radio, the Clox, and a myriad of others. Such a network of friends also affords the band the ability to bring their own supporting acts, if necessary. Mustardfish's diverse approach to music is capable of bringing a good time to any type of audience before them. What's more, their versatile and tolerant nature allows them to headline a show just as easily as they might open for someone else.

As for their sound, the band has been described by Severson as Àa completely cool, multi-purpose tribute band” and is generally regarded as a Àcover” band, in spite of Warner and Severson's decidedly shared disdain for the term. With an –uvre of standard tributes (as they prefer to call them) that ranges in original authorship from Richard Strauss to Bert Kaempfert to Michael Jackson to the Pixies, there is no real systematic determinant that establishes what songs they will or will not play; indeed, the only real common thread seems to be a mutual affection for whatever homage they resolve to make. As notable as the wide range of musical genre chosen for tribute is the varied adaptation. Whether it's an old-timey folk song pulled off as a passion ballad or an R&B classic modified to a banjo-picked space rock ditty, the bottom line is this: neither the original form nor the form to which the song is changed is really an issue†only that it is done, and in unique fashion each time. In this lies the distinction of Mustardfish from traditional Àcover” bands. While most, it would seem, Àcover” songs as practice or in showing who their real influences are, Mustardfish sets out to prove not only that influence can be boundless, but also (and perhaps just as importantly) that each song can be conveyed in more than one way.

Even if they did play original music, the freshness and intrigue generated by the instrumental lineup alone distinguishes Mustardfish from other members of any music scene. At any given performance, one can expect fully to see and hear any combination of accordion, banjo, mandolin, ukulele, xylophone, and harmonica in addition to the rock music staples of guitar, bass guitar, drums (usually fabricated by Mustardfish on a machine of some sort) and keyboard.

Of final worthy note is the stage presence generated by these unassuming yet exuberant twentysomethings, who frequently and unfalteringly claim citizenship of Danbury, Connecticut for no real good reason and prefer to present themselves onstage in their chosen official colors, Àstop-sign red and Pac-Man yellow.” In short, everyone open to the experience and willing to see the truly creative nature of what can be done with already-available music is guaranteed to enjoy the innovative stylings, whether live or recorded, of Mustardfish.

--Fips The Cat
St. Louis, Missouri
April 2002