A folk band? From Oxford? Lots of vocal harmonies and catchy riffs? Yes that does sound good, but let’s get it out of the way at the start, this band are not Stornoway. Ignore the obvious comparisons for now, they are more interesting than that.
Mustard And The Monocle are a new folk-with-pop-twists band hailing from Oxford and Wiltshire. This three-track offering shows some great potential on an initial listen, and so much more after you give it some time. This is folk, most definitely, but perhaps not quite as you know it now. The driving bass and constantly pumping kick drum bring an upbeat feel to even their most bittersweet of lyrics. They won’t be the first band to intellectually comment on hometown life – in fact it’s becoming a bit of a trend since Arcade Fire’s ode to the suburbs – but I say that in no way to belittle Mustard And The Monocle.
As a whole the band are reminiscent of the solo work of Roddy Woomble (of Idlewild fame); modern folk with some soul and a bit of a punch to it. Vocally though we’re not in traditional folk territory, at times you gets hints of The Beautiful South and Damon Gough. This, together with the lyrics which at times are inspired, “Get your blood on the tracks and don’t look back, until the music has your heart and soul”, mean that you truly end up with the lead vocals stirring something deep inside you. The vocals harmonies that are prevalent throughout are of course a staple throughout folk canon, but their use on this EP is what is really going to encourage the comparisons with Oxford’s most recent success.
The lack of fiddle or violin on this EP is also something worth noting. A lot of folk has fiddle. A lot. The choice not to include it, when you are employing so many other tropes of the folk style, points to a band that want to bring in their own influences and decisions, and leave out whatever they want, to create a shiny new sound.
Mustard And The Monocle have made a clear stand with this EP. They are a band on the first steps of their careers with a clear vision, a cohesive sound and infectious enthusiasm that spills from their music. Of course only time will tell, but I look forward to seeing what comes from these four lads. With several upcoming gigs in Oxford, the public will get their chance to assess Mustard And The Monocle for themselves, and you should too.