They were a band with ‘notions out the wazoo!’ as their bassist Neil Farrell put it. Born of the ‘the sort of ideas you have when you’re around trees,’ Mustang Hobo made music like no one else. Where other, darker, experimentalists would fear to tread Mustang Hobo shone a light: humorous, adventurous, exciting are all apt descriptors for their output.
Alas, ‘notions’ don’t fly in the West of Ireland.
Coming from East Clare was very beneficial to the creative side of being a band. As Farrell said: ‘We all grew up surrounded by music. On our album, the first line is, like, “we owe this to the fairies, we owe this to bog roads.”’ He described his band members, guitarist/vocalist Tuan O’Callaghan and drummer Emmet Noodlum , and himself, as ‘quite an idiosyncratic bunch, we’re kind of fairies ourselves y’know?’ and their near-Scariff home as ‘a bit of a melting pot,’ with immigrants from all over congregating there.
However, coming from East Clare was detrimental to their chances of success…
‘In terms of career, it was probably the worst place we could have possibly started,’ Farrell said and his band-mates laughed in agreement.
‘If you are kind of liberated intellectually and personally, and you want to make really specific art that has notions out the wazoo - like we have notions out the wazoo - Ireland’s not the ideal place.’
Many a struggling creative of the Emerald Isle would say much the same: it’s as if people think you’re acting above your station. And very few people are willing to part from their hard-earned cash to support these creatives.
‘Music is like the most consumed art form in the world,’ O'Callaghan said. ‘It’s everywhere, but it’s so easy to get it for free. A certain amount of intellectualism would kind of be frowned upon. Especially around here, less so in Dublin.'
Which is what Mustang Hobo mean when they say “we still exist in a society that would make you feel like a wanker just for having something beautiful to say.” Mind expansion of the non-chemical variety is looked down upon as snobbery or thinking one is better than everyone else. Or worst of all, the most heinous crime one can commit in Ireland: being posh.
‘There’s a term the novelist Terry Pratchett uses in one of his books: “crab-bucket.”’ Farrell explained. ‘Where, you don’t need to put a lid on a crab-bucket, because crabs will drag each other back into the bucket. And sometimes that’s what it feels like trying to explain yourself.’
He believes that the art should speak for itself: ‘look, we made this with love. And you’re kind of constantly apologising for it. Constantly kind of saying “well… it’s a bit… y’know…” and you’re lying! You’re absolutely lying!’
But Mustang Hobo didn’t lie. Where other artists remain resolutely untrue to themselves and their ambitions, Mustang Hobo struck out into virgin territory. With the world flooded with Ed Sheeran-clones and indie-lite trite, they were a band a person could hang their soul on. A genuine creative force, life-affirming not in a cheesy Facebook post manner, but rather they restored faith in humanity’s creative potential.
But Mustang Hobo have split up.
After seven years hard slogging, this idiosyncratic species of originality is now extinct. The three members of Mustang Hobo created, against nigh insurmountable odds, a slim but precious body of work to rival anything on our 21st century planet.
‘It was kind of my call,’ said O'Callaghan on the decision for the band to split. ‘I have been in the band since I finished school.’ Mustang Hobo already existed when he stepped in, ‘and over the years I’ve started writing more and more, and I’ve just felt it moving in a new kind of direction…
‘When I was in school, I really wanted to do an album where I recorded all the instruments myself. It’s an ambition that I had. I also didn’t like the name of the band…’
That age old rock n’ roll killjoy: creative differences. But that’s the Mustang Hobo legacy: creativity. Musical notes are pens and should be used to write the ambitions of the musician(s). Their sole album Why Is The Sky? is a hot-blooded classic of an LP. They may be leaving, but they are far from gone.
Their farewell gig that night in Galway’s The Loft was a storming affair attended by far too few. But those lucky enough to be present will remember Mustang Hobo as what they were: three creatives light-years away with the fairies.