What’s a ‘Mushy Callahan’? A Hard-Rocking Pack of Albertans

4 young men facing left
A less contentious product of Alberta’s far north.
Courtesy of the artist’s website

I never asked Joel: “What’s a Mushy Callahan?” On the other hand, I also never asked “Are you like/Do you like/inspired by/nauseated by/etc. the Jonas Brothers?”

Oh, sorry Joel. I wasn’t supposed to mention that other family act. A ‘Mushy Callahan’ is one of four brothers from Peace River (Alberta) who gathered in Toronto and have apparently been “shaking up” the indie music scene there.

Says Joel: “Our hometown asked us to come out and play a show, and it was very last-second, which is why the press and the bookings are all coming in day to day. We don’t know how long we’re going to be necessarily on the road. But we do know our Ontario dates, so we can at least drop into (our current) home, and then head out afterwards.”

Their first EP, (appropriately titled, given their transient tour schedule) ‘Man on the Run’, is NOT the first release of a bunch of kids that grew up playing music together.

“We jammed together as kids, but we never played together as a band: it wasn’t cool to play with your brothers!” But when he and Noah, his older brother, started comparing songs after Joel had moved east, “I told him: ‘If you move to Toronto I’ll quit my band right now.’ I didn’t think he was gonna do it (but he did), and then Jacob and Lucas, they took note; Jacob left the day after his graduation, and it slowly took place.” Official age range of the band as of June, 2012: 19-29.

“Both of our parents are musicians, so instead of getting game systems for Xmas, we got instruments. (Our dad) has been the advisor/consultant whenever we get into a problem on the road.”

It gets entertaining here, as Joel the drummer, recalls his father’s advice to never have a lead singer who can’t play an instrument “unless he’s a really, really good singer. Dad wouldn’t just have a singer in the band.. . . . Singers are like a musician, in the way they use their voice, but you’ve gotta have both of the sounds.”

Joel, have you heard what other musicians say about us drummers? Which is why we say ‘Drummers is musicians, too!’

Of course, these are his brothers, with their benefits and drawbacks. One benefit is the mix of songwriting that was brought to the disc.

“Now we feel like we’re writing together a little bit more, and we’re not just bringing songs that we wrote when we were in-between bands. You find a (common) ground, and a sound that you’re not used to.”

The disc’s producer had to harass them to get this debut together, and it’s a good thing he did. If I had known it was literally the first time the four have worked together professionally, I’d have been much more impressed on the first listening. As the promo material says, the ‘Beefy bass riffs, arena-quality guitar solos, and booming vocals turn this into indie rock with umph.’ And great drums on the opening track, ‘Burn’.

T.O. seems to like them a lot: Mushy Callahan was The Edge 102.1’s ‘Indie Online Band of the Month’ in April, only a couple of months after the release of ‘Man on the Run’. Hometown Peace River asked them to come out, some other dates were scheduled, and the rest is soon to be history.

“We bought a bus, fixed it up, and it’s illegally parked right now out the back of the venue, but we’re hoping not to get any tickets before we get back.

It’s a good feeling when you travel across the country, and people come to see you: that’s the reason (to be a musician). I’m not in it to get rich and famous: it’s cliche I know, but it’s really not what I’m doing. When you play live, and you’re on the stage, and people dig your music, and you get that feeling that you get, that’s why you’re doing it.”

The last couple of bands he has seen are Black Angels (“a psychedelic-rock thing from the 70’s”) and GROUP LOVE (“more of a pop-rock thing, but they put on a really good show”). So if they don’t kill themselves before the show (as brothers who live together are apt to do), be sure to catch them. It’s the beginning of something good.

May 31st – The Black Betty – Calgary, AB

June 2nd – Belle Petroleum Centre – Peace River, AB

June 3rd – New City Legion – Edmonton, AB

June 9th – Sudbury New Music Festival – Sudbury, ON

June 10th – The Silver Dollar Room – Toronto, ON

June 12th – The Central – Toronto, ON

June 22nd – The Cameron House – Toronto, ON

July 3rd – Bookie’s New Music Night – The Horseshoe Tavern- Toronto, ON

July 19th – Barrie New Music Festival – Barrie, ON

Posted by Paul Verhaegh

Author: Carey Rutherford

Swallowed by the mutual loves of words and music (but far too chicken-shit to perform them with a band), Carey’s writing career started slowly as a freelance writer in 2003, starved him nearly to personal bankruptcy until 2008, and changed directions while writing for FastForward, Beacon Calgary, GayCalgary, and Examiner magazines. With the death of many old-school periodicals, and the explosion of musical diversity in Calgary, the modern approach to writing about live music performance in the Calgary region presented uncluttered landscapes for the focussed passion that Carey’s conversations with musicians, drag queens, festival producers and small animals has uncapped. He was moulded by the brilliance of paper-based periodicals old and new (Life, rolling Stone, Swerve! and Adbusters etc.), and sees the info-verse as needing creative, empathetic, but clear-eyed Agents to communicate these performances.