The O’Mulligans formed way back in 2003 (!) with the plan of banging out a few songs at a suburban Sacramento battle of the bands. This month, nearly 15 years later, they’ll release their first full-length album.
“We were listening to a lot of Dropkick Murphys then and wanted to sound like that,” said guitarist and one of the band’s two singers, David Lindsay. “We wrote a couple of songs in that vein and were like, ‘Oh, this sucks. These aren’t good songs.’”
They ditched the Celtic-punk routine right off the bat, and the battle of the bands never even ended up happening. They pivoted toward a more carefree shade of catchy punk rock almost immediately, but never fully resolved their repeated conversations about changing their name along the way.
“None of us are really even Irish,” said Lindsay during a recent phone interview. “It’s like a bad tattoo that we’re kind of stuck with. We just kept the name and started writing some goofy songs.”
The O’Mulligans piddled along as a side project for years, mostly playing friends’ parties, while all three members focused on their “more serious” bands. Things were sporadic until around 2011, when the band’s members started giving the band more attention—playing regularly and recording some demos and EPs, carving out a place in Sacramento’s punk scene.
This month, nearly 15 years after their formation, The O’Mulligans will release their first full-length album, Meh, at a show with The Moans and The Enlows at Café Colonial on Feb. 24, 2017.
The same week that The O’Mulligans emailed me an advance copy of Meh, I happened to crack open NOFX’s recently published memoir and I was scheduled to attend Emo Night at The Press Club for another story I was writing. Suffice it to say, it was a week spent dipping into the songs of my teens and early 20s. The new O’Mulligans album tucked itself beautifully into that week (closer to the NOFX than the emo), because it nods so deliberately to the past, sonically and in the lyrics, which are heavy on cultural references, both smart and playful.
There’s plenty to laugh at on the album, but The O’Mulligans aren’t the Bloodhound Gang or anything. They’re not a stand-up act.
“Contemporary music is seriously lacking in humor, but I don’t want to be thought of as a joke band,” said bassist and other vocalist, Jeff Florence. “I want to be a good band that just happens to make good jokes.”
The O’Mulligans tilt more toward the Offspring/NOFX/Vandals attitude in that they are clearly down to fuck around and are not hung up on taking themselves too seriously, but that doesn’t mean all they’ve got are jokes. Take that attitude and spike it with a heavy dose of early Green Day and you’re starting to get a feel for what the The O’Mulligans offer up on Meh.
“This album is a conscious throwback,” said Florence, describing not only the music, but the whole experience of the disc. “Have you ever shelled out hard-earned dough for a bare bones CD that sounded like it was recorded on a phone? I feel this CD is an accurate representation of us from the killer sound quality to the popping visuals. I hope anybody who digs our music will appreciate our admittedly nostalgic compact disc.”
The album’s artwork, by local artist Mark Stivers, is a bright and beautiful piece of pop art featuring the face of a blonde woman with popping red lipstick. The band’s name is slapped across the top in large comic book lettering. The cover is an absolute attention grabber, which is why its title, featured on the cover in the form of a white talk bubble from the woman’s mouth, is an anticlimactic beauty: Meh.
The album was recorded and mixed by Pat Hills at Earth Tone Sacramento. The bulk of the 14 tracks have been written and performed in their live shows for the last few years, but they needed to save up some money and set aside the time before pinning them down alongside one another.
“It just felt like time,” said Lindsay. “We had more than enough songs for an album, but it was mostly a financial thing. Fortunately for us, Patrick at Earth Tone is fucking killing it. He’s offering good services at an affordable price.”
The O’Mulligans have played together for nearly half of their lives. With Meh, they will have their first full-length under their belt.
“This band started out as a joke, and it still is a joke that makes us very proud,” said drummer Michael Luna. “This album is funny and we need some laughter right now, and what better way to do that than to throw in a couple of dick jokes?”
Take Me Back to 1994
The song “DJs” is a five-minute lament on the current state of radio music. The song makes a specific reference to 1994, which is the year Lindsay got his first CD—The Offspring’s Smash. He was 8 years old and had to share it wish his sister. She kept the CD, and they used that to make him a copy on tape. A year later he bought his first CD of his own—Green Day’s Insomniac. You can draw a direct through-line from those albums to what The O’Mulligans are making now, and as someone who grew up on that exact same music, it’s a treat.
The song “Your Pathetic Band,” a favorite of mine on the album, is built entirely of Star Wars lines, with the two singers trading verses—Florence singing from Luke’s perspective and Lindsay as the Emperor. “T.G.I.F” commits to its theme just as admirably, only this time it’s a rapid-fire run through Full House, Family Matters and the rest of the shows you spent your childhood watching. Some other standouts for me are the abrasive “Textual Criticism” and the catchy “Song in My Head”—neither of which are joke songs.
The band is a staple in the Sacramento punk scene whose hub is Café Colonial, where they’ll host their release party. (Lindsay even has a burger named after him on their menu.) The release party will feature two of their favorite local bands, The Enlows and The Moans—the latter of which which features Danny Secretion, whom the band considers a mentor.
“I expect and hope to be surrounded by friends and family,” said Luna. “The local punk scene is our family and if they were the only ones to show up, I would be happy. A few people from other bands have messaged us or told us they were looking forward to the album and that has meant a lot to me.”
I reached out to Danny Secretion for comment. “The O’Mulligans (Davey, Mike, and that other guy) are men of honor and conviction,” he said. “They are true professionals who fly the banner of local punk rock with pride. Most of all, I can’t get that fucking pizza song of theirs out of my goddamn head!”
Hear that pizza song yourself at the The O’Mulligan’s CD release show for Meh on Friday, Feb. 24 at Café Colonial. The show, which also features The Moans and The Enlows, starts at 8 p.m. and the cover is $5. Find out more at Facebook.com/theomulligans.