An Interview with Mt. Doubt

Edinburgh band Mt. Doubt are making waves, garnering regular airplay on BBC Scotland, as well as 6Music, Amazing Radio, XFM, KEXP, and more. Their songs cover subjects as diverse as mental health, the universe, and house plants. We caught up with them shortly after the release of their latest album, Doubtlands.

Describe your music in three words
Bearable, on occasion

Who’s in the band, and what do you each play?
On our most recent record, ‘Doubtlands’, the band has been;

Myself, Leo Bargery – Vocal, Guitar, Piano
Annie Booth – Vocal, Acoustic guitar
Peter Bunting – Drums
James Callaghan – Bass, Guitar
Ryan Firth – Piano, Synths, Guitar
Liam Dempsey – Saxophone

How and when did the band form?
I launched Mt. Doubt at the beginning of 2015, as a solo project and vehicle for my songwriting. In the last five years, the band has been an almost constantly shifting mass of collaborators which keeps the beige from the door.

Where can we listen to your music?
In all the usual nooks and crannies: Spotify and Apple Music.

Tell us a bit about your songwriting process.
I write almost all of the time, I scribble down phrases and words and sentences into jotters and the ‘notes’ on my phone constantly. It’s always been a very personal and cathartic experience to actually pull a song together from my little notes. I usually then pick up a guitar or sit down at the piano and just bash around until I’ve got some sort of shape from my mess of ideas. Then it’s just a matter of chiselling and polishing!

Name three other bands / artists that you’d say have influenced your music.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The Swell Season

What do you listen to on the way to a gig?
It’s been a while… but the playlist is usually deeply questionable. We used to religiously listen to ‘Shine’ by Take That and really try to nail the boy-band harmonies. I also have quite fond memories of listening to Theo Katzman somewhere on the outskirts of Reading as well!

Which of your songs do you enjoy playing the most?
I’ve been enjoying playing a song called ‘Waiting Rooms’ a lot. I usually play it acoustically at the end of the show and it’s been a nice, quiet moment to bring down the proverbial curtain. People seem to appreciate it, and that’s really the whole point.

If things go exactly to plan with the band, what would you like to achieve?
I’d like to build on our fan base indefinitely. It doesn’t have to be overnight or super-fast, but I believe in what I’m doing and I have no intention of stopping. It would be great to reach a point at which we could tour to busy, modest venues around the U.K., Europe and ideally America. Financial viability would be alright too!

Which bit of music gear could you not live without, and why?
Definitely my piano, I’ve had it since I was about seven and it’s my most trusted accomplice in writing my songs. It’s a meditative experience just hunkering down at that piano and letting the hours slide.

What’s your favourite brand of music gear, and why?
I’ve always really loved Danelectro guitars. They’re so light and, aesthetically, I just think that they’re really intriguing. I’ve been coveting a cream Danelectro Convertible for a while; hollow-body with the lipstick pick-up. It’s awfully nice.

What was your best gig ever, and why?
We launched our second album, ‘In Awe of Nothing’ at a sold-out Mash House in Edinburgh a few years ago. The stars fairly aligned; we had custom-made Mt. Doubt beer, great support acts (Hamish Hawk!) and we were played on 6Music moments before going on stage. So yep, that was a good ‘un!

What was your most disastrous gig ever, and why?
We once drove all the way to Brighton to play an acoustic show in the basement of a North-African restaurant. We ended up playing to the two other acts, the promoter and the promoter’s girlfriend. We got £5, genuinely. That was pretty awful. I did bump into David Haye at a pay and display machine though so that was quite cool, and the Youth Hostel breakfast was excellent.

Name your top three gig venues
For playing in: Sneaky Petes, The Garage, The Hug and Pint.
For watching bands: Albert Hall (Manchester), Glasgow Academy, Liquid Rooms.

What are your favourite Scottish recording and / or rehearsal studios?
We had a pre-Covid practice space at The Depot down in North Edinburgh. It’s a bit ramshackle but has a certain sweaty charm.

We recorded our most recent album, ‘Doubtlands’ in my living room, so without including my home… Post Electric Studios are really nice, loads of amazing gear and Rod was excellent to work with. Mark Morrow was also brilliant to work with, all up and coming bands should check him out immediately!

What are your favourite festivals to play at?
We’ve been lucky enough to play at a few. T in the Park was an experience I’ll never forget, we played on its last ever year (no correlation I promise) which also happened to be my 10th consecutive year of going! We’ve also had great times playing at Belladrum up near Inverness and a great multi-venue festival in Stockton-on-Tees called Songs From Northern Britain!

What’s your personal favourite song you’ve released (or are about to release!)?
I really love a song called ‘Stairwell Songs’ which is towards the end of ‘Doubtlands’. It’s built on layered saxophone drones, features the vocals of our pal Emily Atkinson of Fourth Daughter and manages to reference Harry Dean Stanton which I’m very proud of.

If you could only listen to one artist for the rest of your life – excluding yourselves – who would you pick?
Morrissey. It’s really no contest. I could make an argument for the Dutch pianist Joep Beving though; classical music can match any mood, which might be useful for the rest of my life…

How do you promote yourselves? Is there any method you’ve found that has worked particularly well?
It’s just a matter of using all the evil social media platforms which are available. I long for the days my dad describes of music papers and going to shows because you saw the poster. But, hey, they’re dead it seems. I just try and get my personality across and engage with people who like our music.

I think the whole marketing, playlisting aspect of music today is really ripping the art out, which is a shame.

What’s next for you? Any gigs or releases coming up?
We’ve just released our third LP, ‘Doubtlands’, on Last Night From Glasgow. We’ll have a follow up single out in the world at some point I’m sure… no shows lined up just yet. Lockdown has been a great time for creativity, in my experience, so I’ve got a few more albums written. There’ll be more Mt. Doubt to come!