An Interview with Leo Bargery of Mt. Doubt

This week, we caught up with Leo Bargery, the creative mastermind behind Edinburgh alt-rock quintet Mt. Doubt. They are set to release their third studio album Doubtlands on the 18th of this month – a date to certainly mark in the diary! We found out more about Bargery’s most prominent influences for the album and gained context behind the poignant lyrics that we hear throughout Doubtlands. We also asked Bargery about the evolution of Mt. Doubt and the impact of the current pandemic upon his work.

  1. You are set to release your third album Doubtlands on the 18th of September, can you tell us a bit about the creative process behind making the record?

It’s a long story really; a bit of a quilt of the last four or five years. Songs from 2016, songs from the week before we started recording. I think it really encapsulates that post-University adult wilderness (which I’m still in!). Doubtlands as a concept loosely seeks to give some sort of physical parameters to that sense of wilderness and panic really; there’s lots of geographical and physical references through the album which I like to think build a sort of framework for my more ambiguous thoughts. Sonically it’s very much the result of playing the songs into the ground in hot, sweaty rooms and hoping people won’t hate them.

2. It seems that you are exploring some deep emotions and vividly depicting specific scenes and experiences in the tracks. Where do you draw influence from for your lyrics?

My ultimate aim is to say things in ways which aren’t overtly obvious. All of the songs are drawn from an autobiographical source, so I suppose it makes me feel a little more comfortable to create a distance from, and difficulty in, interpreting the ideas within the songs. In terms of inspiration and influence, I just love words and writing, so I’m always jotting down little phrases or words that perhaps I’ve heard or seen. It’s always a bit of a self-set challenge to weave in slightly more complex language in more and more simplistic ways. Reading other people’s lyrics, reading poetry, reading fiction; that’s an endless well of inspiration. Cohen, Cave, Berman, Linkous, the list trails on forever!

3. Who were you listening to most whilst creating Doubtlands?

Perhaps this sounds a little bad (I’m not sorry), but during the actual recording process I think I listened exclusively to the songs we were working on. I just listened to the demos incessantly, especially when I was going to bed. It was a good way to keep the songs turning over in my head, trying to think of new ideas or angles, especially lyrically, which would finesse the record. Largely my listening habits are fairly varied (I’d like to think anyway), and while our influences seep in on the basis of preference rather than design, I’ve never set out to write in the style of anybody I admire. Right now I’m listening to some great new records; Widowspeak, Westerman, Anna Burch… there’s tonnes!

4. How do you think you have grown over the years that you have been active on the Scottish music scene?

My waistband expanded, but I’m working on that. I’ve never really identified too much with being part of any ‘scene’ if I’m honest, I don’t think we really slot in anywhere, not neatly anyway. When you’re initially starting out as a band there’s an unspoken pressure to engage with a “scene” and to look to other people within it for acceptance and guidance. I think I’ve realised that an inward glance is much more valuable. That’s not to belittle the importance of supporting other acts around you, but there’s a tendency to become one mass I fear. I think I’ve definitely grown as a songwriter. I’m still as plagued by self-doubt as any writer, but I do feel a little more confident and a little more assured in my writing and in my writing-style. I have the trust in myself that I don’t need to rush, that I can just go slowly and the ideas will keep coming.

5. What impact has COVID had upon your work? How are you planning to promote/share Doubtlands now that live shows are off the cards?

There are obvious downsides; missing out on performances, festivals etc. but I’ve never been this productive in my life. It’s been really great being able to take so much time to focus on writing new material. I think this is something that has been echoed by most writers and musicians I know. We need to value this pursuit of ours more! Social Media is a (dreadful) promotional blessing in some aspects, it’s enabling us to keep people up to date with what we’re doing and that’s always a good thing! I’ve been performing live streams, every Thursday on Facebook, and that’s been an amazing way of sharing new music and getting instant critique! We just have to take things as they come really!

You can pre-order Doubtlands on CD or Vinyl here:

Keep up to date with all things Mt. Doubt through their social media accounts:

Facebook – @MtDoubt

Twitter – @MtDoubt

Instagram – @mt.doubt

Published by orla_brady

I write things about music for The Music Files Blog and isthismusic? Always open to review new bands/artists wherever you're from and whatever you do. I also write articles for The Glasgow Guardian and The Indiependent and dabble in creative fiction writing.

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