Henry’s Cellar Bar is a fitting nook for Mt. Doubt’s single launch.
Like a beat generation bar, the stage is at floor level and the ceiling hangs just an inch above frontman Leo Bargery’s brown curls.
Tonight the air is stuffy with smug smiles of a crowd that predict a show this good will never be quite so intimate again.
Before the show I spoke to Bargery, the gentle giant and creator of Mt. Doubt.
We sat outside underneath the lively bar next door whilst Annie Booth sound checks in her fluttering Joni Mitchell tones.
Today Mt. Doubt are launching single ‘Thirst’, a track that is balmy in melody yet flushed with the typical concerned sentiment that makes Bargery’s music so engaging.
As the cellar fills it is encouraging to spot members of other local bands like Bronston and Redolent in the crowd.
There is a lot of love in the air, which goes hand in hand in Edinburgh’s notable and supportive scene.
This friendly network is something that’s made it easy for Bargery to put together the band as they are now.
Talking of the band’s formation he says, “They were kind of hand picked and through playing in bands in high school I knew people already…”
Considering their popularity you would expect that Mt. Doubt have been going for years but in fact it’s not even two years since they formed.
Nonetheless this summer they were invited to play the T Break Stage at T in the Park and on BBC Radio Scotland.
Bargery continues to talk about the positive response that they’ve had; “it’s been nice, I’ve been lucky I’ve had Neil Wilson from Scottish Fiction pushing it a lot”.
Down in the cellar the band steps onto the stage quietly to placid claps and reserved whoops- it is Edinburgh after all.
Bargery encourages the crowd to step closer and the front row is almost cheek-to-cheek with the front line.
The band huddle together and Bargery strikes his pick allowing the tremors of his seamlessly handsome Danelectro guitar to chase the shadows around the wall.
The excitable audience bite their tongue as Alastair MacDonald (keys), Ben Ashbridge (bass), Booth (guitar) and Bargery collectively in a cavernous chant sing the opening lines to ‘Soak’.
Outside I ask Bargery how the arrangement of his songs come together and he replies, “normally I’ll have the song, lyrics and melody… Myself and Mark Morrow (producer and guitarist) build the song over the course of a day… we do the recordings”.
Bargery speaks of the bands development: “it’s live that we have the band, but I think we are going to start incorporating everyone else into the writing and changing it up a bit.”
And talking of his song writing process he says, “primarily it tends to just fall together by mistake.”
He also tells me that the lyrics “Aren’t written anywhere”, which is something that his mum is always calling him up on.
It is the poetic lyrics of Mt. Doubt’s songs that stand out more than anything and it’s clear that this is what strikes a chord with the audience as they begin to mull the words out loud to ‘Hotel Key’.
This is a humbling sign at this early stage of Mt. Doubt’s story but who could forget a line like, “are you ready to get prehistoric my Tyrannosaurus Rex”.
The set maintains pace throughout, but ‘Hotel Key’ really signals the band’s home straight followed by ‘Afterglow’, both from their recent album In Awe of Nothing, the tracks slot together in intensity and elevate the crowd with spirit.
Outside Bargery and I talk about his musical influences like The National and Wilco, both bands that Mt. Doubt is often compared to in style.
Wondering why there are similarities, I ask Leo what he looks for in a lyric and he responds authentically, “some words kind of feel rounded” he hesitates bashfully finding it tricky to explain, “like October”.
“If you can say something in a way that doesn’t really say what you are saying, but it still gets the point across that’s cool because so many people would say the same stuff, so I am trying to get passed that.”
It’s fair to say Mt. Doubt does get past all the usual traps of a mainstream chorus because Bargery communicates to the audience in tightly packed and colourful metaphors unlike most.
Although Bargery does mention his respect for fellow Scottish artist Finn LeMarinel another person who uses imagery to express himself.
Bargery talks of his main musical influences like Morrissey, Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Ryan Adams and Sufjan Stevens, who he remarks “is a genius”.
To close the gig Mt. Doubt plays ‘Soft Wrists’, one of Bargery’s favourite songs to perform and it is clear why he loves this crowd pleaser as the band rages into a barbed instrumental showing their lucid spark within.
Strands of hair flap and led by Pete Bunting’s zealous drumming they all soulfully get lost in the moment.
Bargery captivatingly wrestles with his guitar as though going into a fitting trance and unconsciously hurtles his microphone towards an unsuspecting Booth, perhaps another reason why the next gig won’t be so snug.
And it certainly won’t be considering this Thursday Mt. Doubt will be supporting We Were Promised Jetpacks up in Aberdeen.
Words: Mhairi MacDonald
Photos: Cameron Brisbane