You’ve said that this single was meant to be more positive but didn’t work out. Do you usually have an image of how a song will turn out going into it? And do they usually turn out how you picture at the beginning?
I have an idea of how songs will turn out to an extent. Usually, the finished song doesn’t stray too far from how I imagined it when I came up with the initial musical idea. Lyrics, however, can sometimes turn out quite different to how I originally intended, which was the case with I Was Wrong.
I often end up recycling unused ideas from different songs as well. For example, the verse lyrics and melody of I Was Wrong were originally written for the verse of our last single, The Dreaming Days Are Over.
Mt. Misery have a very cohesive image, do you like to work with certain other creatives/have particular ideas of how you want the band to be seen?
It’s all handled ‘in house’. Lewis, who plays drums, is responsible for all our artwork, t-shirt designs, and things like that. Our most recent press photos were taken by our friend (and honorary fourth member) Matthew, with a little bit of direction from us.
There are so many creatives in the North East that we admire, but we also really enjoy trying to do these things for ourselves. We’re all very like-minded, very particular, and share the same frames of reference, so a lot of the time it’s easier too.
What’s the Mt. Misery creative process like?
Most of our songs are written over long periods of time and involve lots of re-writing and editing of small parts until they start to fit together and form a whole. It usually starts with me bringing the basics of a song to Lewis and Ste, and then we’ll flesh things out and work on the specifics together.
It used to be that I wouldn’t bring a song to the band until it was completely finished, but they both have a really good sense of arrangement and come up with better ideas than me. It’s more collaborative now – there’s a song on the album we’re working on that was written by Ste which I’m really excited about.
Who are some of your influences?
There are a lot of contemporary artists from the US and Canada whose music we find inspiring; Andy Shauf, Chris Cohen, EZTV, and Nap Eyes, to name a few. Real Estate are one of my favourite bands and we wear that influence on our sleeve a bit. I also think Neil Young and Alex Chilton are two all-time great songwriters and I try to emulate them quite often as well.
Do your general influences and song-writing influences differ at all?
Definitely. My favourite band, when I was a teenager, was Weezer, who really made me want to be in a band and play guitar, but I’m not sure you’d hear much of their music in our own. Lewis and Ste are big fans of The National, but again, we probably don’t have a lot in common with them musically.
This single is from your debut album, what do you think makes a good debut and what are some of your favourite debut albums?
I’m not really sure what makes a good debut, but I think what our favourites have in common is how well they fit together as a whole – they sound like a unified body of work rather than a disjointed compilation of an artist’s early songs. Some of our favourite debut albums are Overgrown Path by Chris Cohen, #1 Record by Big Star, Alvvays’ self-titled, and Tigermilk by Belle & Sebastian. Lewis and Ste would probably add Is This It by The Strokes, and I would throw Weezer’s Blue Album onto the pile too.
You’ve mentioned before that you aren’t much of a gear nerd, does using minimal equipment affect your creative process?
I probably am a gear nerd. What I should’ve said is that I’m not that interested in big recording studios setups with lots of fancy microphones. For me, it’s exciting hearing an artist do a lot using only a little – it feels personal and intimate. The equipment we use definitely informs our process, especially very early on before the band was really a consideration and I was just trying to record songs as best I could within the limits of my equipment and living situation. We’ve never strayed too far from that sound and method of recording music.
Hartlepool and the general Teesside area are swimming in talent at the moment, who are your favourites?
There are so many! The Hartlepool music scene is really diverse and very supportive, we feel grateful to be part of it. As for Teesside in general, we’re all big fans of Dressed Like Wolves. His latest album, The Big Try, is a favourite of ours, not just in a local music capacity either, but in general.
Jodie Nicholson’s Golden Hour is another brilliant album we discovered fairly recently too. We asked Jodie to sing on ‘I Was Wrong’ and she came up with this great backing vocal arrangement without any real prompt from us. We’re really excited for people to hear that.
Your music features a lot of nature in the music itself as well as the artwork, Hartlepool sits on the coast whilst still being in industrial Teesside, does being surrounded by these images affect your songwriting or creativity at all?
Not massively. We all like living here, but I’m not sure it directly influences our songwriting. I think we’d be making this sort of music and doing things in the same way if we lived anywhere else, although my answer might be different if we lived in London and didn’t have easy access to nature or green outdoor spaces.