“Mt. Misery sit in that fine lineage of Northern bands who battle encroaching darkness with luminous, endlessly beautiful pop songs.” – Clash (Track of the Day)
“A glorious warm-to-the-touch slice of nostalgia and heartbreak sprinkled with enough left coast hooks and melodies to shake off even the hardiest of seasonal hangovers” – God Is In The TV
“Chilton meets Nap Eyes. Subtle intensely jangled guitar pop that meets every conceivable criteria of anyone’s beautiful” – Janglepophub
“Built upon lush whimsical melodies and a relaxing sound that channels bands like Real Estate and Nap Eyes, Mt. Misery know their way around some pretty sounds that are confident and polished with a ton of emotional heft buried underneath the surface.” – We All Want Someone To Shout For
“Mt. Misery have quickly become one of the most-lauded acts in the North East for their dream-like indie pop melodies” – When The Horn Blows
“I Was Wrong” is an understated, wistful, jangly beauty with a slight west-coast vibe that makes us long for the days of non-corona summers.” – Fade Away Radiate
“Shines with delicate percussive touches and is layered with warm guitar flourishes and a lovey winsome vocal which makes it instantly appealing” – NARC. Magazine
“A canny knack for catching a melody in the breeze and subtle musical twists where you least expect them” – The Tees
It would be easy to shower Mt. Misery with the kind of shimmering west coast plaudits previously reserved for cult luminaries like Arthur Lee and Dennis Wilson, but the more prosaic truth would be that Muscle Beach and palm trees are about as far removed from the windswept headland of their hometown of Hartlepool as it’s possible to be. However, an acute sense of being and the bittersweet turbulence of life – shared by the aforementioned sun-kissed greats – gives the band’s debut album Once Home, No Longer an impressive geographical authenticity. Released on the brink of summer, the themes within this remarkable record overarch like a rainbow, with the tracks waxing and waning like sunlight shining through cracks on the pavement.
The songs reflect a timeless but beautiful heartbreak for fans of Real Estate, Whitney and Alvvays, but under the surface, there is a mature determination to succeed that can only be cultivated in the working-class environs of a northern town. Hiding beneath the intense grey clouds that serve only to stop the freezing ocean spray escaping into the sky, Andrew, Lewis and Ste still walk to rehearsals past the careworn shops and tired arcades in a seaside town they forgot to close. Although Once Home, No Longer may have been made in Hartlepool, its sempiternal sound isn’t constrained by grid references.
Album opener ‘The Dreaming Days Are Over’ brims with a romantic realism that taps into a sunny day, but it also conjures an earthy surrealism rooted in twigs on a forest floor and tree-lined horizons, with trembling guitars and keys at the fore, and gentle percussion in the wind. ‘I Was Wrong’ has a magical autobiographical resonance that you feel deep in your bones. When frontman Andrew sings the couplet, “you know me better than I know myself, and it breaks my heart to see you loving someone else”, it is both haunting yet comfortingly familiar to anyone who has been in a failed relationship. But where there is sorrow, there is joy, so a beautifully realised ‘Satellite’ is more optimistic and while this record’s foundations might be in light 60s psychedelia, echoes of The Byrds, Big Star and Neil Young can be heard throughout its ten tracks.
Mt. Misery don’t always open up about their inspirations, but Andrew has spoken freely about the origins of some of the songs on the record and how the band have a shared musical shorthand when it comes to working on them.
“’In the Blink of an Eye’ is the oldest song on the album, written at the beginning of 2018. I was without a job and spending a lot of time at home feeling a bit directionless, so the lyrics were formed around that. It’s the first song we learned to play together so it’s an important one for all of us.”
“We tend to labour over songs for a long time before committing to them, but with ‘The Thought of Losing You’, being a bit more spontaneous led to one of our favourites on the album. In this instance, I’d been tinkering with the piano part since before we formed the band. With an hour to spare at the end of a long day tracking drums, we came up with a loose structure and built the song around that.”
Once Home, No Longer is a lyrical album and the band were adamant that they didn’t want the words to feel like a secondary concern. Vocalist Andrew was certainly hitting his stride on the title track, which tells a story central to the theme of the album.
From the oldest song on the album to some of the newest, there are recurring ideas of struggling to communicate or feelings of being left behind, something Andrew has admitted was definitely accurate to how he was feeling at the time the songs were written.
“’Once Home, No Longer’, is quite literally about running past the house that I grew up in and mourning the fact that that period of my life is over. We realised early on into writing it that this would be a key song, and the title encapsulates a lot of the themes flowing through the record. It’s a bit of a dramatic take on the whole situation – when it was written I had only moved round the corner. The postcode was only one letter different.”
Recording and generally functioning as a band during lockdown has its challenges, but the necessity to work remotely unexpectedly led to Kenny Gilmore (Chris Cohen, Weyes Blood, Halloweens, Julia Holter etc) mixing the album in Los Angeles, a far cry from its roots on the blustery North Sea coast.
“The music and lyrics for ‘Taken by the Tide’ were brought to the band by Ste, and then we all chiselled it into something that felt like a Mt. Misery song. This and ‘Satellite’ were the final songs to find a place on the album. We had a great time recording them, partly because we were able to get together again when restrictions briefly eased, but also because we self-recorded them entirely. Working on these two songs felt like a breath of fresh air – the rest of the album was finished and we were finally getting to record together the way we had envisioned before the pandemic.”
Serendipity being the band’s friend, Hartlepool’s Prefect Records were perfectly placed. Set-up to facilitate the debut release by Ex-Void, a new project from Owen and Lan of Joanna Gruesome, label head Mark Dobson (ex-The Field Mice) was sanguine about how the label came to be releasing Mt. Misery’s album. “I was originally hoping to put out another single, but the album is so perfectly formed with a beginning, a middle and an ending, that I just knew we had to put it out exactly as they had sent it. I’m a bit of a technophobe so didn’t realise they could see how many times I had listened to it – that was a bit embarrassing when I found out!”
Mark also used to run the legendary Syndrome indie night in London in the late 1980s, which was synonymous with ‘the scene that celebrates itself’ and the fledgling careers of a whole host of bands like Blur and Ride. The DIY ethos that also extended to The Field Mice’s legendary Sarah Records label has stood Mark in good stead, although he is also keen to point out that although the label is based in the North East, it’s purely coincidental that Mt. Misery live half a mile down the road.
“I wasn’t looking for a ‘token’ band from the same town, they could have been from anywhere in the world and I would still want to put this album out. I could hear elements of The Field Mice and a couple of other Sarah bands in there, but also early Belle and Sebastian and peak period Teenage Fanclub – to be honest, it sounds like loads of bands I like, but without really sounding specifically like any of them. It’s early days with Prefect, but I think we can keep the DIY ethics and still be ambitious: I definitely don’t just want to sell 100 copies of records we put out.”
To come full circle, I first met Andrew in late 2019 at a social event at the Base Camp community arts space in Middlesbrough. It was also the first time Andrew met Henry, who now manages the band, but that’s an anecdote for another time. Andrew handed us both an early version of ‘Lonely Pines’ on a lovingly crafted home-made CD and we just knew that Mt. Misery were already quietly creating an album’s worth of the same calibre. It seems somewhat pertinent that this album story should begin with a demo EP recorded way back when, and end with the achingly beautiful closer ‘The Thought of Losing You’.
• Clash Magazine: clashmusic.com/news/track-of-the-day-74-mt-misery
• NARC. Magazine: narcmagazine.com/video-exclusive-mt-misery-the-dreaming-days-are-over-live/
• God Is In The TV: godisinthetvzine.co.uk/2019/12/30/tips-for-2020-north-east-yorkshire/
• Janglepophub: janglepophub.home.blog/2020/02/16/beat-the-delete-0043-weekly-new-music-recommendations/
• B-Sides & Bad Lands: bsidesbadlands.com/mt-misery-lonely-pines-review/
• NARC. Magazine: narcmagazine.com/my-inspiration-mt-misery/
• The Dreaming Days Are Over: youtu.be/57z4nkY90lY
• Spotify: open.spotify.com/artist/073hHe1BmUc3rT3VpNI5bi
• Apple Music: music.apple.com/us/artist/mt-misery/1448216054
• Soundcloud: soundcloud.com/mtmiseryband
• Bandcamp: mtmisery.bandcamp.com/music