Interview with Alexander Gow of Oh Mercy

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Oh Mercy’s new dangerous Deep Heat is packed with energetic songs, great lyrics and a colorful groove. The new material from the band is sexy with a sophisticated blues vibes. And the vibrant cover work will surely catch your eye, too. Megan Lees chats to frontman and songwriter Alexander Gow.

 

Congratulations on the new album, it’s definitely filled with a lot of groove and colour, certainly creating a great vibe for listeners. How did the name ‘Deep Heat’ come about?

Well you know, I wanted to give people a bit of an insight to what they might expect musically and lyrically. It sounds sexy and provocative, and it looks good on a tour poster, and feels good to say. All those types of things.

 

Was there any particular musical influence behind this album?

I’ve always listened to groove-based music, so RNB and stuff like that but in the late 70s I suppose the glam rock movement was something I find interesting. I love the idea of making music people can move to and also I like the idea of trying to marry that concept of lyrics. Lots of those dance type songs have throw-away, disposable lyrics so I thought if I could try to marry those two worlds it’d be fun and it was fun.

 

The album is a flamboyant mix of different styles, ranging from a touch of reggae in song Still Making Me Pay to a flute solo in title track, Deep Heat. What genre would you describe this unique range showcased in the album?

Rock or popular music. Don’t-give-a-shit music as opposed to lots of other music that seems fairly benign or apathetic.

 

For the first time ever you’ve written some songs in third person. What spiked this idea?

The idea came from reading Paul Kelly’s memoir, he’s written lots of songs in third person and I figured it’d be a liberating experience because I could have a greater vocabulary at my disposal. If I wasn’t singing autobiographically I could literally use words I otherwise wouldn’t be able to. The first song I wrote was My Man, track 3 on the new record, which takes on a psychotic woman who’s obsessed and infatuated with someone who doesn’t acknowledge her existence. It was really fun and I knew it was going to be the way I wanted to approach the rest of it.

 

What was it like exploring the darker realms of sexuality and desire when writing this album?

It was all liberating not having to write autobiographically. Taking on these characters I could explore into sexuality and that really means I could write about primal instincts of desire and being a slave to our biology; all those kind of wonderfully human things that don’t get written that often. I’m not much about whimsical writing or whimsical art of any kind of form, I find the brutal reality of humanity much more interesting, exciting and captivating so that’s where I focused all my energy and it was really fun. I hope it sounds fun.

 

What inspired the choice to use a Rennie Ellis photograph from his ‘Carnivale’ series to be the cover artwork for the album? The artwork is certainly an eye-catcher.

I love his work, I went to art school for a year and studied photography and really liked Rennie Ellis so I wanted a photograph that was gonna give people a title, like a snippet of what to expect. I wanted the artwork to mirror the colorful kind of nature of the music, the bombastic feel of the record and that kind of provocative nature of the words. I love Rennie Ellis so that particular shot of ‘Carnivale’ 1985 encapsulated all these things that I just mentioned.

 

The single, Drums is already achieving lots, being ‘most played’ on Triple J two weeks in a row and making Channel V’s ‘Ripe Clip of the Week’. Tell us about that track.

It’s kind of the most ‘partying’ song on the record and the one I had most fun vocally. I got to sing like a girl which is fun. Musically, it came from listening to a lot of Jorge Ben who is a Brazilian popular traditional singer from the sixties and seventies, so it’s like lots of minor chords and Brazilion instrument chord progressions going on as well as the percussion. It was all definitely inspired from that music. The baritone saxophone, which is one of my favourite instruments, is listed all over the album. It was the fun song which might be considered taboo but the difference is with this song I cared about the words. That’s what separates it from your generic party song.

 

The clip for single Drums is filled with neon hues of orange and pink with a great dance-floor vibe, tell me a little about the film-clip? Did you get to choose the film clip?

Yeah, sure, the film clip was my idea. I didn’t want to have a serious narrative type film clip because I didn’t think it would suit the song, and the whole idea of this album being a ‘danceable’ album instead of a dance album was one I wanted to showcase in the first clip to throw people a curve ball in terms of their expectations of throwing a party, having friends over, and having stupid, daggy dancers. Sounds fun.

 

I understand Oh Mercy have expanded from the original duo and are now a group of five. Is this a recent thing and what is it like working as a larger band in terms of making music?

I used to write songs with my friend Thomas Savage and did some of the songs in the second album together. He’s based in Brighten doing his own thing now. Musicians have come and gone but I suppose that’s always happening. The current lineup is probably the most permanent yet and I was lucky enough to have this particular band playing on the record. Eliza Lam, who I’ve been making music with since we were eighteen has really done an amazing job on the record, you might notice the bass is a kind of at the fore front of the entire album, so she’s done a spectacular job and Rohan Sforcina, one of my best friends was there playing the drums so it was like a wonderful experience having my friends in the studio with me and they’re all fine musicians as well.

 

Lastly, what’s your favourite track on Deep Heat?

I think my favourite track is Still Making Me Pay which is towards the end of the album. It kind of has a Reggae feel in it but it’s not a standard Reggae, it’s like a doom reggae or something. It’s a lot of fun and the lyrics are fun to sing. The lyrics are all about being a slave to instinct and it’s a little bit evil but mostly it’s comedy. So yeah, it’s heaps fun to sing and I loved it. The feel is kind of new territory so it’s still exciting for me.   

 

Oh Mercy are nominated in this year’s Jagermeister Independent Music Awards, being held on Tuesday 16 October.

Deep Heat is out through EMI Music.

 

Oh Mercy tour dates and venues for September and October are as follows:

 

Friday 21 September – The Zoo, Brisbane QLD

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Saturday 22 September – Joe’s Waterhole, Sunshine Coast QLD

Tickets: 07 5442 8144 or Joe’s Waterhole Gaming Lounge,
Backbeat Records or Shake It Up Music

 

Wednesday 26 September – Heritage Hotel, Wollongong NSW

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Thursday 27 September – Cambridge, Newcastle NSW

Tickets: Moshtix 1300 438 849 or www.moshtix.com.au

 http://www.bigtix.com.au

 

Friday 28 September – ANU Bar, Canberra ACT

Tickets: Ticketek 132 849 or www.ticketek.com.au

 

Saturday 29 September – The Standard, Sydney NSW

Tickets: Moshtix 1300 438 849 or www.moshtix.com.au

 

Sunday 30 September – Clarendon Hotel, Katoomba NSW

Tickets: www.clarendonguesthouse.com.au or 02 4782 1322

 

Thursday 4 October – Settlers Tavern, Margaret River WA

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Friday 5 October – Norfolk Hotel, Fremantle WA

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Saturday 6 October – Bakery Artage, Perth WA

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

www.nowbaking.com.au/ticketing/home.aspx

 

Thursday 11 October – The Gov, Adelaide (Licensed All Ages) SA

Tickets: Moshtix 1300 438 849 or www.moshtix.com.au

Venuetix:  08 8225 8888 or www.venuetix.com.au

 

Friday 12th October – The Loft, Warnambool

Oztix: 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Saturday 13 October – Karova Lounge, Ballarat VIC

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

 

Thursday 18 October – Republic Hotel, Hobart TAS

Tickets: Moshtix 1300 438 849 or www.moshtix.com.au

 

Friday 19 October – Bended Elbow, Geelong VIC

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au

Triple R Presents

 

Thursday 25 October – The Hi Fi, Melbourne VIC

Tickets: Moshtix 1300 438 849 or www.moshtix.com.au

Venue: 1300 843 443 or www.hifi.com.au

 

Saturday 27 October – The Railway Club, Darwin NT

Tickets: Oztix 1300 762 545 or www.oztix.com.au