In 2015, Alex Gow walked away with an ARIA Music Award, for his album When We Talk About Love. Somewhere in between then and now, he said he had nothing left to prove. But never underestimate Alex Gow to not continue to stomp new ground with every new album he releases under the moniker of Oh Mercy. He is a willing accomplice in shaking up his otherworldly view of music, ever since his impressive 2009 debut Privleged Woes, and why would his latest release Café Oblivion be any different? In short, Gow isn’t afraid to express himself, dig deep in his own psyche and sing about the high and low points he’s felt in his life. With a deep well of ideas, a sense of humour, an ear for melodies, and a passion for the absurd, Café Oblivion, is arguably his finest album yet. Recently, I caught up with Gow to talked about Oh Mercy’s new release. Here is some of what we talked about.
Alex, what was the inspiration behind why you initially wanted to play music? And how has that evolved over time?
Listening to music I love has always made me feel terribly excited. The arrangements, the attitude, a bizzare and unlikely mix of elements that come together to make something uniquely human. I still get the shivers from music. I make music to tap into that feeling.
Your working relationship with (producer) Scott Horscroft has created a playful album with arrangements that seem to exceed expectations on Café Oblivion. What was it like joining forces with Horscroft again?
Exceed expectations? What were your expectations? Low? Lol
Enlisting Scott to help me make Café Oblivion was an easy decision. I’d done the leg work in my bedroom. Chiseled the shape out of the rock, Scott and I did the detailed work together. On top of being good mates, we have a shit hot professional relationship. We don’t yell that much when working. Just drink coffee and when it gets dark we drink VB. I jump from one instrument to the next and Scott sculpts the sounds. He is also, and obviously an excellent mixing engineer. He understands my aesthetic and his mixes supper the integrity of the project. Plus his studio is located smack bang in the middle of paradise. As I type this, the guy over from me on the V Line train is taking his pants off for some reason. Oh. They’re wet and he’s drying them by blowing on them. Makes sense.
A few years ago you spent time living in America, which subsequently led to you recording When We Talk About Love. Had that experience over there change you as a songwriter in preparation for Café Oblivion?
Every experience changes me a songwriter. That’s normal. As life happens I change. Naturally. As I change my writing does. On a practical level, I was sad in Nashville, I wasn’t when writing Café Oblivion. I was drinking heaps of coffee and playing squash. Doesn’t get better than that.
I’ve read some early reviews of the new album. They seem very favourable. Do you agonize over what critics think of your body of work?
Yes. If critics and my peers don’t recognise that I’ve done something worth while, notable, I’d give up. It’s all I got.
What’s been the initial reaction from fans about the new album?
They like it. Seems to be a pretty varied spread of favourite songs too. I think that’s a real win. It’s getting called a ‘grower’. Usually that’s the pits but I’m taking it as a positive.
Tell me something surprising about the infectious second single Keep A Light On from Café Oblivion?
Graham Lee from The Triffids played pedal steel on it. I wanted to replace my high singing harmonies in the refrain with a woman’s voice. Scott convinced me to keep them. I guess their strength lies in their horrible execution.
This is definitely going to sound weird. My favourite song on the album is Lee & Nancy. Your harmonies are unusual and I can’t help but hear shades of The Fool On The Hill by Paul McCartney in terms of its playfulness and experimentation. Is that a fair assessment? Can you tell us briefly how it came about?
Thanks, I like that song too.
I don’t know The Fool On The Hill. Listening now. Cool song. Simpilar structure. A few similar chords. Few similar melodies. Fair assessment. And a compliment. Thanks.
Um. I was sort of dating a Jewish girl. So I included some Hebrew literature references. She’s a singer. Hence the Lee and Nancy aspirations. The pre chorus kind of sounds like You Only Live Twice, no? I think it’s romantic so say, I want to be close to you, like the instrument of Christ’s execution was to him.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, few artists have switched their musical style as deliberately and frequently as Alex Gow! Are you driven by a determination not to repeat yourself from album to album?
Yes. It’s important to me. It’s been detrimental to my career, commercially, but I wouldn’t change a thing.
You seem to consciously take aim at things in your life that end up on your albums. Which one song from Café Oblivion best sums up who you are as a person? And why?
Maybe Crocodile Meat. Irreverent and romantic.
It’s obvious you have a sense of humour, but is there a dark side of things musically that you would like to attempt in the future?
Right now, and up until now, I haven’t been interested in writing songs with ‘dark’ themes . Maybe one day, but not in song, maybe in film.
You are about to embark on a national tour next month. What’s a live Oh Mercy show like for someone who hasn’t seen you play? What can we expect from you and the band?
The hottest rock act in the world offering you a life changing experience via chart topping hits.
Oh Mercy’s latest release Café Oblivion is available in all good record stores and digitally. You can connect with Oh Mercy via their Facebook page. Follow them on twitter. Follow them on Instagram. Watch them on You Tube.
Check out Oh Mercy’s Café Oblivion album tour dates below:
Saturday April 7 – Amplifier Capitol, Perth, WA
Sunday April 8 – The Newport Hotel, Fremantle, WA
Friday April 13 – The Lansdowne, Sydney, NSW
Saturday April 14 – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD
Friday April 20 – Howler Melbourne, Brunswick, VIC
Photo credit: The header image is courtesy of EMI Music. I am not the uploader of You Tube clips embedded here.