17th Sep 2012 1:54am | By Alex Harmon
After an extensive road trip across the US, the Aussie five piece returned home with their most colourful album to date. We chat to lead singer, and pun-enthusiast, Alexander Gow
Hi Alexander, what are you up to?
Well, I just dropped our van off at the mechanics to have a once over so that we don’t have a terrible accident on the road.
Because you guys are about to start touring Oz, right?
Yeah that’s right, and the new album is coming out so it feels good. It’s a fairly surreal period between recording and release, when only a few people have heard it. I can’t wait for it to be fair game to the public so I can start to think about writing some new songs.
How is this album different?
It’s different in many ways – musically and lyrically – I suppose this record is all the lyrics are fictional. There isn’t a rhythm playing so there isn’t someone chugging away on the acoustic guitar and that leaves a lot of space in the music. And there are no symbols on the record because symbols hurt my ears.
The album cover is very Rio Carnivale.
Yeah it is, it’s a photograph by an Australian artist called Rennie Ellis who is one of our greatest photographers. He’s taken a lot of iconic Australian shots around Kings Cross and St Kilda and he’s a bit of an idol of mine, so I was pretty happy to be able to use one of his works.
Perhaps Oh Mercy will produce the next Olympic theme song?
It will sound very much like the Muse song I heard at the closing ceremony. Equally awful.
Tell me about title track, Deep Heat.
It’s about a biblical character, a martyr, who is desperate to be taken seriously and no one does.
And it’s not based on you?
That’s right. So when I play a show in Antarctica to a couple of seals I wont have to pour my heart out to them.
The name Oh Mercy is a Bob Dylan reference, are you a massive fan?
Yes, well me and everyone else in the world who has ever tried to write a song. I suppose as an 18 year old you look to your idols and I did just that.
You were a duo and now you’re a five piece, how has the dynamic changed?
It’s been an interesting transition. Tom Savage and I used to write songs together and now we don’t. He’s making music with his band called Kins, who are fantastic and very different to the latest Oh Mercy stuff. I feel very liberated to be able to express myself without having to run it by anyone else. The other four in the band are committed to the concept and aesthetic.
How was the South by Southwest Festival?
It was great, had some beer and had some BBQ food and saw the Twirps a few times. It was good, but at the time I was thinking about making a record, so I can’t remember much.
Do you prefer festivals or intimate shows?
I like them both but for different reasons. Festivals are good but you don’t usually get time to do a proper sound check so your certain expectations of a show are thrown out the window and you have to deal with certain limitations – which is a liberating experience. And the smaller shows are great because it usually means people are there because they enjoy your music on a more substantial level, which is gratifying for me on stage.
You’re a Melbourne boy, any tips for travellers down there?
Go for a walk down by the Yarra Bend Trail which is near the Collingwood Children’s Farm. It’s a lovely walk thrown back in time a couple of hundred of years and it’s very serene and quiet. And go to the Rose hotel, it’s my favourite pub. It’s in Fitzroy, and is a bit of an old timey kind of sports pub. The footy is always on, the food is cheap, and the clientele are like the furniture.
Great Barrier Grief, your last album: inspired by the reef or do you just love a good pun?
Probably option B on that one.
No puns this time around?
No, the precise reason that I didn’t use one was because people expected it.
Catch Oh Mercy in Brisbane (Sept 21), Sydney (Sept 29), Perth (Oct 6), Hobart (Oct 18), Melbourne (Oct 25) and Fremantle (Sept 22) ohmercy.com.au