Oh Mercy’s latest album, When We Talk About Love (which dropped this June), is not only an exceptionally great record, reminiscent of when the best of the Brit Poppers channeled Americana balladry for existential tales that could bring down an arena, but its story is also particularly engaging in the most charming kind of way. Oh Mercy is the indie rock/folk quartet spawned by Melbourne-based singer/songwriter Alexander Gow, which began as a solo project. When We Talk About Love, Gow’s fourth full-length under the Oh Mercy moniker, was inspired by an extensive trip to the states and his time spent in Portland, LA, Texas, NYC, and Nashville, which he chronicles in an (once again) exceptionally amusing manner on his website (Click this sentence and read for yourself.) Although Gow and his Oh Mercy are not yet household names in the states (although I suspect if they got on the right tour, they easily could be), they’ve achieved quite impressive accolades in Australia, both in the form of awards and critical acclaim. Although they don’t currently have a return to the US on the books, Oh Mercy have some Australian dates lined up, beginning in Brunswick on August 22nd and concluding on September 19th in Perth, and Alexander Gow recently took some time to chat about his latest record.
Izzy Cihak: I actually interview kind of a lot of Australian musical acts that I’m super into, so I’m curious, how is the musical scene there? Do you have any particular favorite peers or just contemporary artists that you like from Australia? I really love San Cisco, Gossling, Cloud Control, Sally Seltmann, Sarah Blasko, and Kate Miller-Heidke, whom I’ve all covered relatively recently, if not numerous times.
Alexander Gow: The music scene is very healthy here. All the artists you listed a quite varied, much like the broader Australian music scene. There are plenty of Australian groups I really like. I’ll list a few – Slow Dancer, Lost Animal, Jack Ladder and Alex Cameron. Good stuff. As a side note, I adore Sarah Blasko.
Izzy: You’ve achieved quite a number of really cool accomplishments over the past half-decade or so, but you’re not quite yet a “household name” in the states, so for those of us over here, what have been the highlights of Oh Mercy so far, whether particular tours or shows, particular accolades, or just particular reactions to your work?
Alexander: Well my albums have always been well reviewed, “critically acclaimed,” as they say, which is a relief. And it means a great deal to me. I try my best to make albums that people can appreciate outside of the month they are released and outside of my country of birth. I’ve supported some of my favourite bands, like The Triffids, The Church, Crowded House, and Robert Forster. I’ve never sold a million records, but hey, we’re a small country and people seem to respect me as a songwriter.
Izzy: And what would you consider to be your most significant influences, whether musical, from other artistic mediums, or just pertaining to aspects of life?
Alexander: Well, musically I try aim to write as good as the people I admire. I figure if you aim that high, maybe you’ll end up half-way there, and that’s still a great place to be. I admire The Triffids, Lee Hazlewood, Leonard Cohen, and Burt Bacharach. Others too. My mother is also a great inspiration. She’s funny, hardworking, and compassionate. I enjoy reading. Right now I’m reading Last Evenings On Earth by Roberto Bolano. I’ve spent plenty of time thinking on it. It’s great.
Izzy: You recently released When We Talk About Love, which I understand was largely inspired by your travels across America. I read about your travels, which was quite amusing, but the practical peaks and valleys you experienced do seem to make for a tale that’s existentially romantic to a profound degree. But anyway, you’ve already shared that story but I’m curious how your time and travels through the states compared to what you expected of the experience. Did your pre-trip imaginings line up at all with your post-trip memories?
Alexander: I had almost no idea what to expect. I did however expect to not have to deal with some of the emotional challenges I eventually did. I didn’t expect to break down in the Texan desert for a day and take a three-hour, comical, yet humiliating tow to Odessa. I didn’t expect to write an “existentially romantic” album (well said). It was a lesson in self-discovery. The discovery was unwelcome and I was not charmed by the man I met.
Izzy: Hopefully this isn’t insulting (It’s certainly not meant to be.), but has anyone told you that the album reminds them of Richard Ashcroft, both with The Verve and solo, but a little more solo? That’s seriously the first thing that came to mind when listening to it, especially relating to his solo debut, Alone With Everybody, which sort of defined many of my teen years when it came out. If that’s not insulting, are you a fan of Mr. Ashcroft and, if so, do you have any particular favorite works of his?
Alexander: That’s no insult. I’ve heard a lot about that Alone With Everybody album. Some close friends love it. I haven’t heard it. But I always loved The Verve. He never quite got there lyrically for me, but the overall effect of the music, his voice and the sentiment wowed me as a teenager. I played their best of to death. I have been very surprised to not have heard his name brought up in relation to my album. You’re the first. I thought it was pretty obvious… (Thank you.)
Izzy: You have a handful of upcoming live dates in Australia throughout September. What can be expected of the live experience this time around?
Alexander: A new album and it’s new songs. A new band including Ceci playing the viola, covering the strings on the record. Some new arrangement of older songs. I’ll be there too. Trying my best to play and sing well.
Izzy: And finally, what’s next for you? Can we expect even more new music in the near future? Any chance of a US tour? What are you hoping and planning for the rest of 2015?
Alexander: I look forward to playing my album to whomever wants to listen. I’m very proud of it. I’m looking forward to the end of Melbourne’s winter. I’m looking forward to reading some more books. I’ll start writing when the time is right. (I look forward to that time!)
Thank you for your time and interest.