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Unconsciously on Repeat: Oh Mercy

Part folk, part rock n roll, Oh Mercy’s debut album Privileged Woes may as well be drinking iced tea with you in your garden on a breezy spring afternoon. One listen and it instantly becomes an old friend, one who you grew up with and unintentionally reminds you of the good ole days.

Side Street Sydney goes back in time with lead singer Alex Gow to figure out how the band got to where they are today - and where they're headed next.

How did you first get into music?
I was introduced to a healthy selection of music by my parents.
My mother would play me Dionne Warwick singing the Bacharach catalogue, while my father
would play me the Sunnyboys and RadioBirdman, all of which I still love listening to.

How did you meet and when did you decide to work together?
Thomas [Savage] and I went to high school together in Melbourne. We decided to start working together in high school when we discovered our mutual admiration for the Strokes debut album, Is This It.

photo by Louisa Bailey

How long has it taken you to define your sound and get to the process of completing an album?
Defining our sound has been a long process, although not necessarily a conscious process. Thomas and I started writing songs together when we were 16 and spent four years writing and disregarding countless songs until we ended up with the ones that made our debut album. Our direction has been similar from the start; we have always wanted to be regarded as song writers. We had and still have an appreciation for the classic pop structured song as well as a focus on the importance of strong and sincere lyrical content. By the time it came to recording our album we believed that we had, for the first time, created a bunch of songs that we whole-heartedly loved in all those aspects.

Congratulations on your debut album – do you feel a sense of accomplishment now?
Thank you, and of course we feel as sense of accomplishment. We’ve spent a lot of time refining our skills and done a lot of hard touring. When we’re holding the completed album in our hands it feels like its all been worth it.

How long did it take to get finished?
We recorded the album very casually, on and off for 3 of 4 months. Sometimes we wouldn’t work on it for a month. That was because we were recording with a mate and we didn’t have grand plans for a release – he was really just recording us glorified demos.

It was a wonderful way to make an album: accidentally.

What were some of the biggest challenges?
Not letting people who didn’t believe in us stop us from moving forward. For the huge amount of wonderful support have been given, we still had a few hurdles along the way. Not everyone supports young songwriters in an honest and sincere way. Unfortunately, there are snakes out there.

Triple J has been a big supporter of your band, and you have definitely been a support act your fair share of times. Do you feel like this has been a major contributing factor to getting your name out there as a band?
There’s no doubt that Triple J and the high profile acts we have supported have contributed to ‘getting our name out there’. Triple J literally took us from our bedrooms to a nation audience.

Has is it been difficult to gain recognition to your music?
It has been, and I suspect will continue to be difficult. We are approaching music as songwriters and that’s a tough road.

Not being on the cusp of a genre revival or current trend means it takes a lot of hard work to be heard.

For instance, not many people knew about the Go-Betweens in the 80’s and now they are regarded as one the countries nation treasure’s in terms of their contribution to the legacy of Australian music and art.

Do you consider this solo tour as a kind of coming of age?
I suppose it’s one of a few things that has happened in our brief career that I would regard as a sort of ‘coming of age’; Writing my first song, writing my first decent song, getting on the radio, playing with the Panics, releasing and album, and of course doing a headline tour. I suspect there might be a couple to come.

I’m just a baby as a songwriter.

Do you have any exciting news/collaborations planned for the future?
For the moment I’m just concentrating on writing a solid bunch of songs for a possible second Oh Mercy album. But of course, any artist is excited by the idea of collaboration. We’ll see.

Oh Mercy is launching their album at Oxford Art Factory on Friday night. Tickets are $17 and can be purchased here, but we have a double pass to giveaway! Email your details and why you should be the chosen one to

words: Seema Duggal


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