Oh Mercy frontman and self- confessed ratbag Alexander Gow intentionally ripped off Roxy Music for My Man, one of the songs from his band's cracking new album.
"It's an unashamed tribute to Love is the Drug and everyone has their influences," he says from his home town of Melbourne. "I suppose it's what you do that's important and I think we created a really sexy, provocative and interesting song. I'm more proud of that song than any song I've written."
Gow adds that more than a simple homage to Bryan Ferry and co.'s horny dance floor filler, My Man set the template for Oh Mercy's third album, Deep Heat, which has earned rave reviews since being unveiled last month.
Inspired by a chapter in Paul Kelly's memoir How to Make Gravy and looking for fresh directions after last year's acoustic singer-songwriter album, Great Barrier Grief, the forthright muso decided to try writing from the third person. And, like a housewife trying a new fabric softener in a television commercial, he was amazed by the results.
"The idea of writing from the third person was attractive because it meant I could sample from a wide palette of vocabulary and concepts. It made writing easier, actually," Gow states. "I found it not so difficult to pretend to be a psychotic woman with an infatuation for someone that doesn't acknowledge her existence (on My Man) . . . or, as in (album track) Suffocated, the high-class lady of the night."
After penning 10 new songs over the last Australian summer and completing a US tour, Gow, bassist Eliza Lam and drummer Rohan Sforcina joined producer Burke Reid (the Mess Hall, Jack Ladder) at the Family Farm residential studio in Portland, Oregon.
Gow arrived armed with a "fairly lengthy mission statement" detailing a groove-driven album drawing on dub and reggae, 70s R&B and glam rock. Unfortunately, three of the songs didn't fit his own blueprint and had to be dumped. "Burke encouraged me to write three more songs and I ended up writing three songs in three days," Gow says. "I wrote them in the morning and we recorded them in the afternoon."
The first penned in Portland was the title track, which the singer wrote in the shower while Sforcina laid down a shuffling rhythm. Deep Heat opens the album and includes a flute solo played by Portland resident Steve Berlin, a member of Chicano rock legend, Los Lobos. "Ever since I heard the flute solo in California Dreamin' by the Mamas and the Papas, I've wanted a flute solo in one of my songs," Gow states.
Berlin also contributes baritone saxophone and Hammond organ on the album, which is mostly built around bass, drums and vocals. This marked change from the approach of the ARIA Award-nominated Great Barrier Grief meant that there wasn't enough guitar work to justify bringing over Oh Mercy guitarist Simon Okely (formerly of Perth's Preytells).
So, the three Oh Mercy members, Reid and Berlin spent eight weeks toiling away for about 10 hours a day. "We had time for our morning jogs every second day around Lake Oswego and time for Law & Order SVU in-between takes, and that was about it," Gow laughs.
"I'm really proud of the album and I wanted everything to be unapologetic, including the artwork," he says, referring to late Australian photographer Rennie Ellis' striking shot of dancers at a Brazilian carnival which graces the cover. "I wanted to make a bombastic, zealous, provocative record."