The following was written during an internship with the podcast department at Mushroom Group where I wrote a series of articles about each episode of Some of My Best Work. Due to a website redesign none were published. These were left unedited.
Alex Gow is behind Oh Mercy, a band/project now known as Perfect Moment.
He says Lady Eucalyptus is his best work.
The song appeared on Oh Mercy’s 2015 album When We Talk About Love.
Lady Eucalyptus had its origins during Oh Mercy’s Deep Heat album sessions, though it was ultimately left aside.
Inspiration came while swimming in LA, when Alex noticed a familiar sight.
“When I arrived in LA I went straight for Glassell Park’s swimming pool, and while I was doing my laps, I noticed that the floor of the pool was littered in eucalyptus leaves. I was struck that I was on the other side of the world, but I had the same view as I would at Fitzroy pool,” he said.
At the same time, Alex was reading Metamorphosis by 1st century Roman poet Ovid.
The book features several stories, but the ones about Roman gods pursing women stuck out to Alex.
“Other gods took pity on these women and transformed them into trees. These trees took on the attributes of these women, which is something that I like to do on my songs, to attribute human attributes to objects or to nature.”
“I wanted to mythologize the woman that I had in my head when I was away, the person that I’d left behind. So this was my go at making my own mythology and trying to memorialize her.”
While recording Deep Heat, Alex was inspired by bands like The Velvet Underground and The Clash to inform its sound, but it meant Lady Eucalyptus wouldn’t make the cut.
“Deep Heat‘s DNA was really bombastic and colourful, and this song is gentle. I tried to make it fit and I did a few different versions of it in the style of Deep Heat, but it sucked.”
Although Lady Eucalyptus didn’t fit with Deep Heat, Alex hung on to it and brought it back for his next album.
“When I made When We Talk About Love, this song had lasted the test of time, and I was like, this time I’ll build the record around the song.”
The song took influences from the sounds of the 60s, which can be heard in the strings and lyrics.
Alex said he felt inspired by singers like Burt Bacharach, Dusty Springfield, Diana Ross, Leonard Cohen, and Bob Dylan, among others.
“If I listen to it from the next room, and it’s a bit muffled, I can kind of just imagine that I’m Scott Walker. So it’s very intentional. I’m trying to place myself in that world.”
Reflecting on the song, Alex highlighted one lyric which stands out to him.
I swam the great canal / And I cast my fears aside / I had to learn to love the view / From the other side.
“I liked that because it represented where I was at. To remove myself and deal with what I’ve done, I had to learn to love the view from the other side.”
The relationship which inspired those lyrics didn’t last, but Alex said he was happy the song came out of it.
After discussing Lady Eucalyptus’ influences of swimming pools, and someone left behind, Alex has since realised the song is about something else.
“I set out to mythologize this wonderful woman and I didn’t really achieve that, because I just wrote about myself in the end. As much as I like to think that this is about this woman, the Lady Eucalyptus, unfortunately it’s just mostly about me. Classic.”
It has since become a favourite at gigs, with rowdy crowds calming down as they hear it play.
It’s one of the many reasons Alex calls it his best work.
“When I think about this song being some of my best work, that implies that there is a collection of work that is not. That empowers me to keep writing and to understand that not everything has to be a major work. So when I think about this song, I feel glad that I put something down on tape that represents me well. It allows me to just keep working.”
A lot has changed since 2015, and Alex is releasing new music as Perfect Moment.
A debut EP was released in 2020, produced by Kim Moyes of The Presets.
More music is promised to be in the works, perhaps his best is yet to come.