The story of how Dan Kelly and Alex Gow met is akin to a muso bro-mance (a word both of them would likely cringe at). True, Kelly can’t remember exactly when he first heard of the Melbourne songwriter, best known as the lead vocalist of indie rock band Oh Mercy, but the friend of a friend mentality was definitely there.
“I was aware of him when his first record came out, Privileged Woes,” says Kelly.
“I think my manager at the time had gone to see him, and I didn’t go but I ran into him pretty soon after…I was talking, they were saying they used to kind of get in underage to see my shows at the Espy, which was cool.”
Speaking to Gow, the (hilarious) lengths he would go to get in underage and see his now friend become a bit clearer. “I think eventually I had my fake ID confiscated. But it wasn’t an issue as my mum would wait around the corner after dropping me off at gigs,” he says. “I would text her once I got in or walk back to the car for a sad lift home when unsuccessful.”
In any case, both Kelly and Gow genuinely respect and love each other’s music. Granted, things got off to an awkward start when they finally met a few years back, but their chemistry was undeniable.
“I’m fairly certain the first time I met Dan was at the old Rob Roy. I might be wrong. I have a shocking memory,” explains Gow. “We were both having a beer in the beer garden. We knew each other but hadn’t really met properly. My second album Great Barrier Grief had just been released and Dan described it as “Brown” music. He was getting pretty new age on me. Dan said that it was a compliment!”
Given that both songwriters have lived in Collingwood and Richmond over the past couple of years, their consequential interactions eventually led to the idea of a national tour. “We were pretty keen about doing something extensive, you know, like a can of torpedos, we just sort of wanted to try it!” says Kelly.
Their upcoming The Australian Dreamers tour, will definitely be a refining moment for both of them as they get to know each other on the road.
“It’s like finding a flat mate for a share house. Like you don’t want to know them so much there are no surprises, but again you don’t want them to be a complete surprise either,” says Kelly.
“We will be doing a lot of driving together in amongst that as well, so it will be kind of like…The Breakfast Club. It could be like that. Or it could be like Wake in Fright!” He laughs.
“Hopefully just lots of sparkling conversation, you know, not too much mayhem.”
In any case, The Australian Dreamers tour is perfect for the pair, although Gow wouldn’t necessarily call himself a ‘dreamer’.
“Dan’s the dreamer, and I love him for it,” explains Gow. “I’m certainly the realist. I take more of a Spock approach to life. He’s way more in tune with the cosmos than me.”
Kelly counters by calling them both ‘romantics’, though his tangent when I ask about his greatest dream shows me exactly what Gow means.
“I have reoccurring dreams, but I tend to forget them after awhile. You know, like running away from someone who’s making sweet potato chips or something,” Kelly says.
That’s the type of “sparkling conversation” you’ll have on the road with Kelly and Gow as they tag-team from Canberra on May 18, all the way to Geelong on June 18.
“It’s a real treat having four albums to pick a set list from, plus a new one in the works. Dan and I are still tailoring the set list as we wanna kind of tag team throughout the set. It’s gonna be real fun!” shares Gow.
Kelly agrees, favouring a candid vibe in his sets. “I think what we’re gonna do is play some Australian bands…ones we’ve found quite influential.”
Never fear though, we’re not talking traditional Aussie music— this definitely isn’t a night at the RSL. Rather, it’s the coming together of two musos who just want to play good music.
“We’re gonna try and find some underground songs that have really affected us, because I don’t want it to feel like covers night down at [the] RSL,” laughs Kelly, who is keen to contribute to some of Gow’s set as well.
“He’s got a great voice. I’m really looking forward to playing guitar on some of his songs. You know, and doing some harmonies.”
So what is an Australian Dreamer? Kelly assures me it’s not your classic Australian dream of the house and family in the suburbs. In fact, their ambition to make a living out of music is closer to the mark, and that’s what will make the tour so quintessentially organic.
“It was kind of funny at first, ‘cause we’re trying to do this,” shares Kelly. “There’s a little bit of a fantasy going on, that you know, you’ll be able to make a life out of it.”
Making a living off music is hard, but Gow and Kelly wouldn’t have it any other way. That’s why they’ve chosen to go on the road together.
“A national solo tour is a lonely concept. So we figured we’d keep each other company,” says Gow.
Kelly has the same thoughts. “Alex and I are doing a tour around Australia because we just want to play. It’s really hard to play a lot in Australia – unless you’re like mega popular.”
If you’re a fan of either of these triple-threats, The Australian Dreamers tour is definitely not an event to be missed. On the back of Kelly’s Leisure Panic being nominated for the 2015 Australian Music Prize and the promise of upcoming single ‘Haters’, as well as Gow performing tracks from Oh Mercy’s latest album When We Talk About Love, you’re in for a great time with a few surprises along the way.
“I think it will be a really good combination of two sort of different styles of song writers. And I reckon, yeah, just tell people to come,” Kelly says.
When Dan Kelly tells you to come, you come. Go and see Alex Gow and Dan Kelly on The Australian Dreamers tour throughout regional Victoria. Tickets available at oztix.com.au.
When & Where: Karova Lounge, Ballarat – May 25, Bridge Hotel, Castlemaine – May 26 & the Workers Club, Geelong – June 18
This cover story was published in Forte Magazine issue #638 on May 21, 2016. View it online here.