A.Swayze & The Ghosts Pulls No Punches On 'Paid Salvation'
Tasmanian quartet A.Swayze & The Ghosts caught up with The Creative Issue to chat about their stellar debut album Paid Salvation.
Known for their passionate live shows, precise musicianship and brutally honest lyrics the band has been impressing fans and critics alike since they burst onto the scene back in 2017.
Having spent the last few years gathering speed, the release of Paid Salvation has seen A. Swayze & The Ghosts established themselves as one of Australia’s premier punk bands.
The Creative Issue: Your debut album Paid Salvation has been long awaited but it’s a brilliant collection of songs. How does it feel to be at the finish line where everyone can now hear the fruits of your labour?
Andrew Swayze: Since day one we’ve set out to make full length records and to finally have one out is a milestone that has subjectively legitimised us as a band. I don’t think we could’ve waited any longer to release these songs, so the discussion to go ahead despite the world’s current crisis was a quick one and for us this record’s release is like a shining light in what has been quite a year of disappointment.
TCI: You’ve mentioned that you feel artists with a platform should really have something to say. Your lyrics are brutally honest and thought provoking, which really brings the songs to another level, but do you ever worry about saying too much, or being misunderstood?
AS: Worry isn’t the right word, but caution is something that should never be ignored. Language is the most powerful tool we have and has to be respected – one misplaced word can completely skew a motive, or even worse it could hurt those who you are trying to advocate for. I spend a lot of time with my lyrics and there are countless iterations of a song before I consider it to be complete.
TCI: You’re from Hobart. Can you describe the scene there, or even the scene across Tasmania as a whole? Do you tend to feel cut off from the rest of the Australian scene or do the shows you play over on the mainland make it feel like you are part of the community? How has being based in Tasmania made things easier/harder for A. Swayze and The Ghosts?
AS: I don’t consider us to be a ‘Tasmanian band’, but I have no doubt that growing up in Hobart has shaped our ethos and sound profoundly. The music scene down here is small but of quality. Tasmanian artists here have a sort of natural punk/outsider mentality which I attribute to being segregated from the attention of big business and the prospects of fame. We immediately felt welcomed by the wider Australian community when we started heading over to the mainland to play shows a few years ago, and within that wider community we’ve made a bunch of great friends and connections. It was probably harder to get attention earlier on, being from a small, often ignored island, but it’s such a great place to live so we never really cared.
TCI: Edgar Wright added your song ‘Mess of Me’ to his top songs of 2020, and also ‘Connect to Consume’ made it onto the new Tony Hawk Pro Skater game. Did you see that coming?
AS: We’re really proud of this record we’ve made and we expected it would be received well by others, but it is surreal to receive updates on its reach like the two you’ve mentioned. As a nine year old I certainly never expected that a song I helped write would end up on a rehashed version of my then-favorite Nintendo 64 game. Weird.
TCI: You worked with Dean Tuza for Paid Salvation. The album was recorded live, both to avoid sounding over produced, and to capture the energy and feel of your live show. Can you paint a mental picture of the recording sessions for us?
AS: Dean is honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met and has become such a good friend to all of us. He’s a very talented music producer and got the absolute best out of us without compromising our integrity or trying to steer the band toward his own intentions. His process was entirely focused on capturing the energy of the band and always held conviction as the paramount. We tracked everything in Melbourne, aside from ‘Suddenly’ which was done in Hobart with our mate Nic White. In four days we recorded all the instrumentals (sans a few guitar overdubs) in the one room. The room is in St. Charles Studio in Northcote and is small and has no window into the control room so it actually felt like we were just back at home in the rehearsal studio. These four days were huge but rewarding and the atmosphere was buzzing with creativity and excitement.
TCI: You have an egalitarian approach to songwriting. It feels like that has given you your own sonic fingerprint. In some ways it’s a rare occurrence to find four people who can have enough respect for one another to work in that way creatively. How did you get to that point as a band and how do you negotiate differences of opinion?
AS: It’s been slowly evolving since we started the band four years ago. Initially we were a three-piece and I was the principle songwriter (hence the name of the band) but it wasn’t long before the other two became more involved and we introduced Ben as a forth member/songwriter. I think what happened early on for us was the irrefutable discovery that we are all very competent songwriters and four minds are more powerful than one. Despite our now fluidity in the process, there have been a lot of arguments and confrontations of our egos – it can be a bitter pill to swallow when someone tells you that, in fact, a part you wrote sounds shit or needs changing. I remember having a pivotal conversation, where we laid down the golden rule: “If someone suggests it, we try it and respect the idea”. We are all very competent songwriters and equally creative, it would be a waste of talent to ignore someone’s suggestion.
TCI: Keeping with that line of thinking, between the four of you, where do your influences overlap and where do they differ?
AS: Well, I pretty much only listen to my own band and music from 30+ years ago, the other three are far more on top of contemporary music so there is a difference there.
TCI: Your live shows are extremely energetic and intense. How do you go about maintaining that energy for the duration of a set?
AS: There are a couple of dubious industry secrets that we’ve taken advantage of many times, but at the root of it there is a natural feeling of adrenaline that comes on with great intensity about two minutes before we get called onto stage and it doesn’t dissipate until well after the performance. Thrashing about violently for an hour or so comes at a cost though – I went through a stage of vomiting wildly after every performance and we’ve had a fair share of aches a pains in the days following. It’s a rare thing in life to have the complete attention of a sea of people who will bask at your every move, rather than finding it confronting I find it impossible to not get off on and I fucking love it.