A. Swayze & the Ghosts have been dealt a tough set of cards when you consider existing as a band in this era.
Taking cues from the ’60s and ’70s waves of progressive thinking alternative punk (plus all other wild sub-genres you could possibly think of), they go against the grain in every possible way – from wanting to release records, to not lumping themselves in with the ‘a loose time is a good time’ punk crowd championed by radio stations in 2020.
“It’s something we wanna step the fuck away from. I’d be hesitant to call myself an Australian punk musician because I don’t want to be grouped with those people,” says frontman and chief songwriter Andrew Swayze, regarding the culture that some bands find themselves falling into in Australia.
“That’s so far removed from the way we live. It’s not an accurate representation of us so we don’t want to be lumped in with it.
“I’m sure people find it really fun getting smashed with the boys. I think it’s a waste of time and really shallow…but younger people…that 18-22 demographic – maybe listening to triple j, brushstrokes obviously – they really want to get fucked up and go on partying and not caring. All that shit is so far away from us.
“We want to use our platform to say stuff that’s important, to encourage people to think about not just their lives but the lives of others, and how we can all affect one another.”
This rebellious attitude certainly reels its head on Paid Salvation, the debut LP from the group that drops Friday September 18, via Ivy League records.
Drawing inspiration in equal measure from the likes of The Cash, Iggy Pop and The Ramones, but mashed with a gritty modern aesthetic, it’s an album that bristles with energy and, crucially, integrity.
“I’m sure people find it really fun getting smashed with the boys. I think it’s a waste of time and really shallow…”
“There are a lot of things that we value from that era – integrity with the music is totally a thing, that era was a precursor to music becoming really corporate and companies realising they can make coin by dictating what’s popular to an audience,” muses Andrew.
“A lot of artists had a lot to say – and I feel as an observer and participant that people aren’t saying important things with their music enough.”
Despite taking inspiration from a time gone by, the album in no way sounds dated – rather forward-thinking rock & roll that nods to the past but forges its own path into the (relative) unknown. As Andrew reminds us, copycatting a genre can only take you so far.
“In the studio, we really wanted to pull a sound that wasn’t overly produced, but we want to have progression as well. The ’60s psych scene for example really kicked off again 10 years ago, I was in a psych band too, which is fine, some cool acts came out of that…but completely ripping off an era is a whole different kettle of fish to just borrowing.
“We tried to still do things our own way. We tracked all in the same room live aside from my vocals and little bit of the guitar. It was fairly organic and I think what we wanted to do there was take the conviction and feeling of us being in a room together, because live is where stuff happens with us.
“Even the drifting of tempo and subliminal little things with guitars that can happen when you track live makes the entire thing feel way more real and genuine, so that’s probably the way we’ll continue for the future.”
Despite a constantly evolving music industry with increasingly fickle business models, and a global pandemic halting the band’s touring plans right as their first body of work is ready to drop, Andrew assures us that the group remains optimistic about the future. After all, this is only the first chapter.
“We would be getting geared up to go on tour now. We had some big tour plans cancelled, which kicked us in the guts, but we’re still super excited to get the record out.”