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“Adrenaline carries us through”: A. Swayze & The Ghosts chat their wild live show

If you’ve never seen A. Swayze & The Ghosts live, you’ve been missing out. The Tasmania-based four-piece put on a show like no other band currently making the rounds—there’s a real sense of chaos in their live performance; like something really bad could go wrong at any moment.

Before they bring their frenetic energy to The Marlborough Hotel on August 16th for our Issue 12 Launch Party, we caught up with the band to chat about their origins, their upcoming debut album… and, of course, their batshit insane live show.

We’re pretty chilled people, generally… then we hop on stage and it all changes“: A. Swayze & The Ghosts chat their wild live show.

HAPPY: I’m interested in the timeline of this band… because you were all playing in bands together long before A. Swayze & The Ghosts, right?

ANDREW: Yeah, we were all playing in Hobart bands together. I think Zac was playing in about six bands when we started, he was really productive. We had heaps of shit going on. Me and Henny, both of our bands kind of stopped and I was writing a lot of songs, so I kind of roped both those guys into starting something with me. We started as a three-piece; I was on guitar, Henny was on bass, and Zac was on drums. We’d jam in his bedroom. We’d go in there, press record, play a song, and finish. It was super drug-fuelled, super alcohol-fuelled. Pretty much nonsense. It all happened in this share house, so it was a pretty wild lifestyle. Then we went in to record an album—a bit too early—and the record ended up being fucked because we took too many drugs. Then we asked Benny to come in and play the keys, and we bonded really well. So we asked Ben to join the band, and he acquiesced. That was the turning point. That’s when we started taking it really seriously. The birth of the band was definitely when Benny joined. The rest is history.

HAPPY: And you were always operating under the name A. Swayze & The Ghosts?

ANDREW: Yep, that was always the name. But we hadn’t been interstate yet, we had no manager, we hadn’t been signed, we hadn’t done anything. We were just a three-piece garage band out of Hobart getting fucked up and playing shows. Benny probably changed all that.

HAPPY: Does that album you recorded still exist somewhere?

ANDREW: Yeah, maybe somewhere…

BEN: I think I’ve got it on my computer.

HAPPY: It’ll never see the light of day?

ANDREW: It’ll never see the light of day. We just weren’t ready for it.

BEN: Some of the songs made it onto our first EP… it wasn’t a complete ride-off. But yeah, as you said, probably just weren’t ready. That’s probably not my place to say… but from a songwriting point of view, the songs were good. It was just a matter of rushing into it.

ANDREW: We’ve changed a lot since then. Everything’s changed. We just finished our first actual record, and we’re really proud of that. We think it’s awesome. We were ready this time. We took it really seriously, and we put a lot of effort into it. Now we’ve got something we’re all really proud of.

HAPPY: Did this new album just start after the EP? Or was this something that had always been in the works?

ANDREW: Yeah, well that’s where it gets a bit tricky. When we scrapped that album, we just threw it out. It was done. Then we signed some management, who we’re still with, and they had some ideas about maybe getting back into the studio. But they said that maybe we should try an EP, so we took that advice. We took that EP really seriously. After we released that, we toured and stuff, then decided to get back in the studio and do what we always wanted to do—which is a full-length.

BEN: Yeah I think it was something we talked about from the beginning, it was just a matter of finding the right time. But it’s hard. For one thing, it’s really expensive. But now we’re super happy with it.

HAPPY: Did you ever find doing a full-length album intimidating? Because everyone seems to have higher expectations of an album…

ANDREW: Yeah well it’s another step up. You only get one shot at your debut, but we were ready. So it wasn’t so much intimidating, it was just really exciting. It was a really easy process actually. There were no problems at all. We’d just been getting more and more excited for three years.

HAPPY: I feel like with bands, it’s so hard to gain momentum, and it’s so easy to lose it. How do you guys think you held onto that excitement for such a long time?

ANDREW: I think there was an internal momentum and drive right at the beginning, and that just hasn’t dwindled.

BEN: And we were all really excited about one another too. So regardless of what’s going on, it always feels like we’ve got momentum. I think we’ve been pretty lucky with the momentum of the band, but even if it wasn’t there, I think we’d be doing the same thing.

ANDREW: We’re not overly concerned with what other people are doing. We’re never really measuring ourselves against other bands, and I think from that, we get our constant motivation.

HAPPY: Do you identify any big differences between the new album and the EP?

ANDREW: Yeah, the songs are probably more musical. As in, the thought processes that went into writing them are a bit thicker. There are some really abrasive songs on this record, some really hard-hitting, tough tracks…

BEN: But they’re also really melodic as well. It doesn’t sound anything like it, but it’s like taking one of the Beach Boys’ first records and comparing it to Pet Sounds. I’m not saying it’s anything like Pet Sounds at all… but there are heaps of layers and complexities to it.

ANDREW: Yeah, totally. But it’s definitely not over-produced. It’s still two guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. It’s just a bit more interesting, I think.

HAPPY: I want to talk about your live show. I’ve caught you guys twice now, and I swear both times, things have been right on the edge of going really wrong. Has anything really bad ever actually happened? Because I feel like I’ve seen you almost injure yourself a couple of times…

ANDREW: I’ve actually got a cracked rib at the moment from falling on the stage last week. So I’m getting around on pain killers.

BEN: Zac’s got a bandaged foot from last week as well.

ANDREW: Yeah, injuries are pretty rife. We once played a festival that I won’t name, but we played a festival in February in Northern Tasmania by the name of Party In The Paddock… and they gave me a really expensive radio microphone, and I got really carried away. I was in the audience, having a dance and whatnot. Anyway, it was the end of the section, and I threw the microphone like 30 meters up onto the stage, and it hit the stage. I got back up there and the sound guy’s yelling through the foldback “what did ya fucking do that for?” And he turned the whole front-of-house mix down, just as some form of punishment. It was the pettiest little thing. Like, sure I probably shouldn’t have thrown the microphone that far…

BEN: But it wasn’t even his!

ANDREW: Yeah exactly, it wasn’t his fucking mic. But anyway, there’s been a bit of shit like that. But nothing seriously bad has happened yet. No one’s dead yet, touch wood.

HAPPY: We’ve still got a long night ahead of us.

ANDREW: Well that’s exactly right.

HAPPY: Was it a conscious effort to develop that really wild live show?

ANDREW: It was never a conscious thing. It never is. Sometimes we’re knackered. We might have just played four shows in a row, and then we get up on stage like “fuck, how are we gonna do this?” But then it’s like BOOM. Nah, don’t use BOOM, that’s a shit adjective.

BEN: It’s like KAPOW.

ANDREW: It’s more like WOWEE.

HAPPY: WOWEE?

ANDREW: COWABUNGA.

HAPPY: Yeah, let’s go with COWABUNGA.

ANDREW: Yeah, that’s a good one. But yeah, just adrenaline carries us through. Earlier on in the piece, chemical enhancement probably played a big part, but they were probably terribly played. These days, we just love it.

BEN: We’re kind of use to it. There’s not really any other way we can play. We just keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’d be weird not being energetic.

ANDREW: It’s kind of like having a split personality. Because we’re pretty chilled people, generally… then we hop on stage and it all changes.

Catch A. Swayze & The Ghosts live at our Issue 12 Launch Party on August 16th at The Marlborough Hotel. More info here.

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August 1, 2019