A. Swayze & The Ghosts ready to become Australia's thinking and feeling men of punk

PUNK WITH HEART: Hobart band A. Swayze & The Ghosts are preparing to release their debut album Paid Salvation, which has already attracted attention from iconic UK label Rough Trade. Picture: Keith Deverell
PUNK WITH HEART: Hobart band A. Swayze & The Ghosts are preparing to release their debut album Paid Salvation, which has already attracted attention from iconic UK label Rough Trade. Picture: Keith Deverell

ANDREW Swayze describes himself as an "anti-rock star".

For the past nine months the frontman of Tasmanian post-punk band A. Swayze & The Ghosts has been sober.

Usually it takes bands the third or fourth album to realise the pitfalls of substance abuse and its ill-effects on creativity.

However, the 29-year-old Swayze grasped that reality prior to recording The Ghosts' debut album Paid Salvation.

"I really took advantage of the free booze and drugs for a long time and prior to that as well," Swayze says.

"It just wore me down and it's no good. I don't drink anymore.

"We're all fairly chilled these days when it comes to the consumption of things."

It's a far cry from the beginnings of A. Swayze & The Ghosts four years ago. The four-piece began as a group of Hobart housemates who would entertain themselves and friends in "very drug and alcohol-fuelled" parties.

"My personal life has changed dramatically for the better and creatively 100 per cent," Swayze says.

"I used to think that I had to get pissed or high in order to make good music or good art in general, because that's what you do apparently. It worked for a little while and then you can't do it without it.

"Now I've got a clear mind and I can think. I feel like I've just become intelligent again. I feel like I killed my brain cells for so long and now I can write and create with some proper thought.

"I know it's coming from me now, not the alcohol or whatever.

The Ghosts' fast-paced interplay of post-punk guitars in the style of Gang Of Four, The Stooges or The Saints, a touch of David Bowie glam and modern indie quickly outgrew Hobart's insular music scene.

In 2017 they released their self-titled four-track EP. It made an impression, but vast improvement was just around the corner.

In 2018 everything changed with the release of the song, Suddenly. The song, which features a rollicking riff reminiscent of The Sweet's glam rock classic Ballroom Blitz, led The Ghosts to book their first tour of the UK.

A. Swayze & The Ghosts - Suddenly

Their publicist for the tour happened to sit next to Rough Trade Records boss Geoff Travis regularly at Arsenal English Premier League matches. One day at Emirates Stadium during the half-time interval the publicist played Suddenly to Travis on his phone.

"The next day he [Travis] got on the phone and said, 'I wanna release this track of yours'," Swayze says. "It was pretty crazy. One of those lucky right place at the right time kind of things."

Swayze and his bandmates Hendrik Wipprecht (guitar), Zackary Blain (drums) and Ben Simms (bass) subsequently signed with Rough Trade, joining the likes of The Smiths, The Strokes, The Libertines and Arcade Fire to release music on the iconic independent label.

The lyrics for Suddenly were actually written by Swayze's now wife, Olivia. It details a young woman's perspective of modern misogyny and toxic masculinity, which are both issues Swayze addresses with clarity on Paid Salvation.

"The thing I did want to achieve with that song, was I wanted young men especially, to listen to that song," he says.

"Young men that might be influenced by bands like ours and ask the questions they need to ask. When I was growing up, or at least in the culture I was in down here in Hobart, these things weren't questioned.

"I never mistreated women as a kid, I was always a good fella, but a lot of the people around me would and it was never a questioned thing. No one ever spoke up.

"I'm sure that's still the case in a lot of communities around the world. I think it's important for people like myself, who've been given some sort of pedestal to speak to a younger audience, to offer an insight that they might need in those formative years."

In fact, A. Swayze & The Ghosts are an Australian outlet of a growing worldwide trend of intellectual punk bands, led by Bristol's Idles, which combine violent and abrasive music with lyrics about unity and breaking down masculine stereotypes.

SELF REFLECTION: Andrew Swayze, far right, gave up alcohol and drugs nine months ago and says it's boosted his creativity. Picture: Rick Clifford

SELF REFLECTION: Andrew Swayze, far right, gave up alcohol and drugs nine months ago and says it's boosted his creativity. Picture: Rick Clifford

Across Paid Salvation Swayze explores the commodification of religion on the title track, the lack of access for Tasmanian women to abortion clinics (It's Not Alright) and substance abuse (Mess Of Me).

Some might say it doesn't sound very punk rock. But Swayze believes he challenges norms, which is exactly what good punk should do.

As he says in the band's press release, "It really shits me off when bands have this pedestal and they have the ability to influence so much around them and they waste it by singing about stupid shit like going to the pub or having a smoke break at work."

Indeed, you won't hear Swayze sings songs like Pub Feed or Smoko by The Chats.

"There's a misconception about what it means to be in a punk band or an aggressive band," he says.

"There's that patriarchy environment and it has been for a long time and it's very hedonistic as well.

"The world is changing. It's not about hedonism anymore and being a big man.

"We're thinkers and we want to embrace a future where everyone is accepted and not marginalised.

"I think it's part of our generation and it's not about being some hectic drug-using playboy rock star anymore. At least not for our band."

A.Swayze & The Ghosts release Paid Salvation on September 18.

This story A.Swayze & The Ghosts find salvation in cleaner punk ethos first appeared on Newcastle Herald.