Album Walkthrough: A. Swayze & The Ghosts break down their debut, Paid Salvation
Over the last four years, the Tasmanian group have put in the work to blossom into something special. Now, it all pays off.
Since their earliest entrance back around the cusp of 2016/2017, you had the feeling A. Swayze & The Ghosts were in it for the long run. Their 2017-released, self-titled debut EP presented a vision you wouldn't expect from a band just starting out; the band's namesake and frontman Andrew Swayze leading the rest of the Tasmanian-raised outfit - Hendrik Wipprecht, Zac Blain, Benjamin Simms - through the highs and lows of DIY, rough-around-the-edges alt-rock with the rush of their sound at its most manic but also the subtlety of them when stripped-back and intimate.
Since then, the group have shared singles at a near-yearly rate - one at a time, emphasising quality over quantity - and it's clear it was all paying off; the group soon crossing into international waters they are now a mainstay of the rock/punk festival world, performing at institutions such as The Great Escape and Shaky Knees Festival. Back home, they've played everything from Splendour in the Grass to BIGSOUND, and their recordings show why they've become such a favourite on the live stage - it'd be hard to see their live show as anything but explosive, considering the work they put out.
They're a group that have put in the work to break free of Australia's isolation shackles and emerge in the greater international rock market; every move they do - from singles and tours to festival appearances and god knows what else - reflective of a band that have this clear vision and will put everything into making it become real-life. On their debut album Paid Salvation - which arrives today after a lengthy, incredibly hyped wait - this all begins to pay off, at least on a level A. Swayze & The Ghosts haven't seen in the past.
Paid Salvation is a definitively A. Swayze album so jam-packed with their charm and spirit that it would be impossible for anyone else to make the exact same record. Across the space of 12 tracks, they encapsulate their career thus far and the sounds that have gotten them to the point they're at today - full of energy, flavour and just down-right fun - while showing potential future paths, always keeping things open as they dance in their versatility and range that on this record, stretches from the foundations of 90s-era rock worthy for a stadium right through to punchy punk and the slightest smattering of indie.
It's an album that's always concise and focused, rushing with an energy and pace that's full of these blink-and-you-miss-it bursts of brilliance. Nothing Left To Do whips up a storm of thick-layered guitar and frantic percussion that quietens down before just three minutes, while Marigold - a song that would unexpectedly slap you for six and leave you rattled - doesn't lose its rush until its sudden end. Every song is as fierce and elevated as it can possibly be, but at this point, would you expect anything less from a band that have come to champion this over the last few years?
It's why A. Swayze & The Ghosts' debut album feels exactly like a representation of the band's most brilliant moments distilled into 12 tracks. It's not afraid to tackle the big stuff - the tall poppy syndrome encountered being an international break-out; social media's grips on the world; herd mentality and echo chambers - but it'll always do so with a ruckus-inducing fun that charades its often-heavier lyricism, encouraging you to listen it when you want to, but just kick up and have a great time when you don't want to think about all the worries in the world.
"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. If you’re given this audience, I think you have to have something to say. And I definitely intend on abusing that right," says Andrew on the record. "I want people to go, ‘I love that song it makes me dance but I also appreciate the honesty'. I want the melodies and the instrumentals to be accessible for people from all sorts of backgrounds, but I also want everyone to fucking listen to what I’m saying as well."
It's difficult to coat heavier themes like the ones Paid Salvation embraces with another lightness that people will still want to listen, but A. Swayze & The Ghosts do it with ease. Take a dive into the band's heralding moment of a debut album below, and underneath, learn about the album's inner themes and creation with a track-by-track walkthrough from the band themselves.
It's Not Alright
Starting in 2017, women were forced to travel from Tasmania to Melbourne in order to have elected pregnancy termination, and upon arriving they'd potentially be accosted by imbeciles protesting against their right to have the treatment at all. I believe in a person's right to have autonomy over their body; I consider abortion to be a part of that. On face value, this song seems to be very 'pop' and lyrically shallow, but I like the accessibility this style gives the listener while delivering a message they can choose to read into however they like.
Written in one session, listening back to the original phone recording, not much has changed. It’s really important to all of us that we capture the urgency of our live shows on record, and with Suddenly we found a balance between some of our more garage-y punk roots, and the more complex and interesting writing styles that we have been striving for.
Nothing Left to Do
I don't generally write love songs as they're so predictable and can bore the shit out of me. This one was tough to finish, it took me months and tens of iterations before I ended up coming full circle and sticking to the lyrics and melody I'd first written.
I'm conflicted between two entirely different personalities which can produce a lot of blurred lines between fact and fiction and then what I choose to present to people. The sole person who has complete access to behind the scenes of Andrew Swayze is my wife Olivia, I cannot hide or look away from her.
Connect to Consume
We have exchanged honesty, beauty, ugliness, boredom–reality–for an abstract museum inside a digitised screen, curated by big business but sustained by us. We have volunteered to pace the halls blindly, loudly. We are promised the pain of life will numb. We are given a rule for everything. We submit, we succeed. We do not feel; we do not need to anymore. We have accepted the prison and adorned the uniforms under the guise of convenience. We have connected and now we will consume.
I read an article published by the BBC that made me feel nauseous. In August 2018, two men, Ricardo Flores and his uncle Alberto Flores, were beaten and burned to death by an angry mob in a Mexican town called Acatlán – a place known for its marigold and walnut trees. The two men were falsely accused of kidnapping children in the local area. As it turns out the kidnappings didn't even happen. It was all just vicious rumours and community hysteria trafficked through WhatsApp and Facebook. The men were thrown onto the steps outside the local police station where they had been housed for their own safety, then executed. There was no trial, just violent retribution – all because of a rumour.
I took the theme of a great flood, which takes place in the Bible, and imagined it as a reality in the world we live in today. The selection process of people who would make it onto “god's” ark is a simple one – the wealthy and the self-appointed religious, who've killed god and used its name to justify action/inaction. These false-profits would survive while the poor and disadvantaged become martyrs in the drowning of the planet. The people on the ark paid for their salvation while we all die along with our belief in the morals they preach.
Mess of Me
This song discusses inheritance. Not the conventional heirloom, but the type of negative trait you may learn as a child voyeur of your surroundings. Hendrik brought the song to us with the chorus "you're always trying to make a mess of me". Since I don't have any saboteur but myself, I changed his lyrics and wrote the rest around the new chorus.
Our band comes from a small community, which is generally supportive but some members can also very quickly brand you as a sell-out with any kind of commercial success. It's petty, but I hate that shit so much and I wish their keyboards would burst into flames and engulf them. When we started touring more and getting played on the radio we'd hear things people would say about our band behind our backs that were so inaccurate it was actually comedic, hence writing this song completely tongue-in-cheek as if to “submit” to their accusations of our motives.
Funnily enough one of the people I wrote this song “for” came up to me after a set we played and told me he loved the track... I couldn't be happier hearing that.
I don't have a problem with people consuming news or their need to remain updated. I do, however, have an issue with pseudo-journalism and a flow of information directed by corporate or political agenda. It's not their fault, but people base far too much of their opinion off bias hand-fed to them by media outlets without questioning who benefits from the spread of this misinformation.
Hendrik and I wrote the guitar parts for this song one afternoon on his bed. Originally it comprised of two guitars interlocking throughout the track, though when playing it as a band I couldn't manage to keep up while singing too. Hendrik messed with the tuning on his guitar so he could play both his and my part simultaneously.
Lyrically the track has themes of subservience, politics, ecocide and immigration. All very topical in modern-day Australia and infuriating to witness. The chorus vocal delivery is the most brutal amongst the record – it had to be an anger-fuelled explosion from me to the listener to stress how fucked the people and policies are behind these topics, while the middle section is slow and moody to emulate feelings of hopelessness and defeat.
There's no point in trying to give meaning to this song, it's meaningless.
I love this track's elements of early house music in it's Oberheim DMX drum machine, repetitive bass-line and guitar silence in sections, which were suggested by our producer Dean. The original version of the song was far more 'rock', and frankly not nearly as interesting. With the change of style it just needed a fun melody, so I gave it one with a focus on phonetics rather than what's actually being said.
This was brought to us by Hendrik one night at in our studio as a short fun song he'd written years before. The lyrics were his too. I'm fairly sure they alluded to the paranoia you feel when smoking pot, but I read into them as a weird homage to the delusions of mental illness so I re-worked them and added the 'psycho passion' section to fit that description.
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