A. Swayze and the Ghosts

It’s a soggy Tuesday morning in Hobart, and the talented boys from garage rock/punk band A. Swayze and the Ghosts have just flown home after launching their single, ‘Reciprocation’, at the Grace Darling in Melbourne.

The high energy band – comprised of Andrew (Swayze) Hasler and very solid, non-spooky ghosts Zac Blain, Hendrik Wipprecht and Ben Simms – treated us to a live performance of ‘Reciprocation’ at Ben’s house, where the single was recorded.

Hobart can witness the band in the flesh this Friday 14th October at Schmørgåsbaag for the Tasmanian single launch, which your author cannot recommend enough – last time I saw them, I gave myself whiplash from all the headbanging.

Afterwards we retired to Preachers, sinking some very civilised pints with mostly civilised banter about their music, history, inspirations and aspirations.

How did you guys get together?

Andrew: Zac, Henny and myself all lived together, and we’ve all played in bands together, but never all three of us at the same time. So we wanted to start a little band.

Henny: Andrew had some songs that he wanted to jam. So we jammed ‘em, and it was good, and we just kept going.

A: Initially we started as “my” band, and then we realised that my band would never be a good band, so these guys started writing songs as well. So it’s been a collaborative thing the whole time. Then Ben joined our band about five, six months ago. Since then we’ve changed a lot, sound-wise, and the dynamic.

Zac: [to Ben] You’ve ruined the experience for all of us.

Ben: It’s what I do.

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How has the sound changed, going from “Andrew’s band” to now?

Z: There’s a lot less Red Hot Chili Peppers. That’s definitely an advantage.

A: It’s a lot less… all pop.

H: It’s been a progression of musical writing ability. We’ve been spending a bit more time with each other, getting to figure out how each of us works.

B: Just continuing to listen to stuff that we all enjoy, showing each other new stuff, keeping it in mind whenever we write something. And having two guitars.

Z: Everyone mentions the fact that there’s two guitars now. [faux American accent] It’s a rock band, for once, full rock band.

A: And Henny was born to be a guitarist.

Z: Henny is the master of metal.

 
How do you go about writing songs? It’s pretty collaborative from the sound of it.

A: A lot of it is ad lib. Then we pull ideas out if that.

H: Or one of us has a basic idea, we bring it to the table, and it gets extended from there.

Z: Some songs happen straight away – we just have a good idea and go for it, other times that doesn’t happen. It’s a pretty vicious process, either cut it or leave it.

B: We’ll only spend one or two sessions actually writing the song and figuring out where the chorus goes, do this for however many bars. But then after we keep playing it, we’ all just start doing our own thing and figure out what sounds good.

Z: Everyone’s domain is their own domain, really. If it really sounds shit, we’ll all call it out.

A: Generally it’s pretty good though. We just trust each other.

Is that how ‘Reciprocation’ came about?

A: That came about with Henny and I getting really stoned and having a jam at home.

H: I think that’s how it happens quite often, actually.

A: Yeah. We were both playing guitar – I tried to play along with Henny and just sucked at it, so I stopped playing the guitar and he just kept going. I put the basic melody and rhythm together.

Z: And then we ran through it about two or three times before we recorded it.

A: It was pretty quick.

Z: And pretty fluid. It didn’t take much.

B: It’s probably one of the bigger turning points in how we sound now, because that was the first new thing we worked on when I joined the band. [to Andrew] And that was the first point where you put down the guitar. That really changed our stage show as well. So now a lot of how we write is based on ‘Reciprocation’.

A: Absolutely. Not necessarily the length, or the style –

B: Just the vibe of it.

A: And the way we write.

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Was that the first time you put down the guitar for a song?

A: Yeah, and now I’ve been trying to do it for more of our tracks. That’s what I want to do anyway. I don’t really want to play the guitar. Leave it to that guy [Henny].

Z: Be the next Bono.

B: Did Bono start on guitar?

Z: Yeah.

B: We’re going to have to have a U2 night now.

Author’s note: Red Magpie does not support, encourage or endorse this idea in any way, shape or form.

What are some of your biggest musical influences?

A: Stooges. Eddy Current Suppression Ring. Thee Oh Sees. Red Hot Chili Peppers. [everyone snorts]

H: Velvet Underground. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. The Rolling Stones.

Z: Parquet Courts. Total Control. Ty Segall. Royal Headache.

B: Sonic Youth. I’ve found a lot of good new musical idols from joining this band, like Total Control – I love them so much now, and I’d never heard of them before.

A: Marijuana. Dingers.

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Your gigs have a real manic high energy going on, they’re incredible to attend [readers: go see ‘em live]. What’s one of the standout gigs you’ve done?

Z: The last few shows that we’ve done. The one at the Grace Darling that we just did on Saturday, it was crazy high energy and really well received. I think the energy that we get comes from the confidence that we have in each other.

The other element is that we’ve all watched other bands, and seen what a difference a high energy performance can make. When the music is high energy, but they’re all just standing there, stagnant on stage, it really detracts from it. Whereas having a lot of energy, a lot of movement – it actually makes people focus on the music more.

That’s really important to us. We don’t just do it as a gimmick.

A: It’s all natural; none of it is ever planned.

H: And if the crowd is giving a good response, it fires you up even more.

B: We’ve all played in bands before where you get up on stage and you only just know what you’re doing, at any moment the songs could fall apart. But with our songs, we just seem to know them inside out, we can do them with our eyes closed, so we don’t have to think about what’s coming next.

A: And just focus on enjoying it. We have such a good chemistry together and enjoy bouncing off each other so much.

Flip it – name one of the best concerts you’ve been to.

H: Eddy Current Suppression Ring, for sure.

A: Mac DeMarco, at Meredith Festival in 2013.

B: Brian Wilson doing ‘Pet Sounds’.

Z: The Black Lips at the Corner Hotel in 2011.

A: I saw Henny in the bedroom playing guitar once.

Z: I saw Henny in the bedroom doing something else once.

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If you could acquire any instrument – if money were no object – what would it be?

Z: An ’86 Travis Bean or –

A: (A guitar.)

Z: – or a 1970s Shergold Masquerader. Which is also a guitar.

A: I’d get a marimba! I’ve always wanted one.

B: That’s pretty doable. We could get you one.

A: We could build one.

H: I’d get an old Marshall amp.

B: I’d go a Minimoog synthesiser. 

What’s next for A. Swayze and the Ghosts?

A: Aside from world domination, we’ve just teamed up with a bloke from Melbourne, Chris Wright, who’s taken on a management role for us. We have really similar ideas and get along incredibly well. So we’ve formulated a bit of a plot that’ll involve releasing two singles in the near future.

Z: The future is releasing more stuff, pretty quickly and in sharp bursts of Swayze goodness, and then just playing as many shows as we can.

B: And in the very near future, we’ve got a single launch.

Hit up A. Swayze and the Ghosts’ single launch with us magpies this Friday 14th October at Schmørgåsbaag. Follow the band on Facebook here, and listen to ‘Reciprocation’, then purchase here. Thanks for the fine chats, amigos. We’re polishing our dancing shoes for Friday.

Photography by the exuberant Eden Meure.

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