Sticky Fingers Talk New Album ‘Westway’ And Using Your Illusion
You’ve heard them in the Hottest 100 and read about their wild tour antics with bulging eyes. Five boys from Sydney with the power to summon a crowd so fanatical it beggars belief. Like a great Stones record before them, their name is Sticky Fingers, and if nothing else, you can hold them personally responsible for bringing bucket hats back from the brink.
Kicking back in the beer garden of one of their local Newtown haunts, bassist Paddy Cornwall and guitarist Seamus Coyle are at ease. They’ve successfully come out the other side of 2015, a year marred by every possible form of excess and one that even their team thought might break them. In amongst the dizzying highs of a critically acclaimed second record, Land of Pleasure, and sold out shows abroad, the Sticky Fingers members reached breaking point, both physically and mentally.
“Life on the road makes the most sense,” Coyle ponders.
“But you really lose a grasp on your place in the world,” Cornwall adds. “When we stop playing shows we all get too much time to actually question what is becoming of us as human beings,” he chuckles. “If we can just hold it together and not kill each other and just get this record out and tour it, we will be fucking cheering.”
For the band, much of January was spent tucked away in Thailand’s Karma Sound Studios recording their latest album, Westway (The Glitter & The Slums). Somehow it’s not at all surprising to hear the bassist mention that they were only an hour outside the sex capitol of the world. “We didn’t really get sexy with the ladies,” he notes, “but we did get sexy with the music.” Right now Sticky Fingers are holding all the cards: the band can seamlessly shift between indie rock, pop, psychedelia – even reggae – and still land somewhere north of aurally pleasant.
“We never feel confined to anything, we feel like we’ve established this position where we can do whatever we want and we’ll get away with it,” Cornwall says of their sound. And he’s right. The two guitarists attribute the band’s success to their status as a patient independent act; Cornwall is proud to admit there’s never been any point where they’ve tried to shove a product down people’s throats. “People don’t like being told what they want,” Coyle says.
“We’ve been incredibly lucky as a band within the press and also within the realm of the public,” says Cornwall. “There’s less pressure because we feel like we have a load of support and I think that’s because we’ve done the DIY thing for so long. We’ve built it all up ourselves so we have complete contact with all of the people who give a shit – there’s nothing between us and the people that like our music.”
“We had no money at all. There was lots of sleeping in parks and petrol stations, or meeting a lovely lady, or sometimes not so lovely lady…”
Arguably less in your face than the Beyhive, the StiFi fan base is an impressive one: on more than one occasion, the band has sold out a national tour without even announcing it. Whether or not their fans are tech-savvy supersleuths making “just in case” visits to Ticketek, it suggests that those in the know, know about Sticky Fingers. On the main stage at Splendour in the Grass this year, the Sydney act wrangled a jaw-dropping crowd and the energy was palpable; revellers from all walks of life spread across every inch of the grassy amphitheatre, spilling onto the nearby pathways just to get within earshot of those laid-back, groove-heavy tunes. When you witness them live, it all seems to click. Wrapped in an oversized fur coat with glittery square specs to match, frontman Dylan Frost’s aesthetic harkens back to the late ‘60s, that brief moment in time where the likes of Bowie, Jagger, Hendrix and Morrison all swaggered about the Earth at once.
Right now Sticky Fingers are in the midst of a US tour following a month-long trek around Europe. Rather than hastily make the musician’s pilgrimage to the land of the free, the band initially held off, opting to cultivate stronger ties at home.
“It was such a nice surprise when we got there and we were actually selling some shows out and there were people singing along,” Coyle says. “We had no idea what to expect. Whereas Europe, we went in blind, poor and cold.”
“We had no money at all,” Cornwall adds. After paying their own way to the motherland, the band’s manager casually explained that there weren’t enough funds for accommodation.
“There was lots of sleeping in parks and petrol stations, or meeting a lovely lady, or sometimes not so lovely lady…” Cornwall says. “But both Europe and America are on the up.”
The myth that surrounds Sticky Fingers is fascinating, even if only for the fact that they’ve made it near impossible to determine fact from fiction. When you read that Frost once walked past a man on the footpath eating a kebab and took a bite without breaking his stride, it seems like only something the frontman of Sticky Fingers would do. Video may have killed the radio star but it’s a well-worn theory that the Internet has damn near stamped the rock star out of existence.
“Rock stars never really existed in the first place,” Cornwall considers. “To be a rock star is using your illusion.” It’s an interesting idea; rock stars let a persona take hold on stage, so what’s to stop them extending the performance to their everyday lives? In the film clip for recent single ‘Outcast At Last’, the band is surrounded by more souped up autos than Rick Ross. “In reality, we don’t own those cars, we drive around in a fucking Honda Jazz,” Cornwall says. “We’re losers, but do people think that? Probably not. I reckon a lot of bands don’t really take advantage of the lifestyle as they should, but I think we’re pretty good at it.” It’s all about how you use your illusion.