Sydney heroes Sticky Fingers have enjoyed quite the rise to the top. Coming from humble beginnings cutting their teeth around the Sydney area, putting in the hard yards gigging in small-capacity pubs and clubs before releasing their debut album Caress Your Soul and rocketing into the national consciousness off the back of hits like Australia Street, These Girls and the title track from that album.
They’ve toured nationally and globally since then, dropping album number two Land Of Pleasure last year and blowing up even more. They’ve been hard at work in 2015, slogging out a tour of the US and Canada, getting in the studio for their much anticipated third album and playing a homecoming show at The Enmore in Sydney that sold out before the band even announced it. Somewhere in that stretch they found the time to record a Stickies-flavoured cover of The Specials 1981 hit, Ghost Town, a track that takes aim squarely at Sydney’s lockout laws and the effect they’ve had on the local music and arts scene.
We had the privilege of a chat with Paddy Cornwall, the charismatic, good-natured and outstandingly articulate bassist for Sticky Fingers earlier this week.
Hey Paddy, how are you going?
Yeah man I’m good. Got a fairly chilled out day today. I’m actually pretty hungover from the weekend still so I’m just picking up all the pieces once again. We’ve got that Newcastle show on this weekend so I guess for the rest of this week we’ll just try and stay out of trouble and keep writing songs for this album we’re supposed to be recording in December.
Beautiful, now by ‘that Newcastle show’ you of course mean This That Festival this weekend. It’s coinciding with Halloween, are you boys dressing up at all?
Oh we always dress up mate. Nah, I hadn’t really thought that far ahead yet. In my opinion some of the heads of the members of this band are already scary enough as is so we might just leave it this time.
Fair enough, wasn’t sure if you still had the old Freddy Crabs costumes kicking about anywhere. Could be good to crack out again.
(Laughs) That actually wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
And your present hangover is from your homecoming show at The Enmore on Saturday night, which you guys sold out without even announcing. I imagine the atmosphere would have been through the roof there, how’d it go?
Yeah it was insane man. Also to be completely honest with you, there’s an element of playing hometown shows that I actually find quite stressful because you’ve got so many of your mates who want to come. And it’s kind of ironic because for the first five years in this band we had to beg all of our mates to come along so there wasn’t nobody there and now the second five years has been trying to get them all in but they can’t so that’s quite weird.
I also tend to be the most nervous at Sydney shows as well because I care about what my friends and family think a lot more than people who I don’t know but yeah, it was a great night.
And you all did a bit for a charity by the name of Youth Off The Streets before the gig, how did the fundraising go?
Yeah we did a meat raffle, we just thought it would be funny and it was. We had a guy named Charlie MacLean who’s the singer of my dad’s band 50 Million Beers present the meat raffle, but get this right, he’s such a funny bastard that I think most people in the crowd didn’t know what the hell was going on and I think the result is what shows that. The meat tray cost $100 and in the end we received $132 bucks (laughs).
Well hey, at least you broke even.
Yeah that’s it, so we’ve written a sweet little cheque for Youth Off The Streets for $132, we hope they can put it towards something.
$132 big ones that they hopefully don’t spend all at once. We’ll move on to the other big news for you boys at the moment which is Ghost Town, your cover of The Specials song which dropped in the last fortnight and is your first new material since Land Of Pleasure dropped last year.
Yeah that’s it my man, and I guess we kind of just wanted to put something out just to give to all of our fans while they’re waiting for album number three. We were planning on being able to drop something from the album a little bit earlier than this but just with all of the touring and stuff the process is just kind of taking a little longer. Don’t worry though, we’re not about to chuck a Chinese Democracy on you. We’re not as precious… yet.
Axl Rose leaves some big shoes to fill.
Yeah we definitely won’t be like that. You’ll be hearing the first takes off the new album early next year around February or March.
Well even though it is a cover, it’s good that you didn’t leave us hanging, I know there are a lot of your fans out there fiending for new Stickies. I wanted to ask how you guys approach that song in terms of putting your own imprint on it?
Well one thing that we did is we figured out that the chorus parts with the ‘la-la-la’s’ and everything that those melodies still sound really beautiful. We changed all the chords to major chords from minor chords so if you listen to The Specials’ version it sounds a lot spookier and ghost-y I guess but we sort of brought a whole kind of nostalgic vibe.
We just heard that song, I think someone was playing it in the car and we were driving through Kings Cross at the time and we were just laughing about how well-suited the soundtrack was to what we were sort of seeing, which was just the dead fucking streets of what was once a very populated and fun place to be out at night.
Absolutely. I want to move on to the reason Sydney’s become such a ghost town in a second but I wanted to ask if you’d heard any feedback from anyone in or around The Specials since you released the song?
We’re actually good mates with The Specials’ accountant of all people (laughs). He’s a guy by the name of Grant who we met. He’s from London but he was doing this kind of surf camp somewhere on the East Coast of Australia many moons ago. We kind of made this deal with the surf camp once that we’d play a gig for them if we could stay there the night for free because we had no money and nowhere to go. So yeah, we’ve stayed in touch with him ever since and he dropped us a line and said it was tip top so that was nice.
Couldn’t think of anyone quite more opposite to running a surf camp than an accountant from London but there you go. Well, moving on to Sydney’s lockout laws which I know you guys are all very vocal about. I myself live in Brisbane where we don’t have these kind of stringent laws in place just yet so I’m kind of in the dark as far as what it’s actually like to deal with it. Could you tell us as a band from the Sydney area what your own experiences are with those laws?
Well it’s not so much us that I’m worried about. Our focus is on the way that it in particular affects arts and music. And it goes further than the lockout laws I guess but it’s just this feeling we’re getting that our current government couldn’t care less about live music or art seemingly.
When we were coming through the woodwork we were playing venues like the Annandale and the Hopetoun and the Lansdowne, these sort of salt of the earth venues, 150-300 capacity and they’re all just dropping like flies it seems. And if you don’t have those kind of places then you’re not going to get any good bands because you’ve got nowhere to carve their chops up and actually get good. Like, you’ll still have bands but they’ll just all be really shit and that’s a worry (laughs).
Definitely. Do you feel like there’s any kind of solution to this imminent or is it only looking to get worse?
Well the question is ‘what is the problem’, because I think if the problem is ‘Australia has an aggressive drinking culture’ then I don’t think that shutting down the city is the addressing the problem. I reckon maybe… well me and the lads did a surprise secret show on this day that happened about a month ago called the King Street Crawl which was in Newtown. Every single pub and club on King Street from top to tail had live music from midday to midnight and we really enjoyed that. We were there the whole time and the vibe was just so good and King Street was absolutely rammed, packed, but then get this, there was not one single report of violence on that day.
I reckon the reason for that is that people, if they’re engaged in something good like watching a band for instance, they haven’t even got time to think about punching someone and I guess maybe that’s where Kings Cross went wrong where they predominantly have strip clubs and ‘doof doof’ clubs. I’m not saying those two things can’t be a hell of a lot of fun but maybe instead of shutting down the city maybe the government could have stepped in to help organise actual events and things happening in Kings Cross if you know what I mean.
It’s keeping people engaged and with positive energy instead of negative bullshit.
Let’s hope they can work something out. Now Sticky Fingers just got done touring the US and Canada, how are the crowds over there continuing to receive you guys?
Yeah it was our second time in Canada and it’s going great my man. It kind of feels like what Australia and New Zealand felt like a few years ago, so we’re sort of playing around 500 cap rooms and they’ve been real hot and sweaty.
We took our time getting over to America and to Canada and the reason for that was that we’d heard so many stories of bands going over there who blow it too early. We kind of had it in our minds to tease them along a little bit and we think it’s working so we’re all really chuffed.
It must be kind of nice to go over there, coming from here where you guys are now one of the biggest bands in the country, and to be playing shows more on the scale of your earlier days, gigs with a little bit more intimacy. Kind of like playing in a timewarp.
Yeah it is man, we love it.
Speaking of back in time, a few years back there was a collection of some of your craziest tour photographs that were released and then annotated by you all showcasing your ‘Classiest Moments’ I think of 2013. Have the levels of wild stayed as consistent on tour for Sticky Fingers or is the experience a little bit more reserved now?
Ohhhh yeah I remember that. I guess we’ve certainly got good stories to tell. One style of touring that we’ve changed from then until now is that when we go to America and Europe we’ve figured out that what’s the point of having luxury when you can’t enjoy it. Like the idea of getting hotels every night, we figured out that we really hate the whole check-in/check-out process with hotels and hotels tend to really hate us as well and we’ve been running out of hotels to stay at that will have us.
These days we travel on one of those nightliner buses that have the bunk beds and the entertainment system and the little kitchenette and toilet and stuff. That’s obviously not as fancy as staying at a nice hotel but it means that we can play a show and then hop on the bus, sleep through the night and then wake up in a new city with the whole day ahead of us. So I guess it’s a case of luxury versus saving time.
For sure, saving a whole lot of time and wrecked hotel rooms I’m sure. You’re about to now tour Europe with that strategy in the next few weeks. Is there anywhere in particular that you look forward to playing when you’re over there?
I guess what’s really nice about being in a touring band is that over the years you sort of make all of these friends all over the place. Amsterdam in particular is a place where we’ve made lots of friends and there’s a certain part of Amsterdam called Noordermarkt where we always go and hang and it almost feels like walking down King Street in Newtown because we just know all the people. Berlin is fucking great as well, which is a notorious place for having Aussies go there and never come back (laughs).
Is there any unchartered territory for you guys this time around, anywhere you haven’t toured before?
Yeah I think there’s certain parts of the UK that we haven’t hit before and it sounds like we’ve been selling out a few of those shows out which is great to here.
One place that we haven’t toured before and we’d really like to and are planning to is South America. It feels like we have a fairly sizeable untapped kind of fanbase over there so we’re going to try and get over there in 2016.
Big things in the next year. Speaking of, you mentioned before you guys are hard at work on your third album, the follow-up to Land Of Pleasure, how are you finding the process? Does it get any easier given this is your third go around at recording an album?
Nah it just gets harder and harder but not in a bad way. I guess as time goes on we get harder and harder on ourselves. I can remember seven years ago we’d play a G chord and I’d play a G on the bass and then Beaks would hit the drums and we’d be like ‘Oh wow, that’s amazing’ and just the whole idea of being in a band was amazing. These days if something doesn’t sound tip top then it gets tossed away fairly quickly so we’re pushing to find the next sound and we’ve been finding a few for sure.
Great to hear. It’s not a bad strategy by any means for a band to continue to want to top themselves like that.
Yeah otherwise it would just be boring and we’re not interested in flatlining. We built our own little studio in January that’s down in Marrickville in the Inner West of Sydney so pretty much whenever we’re not on the road we’re just down there pretty much every day just working away.
No days off, excellent. Just to wrap it up, can you give us any hints, apart from the album, of what we can look forward to from Sticky Fingers in the next 12 months. What have you guys got planned?
Some time off at some point would be really nice (laughs)
I would say you’ve just about earned it.
Yeah man. I think the plan is just going to be to get in the studio, record this album and then just tour the fuck out of it. That’s where we’re the happiest to be honest, when we’re all together and on the road. We love the touring lifestyle.
Well enjoy. I’ll let you go nurse that hangover, Paddy. Thanks heaps for the interview today and good luck with the tour of Europe and recording the new album. We look forward to hearing it!
Yeah thanks my man, nice to talk to you too. Cheers brother.