If you've familiar with the Australian band, Sticky Fingers, you know the five members are always down for a good time. While that's certainly still true, the guys are honing in on their craft and taking this music business thing a little more seriously these days, after excessive partying almost drove the band apart. Their third album, Westway (The Glitter and The Slums), dropped last Friday, Sept. 30, and it follows the guys through their journey to get things back on track this past year.
We caught up with Patrick and Seamus of the band on the first night of their North American tour to chat about the story behind their name, their breakout moment, and why their new album feels like their debut.
OTW: Let's start with most obvious question: why the name? Is it from the Rolling Stones album?
SF: It is. We had a really terrible name before that because we were all just 16-year-old stoners, and we were originally called "Green Leaf." Then when it came to actually playing our first gig it wasn't a question of finding the best name at the moment but just anything better than that. I think we had a whole bunch of CDs on the shelf, and we pulled one out and it said "Sticky Fingers," and we were like "Alright, that'll do." No romantic story, it was just better than Green Leaf. I think it works; it works with the band you know.
OTW: So no tie to the Rolling Stones?
SF: It's funny. We were booked as a Rolling Stones cover band a couple times. What's funny with the band name is that the first time we came up to the states last July, we got contacted by a Mick Jagger impersonator who was like the frontman of a Rolling Stones cover band called "Sticky Fingers," and he was threatening to sue us if we came out to the states as "Sticky Fingers." He was contacting all of the venues, and I think he was just really getting into his Mick Jagger character, even down to wanting to sue every motherfucker. Then, we looked into it, and he didn't actually own the trademark for Sticky Fingers so we bought it and said "Well, cheers."
OTW: I read that the band formed in a pretty interesting way. Can you tell us about that?
Patrick of SF: Myself and our drummer Beaker were sort of walking down King Street in Newtown. Dylan was busking, and he just sort of attracted our attention–he was this new kid in town who just moved from Auckland. We became friends and then convinced Beaks to give up on his footy career and buy a drum kit, and kind of ruined his life..or made his life; I'm not sure. You never know how something else would have gone. Seamus and I met since Kindergarten, and then we sort of got lost on the way to growing up, but then came back together and made the band.
OTW: After the band was first formed, what was the breakout moment?
SF: Probably when we played this festival in our hometown, Newtown. It's called Newtown Fest, and all locals always play it. We kept asking to play like three years in a row because they wouldn't let us play. Finally on our third year we were rejected, our friends have a house and their backyard borders with the festival, so we just brought a bunch of crates in the backyard and built this big crate like 3 meters high. So we unofficially "headlined" the festival over the backyard. That was the moment.
OTW: And people from the festival could see you?
SF: Yeah, the whole festival could, and the next year they asked us to come actually play.
That's kind of been the ethos of the band from the beginning until now because we've always been independent, and we've always just done everything ourselves. From booking our shows to plugging our tours, and then we've kind of gained popularity from direct contact with the people instead of waiting around for someone else to do it for us.
OTW: Do you guys also create the concepts for your music videos as well?
SF: Yeah, we're very much into making the clips. We're behind everything, and I think what our fans like about it is that they can see it's very genuine and the real deal. We get a lot of help from Rhys Day; he's very good. Props to Rhys Day for directing most of our clips these days.
OTW: What's the process? Are you guys just all sitting around thinking "What's the craziest shit we can put in the next video?"
SF: The funniest one was when we did "Freddy Crabs" and we were in a van on a 12 hour drive from Melbourne to Sydney. Me and Paddy just had a bottle of gin, and we drank that, and we came up with the whole concept for that one.
A bottle of gin, a mobile phone and a credit card, and the next day we were shooting the motherfucker.
OTW: So gin is basically the secret?
SF: A well-lubricated brain.
OTW: By the way, congrats! It's a big day–your album came out today. Tell us about the making and meaning behind this album.
SF: It's funny, we're three albums deep, but it feels like this is only the beginning now. When the band first started, it was more a matter of us wanting to do something rather than just drinking at the same pub every weekend. Over the years, we've had a seriously fun time and the band has like a bit of a reputation for debauchery. Just more recently we've realized the band's gotten to a level where we have to sort of start respecting it a bit more, and having fun with it but also making sure we're smashing it at the shows, and not just smashing it ourselves.
That was completely off-topic but its cool. The album is just about what we know.
OTW: What do you know?
SF: Heartbreak, drugs, love, yada yada yada, the usual stuff. The essentials. Stuff that everyone knows.
It's true though–they do say you're supposed to write about what you know so I guess that's exactly what we do. The album is almost like a journey of what happened with the band members, like everything between us and externally. Last year, the band came close to breaking up, but then we got it together and and discovered there was a fan base over here in the U.S…
OTW: What happened?
SF: We were just trashing ourselves too much and all the partying caught up with us. We were almost about to fully break up, and at the last minute, a couple members got their Visas, and we flew in to Philly for a show. We hadn't been on stage in like three months and hadn't spoke to each other. We dropped in like two hours late, arrived at the show, and we were like, "That's right, I enjoy this." All the bullshit just dissipated totally after that. A lot of the album does deal with those type of things.
OTW: In terms of the sound, has there been any change since the last couple?
SF: Yeah, I think it's just a natural progression moving forward. Our sound is always evolving and changing. We've never been "genre-ists." We just make music that feels good to us, and then we've added it if it feels good to us, and then it'll feel good to other people as well.
OTW: In your ideal scenario, how would you want fans to receive the album?
SF: If you're feeling down, we got a song for it. If you want to party, there's a song there. If you want to have sex, there's a song there.
OTW: The tour kicks off tonight, here in LA. Another fan perspective question, how would you describe what they would see and hear when you guys hit the stage?
SF: You never know what you're going to get–that's kind of the part of the charm of this band. Sometimes you're just going to get a really good show of musicianship, and other times you're just gonna get a scene, depending on which night it is. These days, we prefer to try to be good musicians. Sometimes other shit goes down.
OTW: Through your years of touring and making music, are there any lessons of advice that you would give to a band just starting out?
SF: Never break up. Just keep going; that's the key. That is all, and you'll make it. Don't complain because nobody cares; nobody gives a shit. Many are caught but few are chosen, and time certainly has a way of withering out the weak.
OTW: Describe each band member in one word. What role do they play?
OTW: Who are some artists you're watching?
Seamus of SF: I'm obsessed right now with Leon Bridges.
In the Australian movement, heaps of cool shit is going around and coming up. The Delta Riggs, The Preatures, DMA'S. It's sort of like all the bands that we're friends with who have stayed together are the ones doing really well, just because they're the ones who kept going and figured it out.
OTW: Any post-tour plans?
SF: We're not done. We have to go back to Australia. We're pretty much touring from now into the end of this year, into January. I think there's a little bit of a break in November. We'll come back here. We're gonna have a holiday here. We like it here, we have too much fun over here.