Don’t Forget The Name: An Afternoon With Sticky Fingers

Don’t Forget The Name: An Afternoon With Sticky Fingers

Garry Lu
Garry Lu



A Boss Hunting exclusive with Sticky Fingers

January 13th. It’s a miserable kind of day. Dreary skies. Torrential rain. Precisely a minute before 1 PM, I’m knocking at the door of Sticky Fingers’ longtime friend and photographer/videographer, Sam Brumby, to seek refuge from the weather.

The silhouette of a friendly giant – and legend of the Aussie music scene in his own right – emerges to greet me. He takes me through to his basement studio (North Wollongong’s answer to Rick Rubin’s Shangri-La, I joke). It showcases his finest visual captures, as well as a series of skateboards printed with each member of the band along the hallway. 

As we enter the common area, I’m greeted by an entire arsenal of keyboards, guitars, and so forth – all of a similar vintage. The band, however, is nowhere to be seen for their scheduled photoshoot with Ben Sherman. I double-check the email thread I’m CC’d in. 

After a while, Sam grows conscious of the fact that I’ve been planted on the couch, scrolling aimlessly on my phone for some time now. He fires off another text message before reassuring me the lads would be there soon enough.

SFXBS Jan22 41

Less than half an hour later, Sticky Fingers begins filtering in. The culprit had apparently been a three-way Murphy’s law combo of a missed turn off, an impromptu lunch stop, and congestion from a traffic accident. 

The affable duo of lead guitarist Seamus Coyle and keyboard/synth man Freddy Crabs (real name: Daniel Neurath) make their way into the basement studio first, immediately putting a room full of virtual strangers at ease with their cheery demeanour.

Then comes the cadre’s classically cool bassist and lyrical talent, Paddy Cornwall, crossing the threshold alongside his partner Octavia Spartels – who also happens to be one of the band’s creative collaborators and stylist – followed by the ever-charming percussionist, Beaker Best (real name: Eric da Silva Gruener).

At this point, frontman Dylan Frost is still absent despite living the closest to Sam’s pad. Nor was anyone certain of his whereabouts. Dylan’s elusiveness would prove to be a running motif throughout the day as it progressed.

Seamus, Freddy, and I settle by the couch while everyone else hunts for their exact sized wardrobe. As per the new routine, we shoot the breeze about wrangling our nicotine addictions and what movies we’ve been watching lately.

“The new Bond was fucking amazing,” says Seamus Coyle.

“I thought it was the best fucking Bond I’d ever seen. And I’m a big fan of Sean Connery. I just thought it gave such a good nod to everything.”

“Bit of Jamaica. Bit of Europe. His kill count was high. He did the shot in the hallway. There were gadgets but not too many. Just perfect. Loved it.”

“I like Daniel Craig, but I hated the ending,” admits Freddy Crabs.

One can imagine how much of an adjustment post-lockdown life would’ve been for touring musicians like Sticky Fingers to be grounded indefinitely. Although life on the stage hadn’t exactly been rainbows and lollipops. Beyond the usual headaches of sacrificing a complete audience experience for the sake of decibel limits and all the residential politics.

A few guilty names are mentioned offhandedly as I’m told horror stories about glass bottles being launched in their direction while performing in the country’s regional meth capitals, and silver-tongued con men who lured them all the way out to Chile with the promise of a healthy paycheque only to pay zilch. 

“Festivals do some dodgy shit… they sell out and then they add more tickets,” says Freddy.

“They’ll tell you this is the capacity of the festival, this is how much money you’ll get paid, then they’ll sell a bunch more tickets,” explains Seamus.

“Oh, so it’s right into their own pockets,” I respond as the proverbial lightbulb flickers above my head. The statement is met with a chorus of yesses.

“Every festival is doing that to an extent. There’s no way you can really count who’s there, you’ve just got people standing at the door,” says Beaker.

“There’s a lot of good promoters and a lot of shit ones,” says Seamus.

“A lot of people who talk about morals, it actually has nothing to do with that – it’s all about money. They’re all full of shit.”

The conversation meanders to the topic of PR in an era where every syllable is recorded; the irony as I transcribe hours of quotes is not lost on me. Given the quickfire pace of the back-and-forth, and for the sake of your reading ease, the following exchange between Freddy Crabs and Paddy Cornwall will be presented in a slightly different format…

Our PR is much better done now. Before it was pretty shaky. We’ve always done things ourselves. There was no team behind us, there was no major label team.

That’s when all that bullshit flared up. We felt like we were the lab rats of cancel culture in Australia. We were fish out of water. We didn’t really know exactly how we were supposed to deal with it. We were sort of taking it one step at a time. Probably didn’t deal with it very well at all.

We didn’t have the language, either. You need all the right language these days. People pick words out and assign meaning.

[Prompted about Triple J’s infamous The Hack interview conducted by Tom Tilley]

It’s a set-up. I really wish one day people could hear the uncut hour and twenty minutes that we were in there talking. There was so much more that happened in there. That part where [Crabs] really fired up and [Tom Tilley] was like, “Oh… sorry, Crabs.”

Do you know what he did? I don’t know…

[Semi-cautious glances in my direction.]

Should we rag on Triple J?

I don’t really give a fuck.

[Tom Tilley] came up and shook my hand at the end he goes, “Sorry mate… they made me do it.”

“They made me do it.” I forgot about that.

It was a really weird handshake too. “They made me do it… they made me do it.” Squeezing and shit. When that happened, I was like, “Really?” I don’t know. That whole episode was a real PR disaster but it felt like we had to do it because Triple J were really good to us and played a lot of our music.

We felt like we owed them something, to at least do the interview the way they wanted to do it. We were told they weren’t really going to talk about all the allegation stuff. We just got spooked. If we’re not part of a club, we’re not part of it. We kind of never really were. It’s like Pat says, “You can’t be cancelled twice.

An exclusive feature interview with Sticky Fingers

The problem with Sticky Fingers’ treatment essentially boils down to the underlying paradox which informs modern cancel culture. Yes, it can indeed be distinguished from accountability. Your past, present, and future are actively mined for even the slightest indiscretions to justify permanent ostracisation with no opportunity for redemption.

But this disturbingly myopic approach fails to consider the fact that humans constantly evolve. And then you realise a good majority of this new-age tarring and feathering was never really about perceived harm or sympathy/empathy for the vulnerable. It’s about exerting what little control we have by converging on a single target en masse, removing reform entirely from the equation.

Truthfully, only an exceptional few can honestly say they’ve lived a squeaky clean life. As for the rest of us, there will invariably be something we’ve said/done/thought that could easily be grounds for “cancelling.” The only difference between private citizens and members of, say, one of Australia’s most prolific indie rock bands? The privilege of anonymity. We still retain said privilege. They surrendered it the moment they began charting.

“It’s funny when shit goes wrong, you’ve got nowhere to hide.”

“It’s like… ‘Shit, guess this is part of it.’ Me and Crabs, ‘cos we live together up the coast, we just get looks anyways because we’ve both got long hair. Crabs stands out, he’s like, ‘Why are they looking at me?’,” Beaker says in his best Freddy Crabs impression.

“And I’m like, ‘They probably don’t even know who you are, they’re looking at your short-shorts, mate.’ We’re in Westfield. Wear normal clothes!”

It’s only when Seamus reappears hoisting a case of VB on his shoulder do I realise he’d disappeared for half an hour. As if by divine intervention, what little sunlight present that day traces his outline, and I make a wisecrack about how he resembles a grog angel. The one-liner is rewarded with the offer of a frosty Victor Bravo which I accept without hesitation. That first sip is heaven.

Dylan Frost finally swaggers in with his partner and stylist Brooke Harnett in tow. The usual pleasantries are exchanged before the frontman regales Paddy and Beaker with tales of the Christmas break. He launches into a story about visiting his elderly grandmother in Queensland with the endearing giddiness of a mischievous schoolboy.

“It was pretty cute, she made us a curry, and like, it was the worst fuckin’ thing I’d ever tasted – ‘Thanks, nan!'” says Dylan Frost as he mimes digging into a full bowl with faux enthusiasm.

“What was wrong with it?” asks Paddy.

“I don’t know, it just wasn’t curry. It was fucking putrid. ‘You want me to make you toasted sandwiches?’ I was like, ‘Nah I’m good,'” giggles Dylan.

“So what’s the go? Are we going to the beach?”

Dylan is ushered away to the racks of Ben Sherman clothes to assemble his outfits for the day. In minutes, he strolls back out the door wearing a checkered coat with no shirt – exposing a tattoo on his belly that reads: “Lekker,” which is Dutch slang for “sweet”, “tasty”, “superb”, “cool”, “fantastic” (also used in Afrikaans) – and trousers with a bottle of gin tucked into the waistband. Go figure.

At the parking lot of Stanwell Park Beach, against the picturesque backdrop of dramatic mountainside dwellings overlooking the crashing waves, Sam Brumby quarterbacks how the photoshoot will go down with Octavia Spartels; earmarking the underside of Wollongong’s Sea Cliff Bridge as location #2 for a few snaps and a few pick-up shots for the ‘Lekkerboy’ music video.

Sticky Fingers ambles onto the sand and turns up the natural charisma for Sam’s camera. From a distance, the group dynamic resembles a box of golden retriever puppies let out of their playpen, pouncing on top of each other. If you hadn’t known anything about their past, it’d be impossible to tell these were the very same blokes who’d previously threatened to disband after years of escalating interpersonal friction. Court case, rehab, and all.

“It was always the five of us and that was it.”

“After all we’ve been through together, we still have a lot of love for each other,” notes Paddy.

“We started this thing when we were still baby-faced teenagers.”

As we’re en route to the shoot’s next location, Freddy Crabs fondly recalls the shenanigans they got up to after one of the first-ever live Sticky Fingers performances at Woodford Folk Festival circa 2011.

“It was around the time of the Brisbane floods… we were these 18-year-old mud demons running around swiping bottles of [Johnnie Walker] from behind the bars,” says Freddy.

“Security tried to stop Beaks but he was too slippery to grab.”

An exclusive feature interview with Sticky Fingers

I was treated to a preview of Sticky Fingers’ fifth studio album, Lekkerboy, the day before the interview. Suffice it to say, the boys have returned in full force. Personally, as someone who obsessed over Land of Pleasure and Caress Your Soul during their adolescence, it was more than a little surprising to discover a Sticky Fingers album I could enjoy even more.

“We definitely think it’s our best. A nice throwback but also kind of moving forward,” says Seamus.

“A lot of it was written in lockdown. We’d go down to Dylan – in Mount Kembla – and a couple of us would drive down and stay at a motel around the corner.”

“We came back and forth to Dylan’s place, so it was real on and off. And we just set up the laptop in one of his rooms,” says Freddy.

“We didn’t have any mad gear or anything. It was just fully… we kind of mentioned already Dylan was going through some addiction issues ‘cos he was finding the whole lockdown pretty hard.”

“It definitely was a fucking experience, man. We worked on it for two years. A lot of stuff happened and you can hear it in the music,” says Beaker.

I hesitate to call it their most mature release yet as every band’s latest album should technically be its most mature release yet, rendering the description entirely redundant. But in terms of developing as instrumentalists, lyricists, producers, and even in emotional content – forgoing that signature cocktail of bravado and defiance for a measure of vulnerability – Lekkerboy truly is the most mature album in Sticky Fingers’ discography to date. One that could actually be interpreted as a yardstick for personal growth.

sticky fingers interview

“I’ve learned a lot about people, about what really matters to people, and what’s really important,” says Seamus after some pondering.

“When you talk about the negativity surrounding the band and our reaction to it as well, what we learned is a lot of it is really just people behind a screen, and it’s not nearly as pervasive as you think,” adds Freddy.

“I was actually listening to a bit of Frank Zappa recently, I really like the way he talks about it. He plays music for people that want to listen to it and like it. He doesn’t do it for anyone else. I think learning that is a sense of maturity as well.”

“If people want to create those narratives about us, they can. If they want to take away our humanity too, there’s not really much we can do other than continue what we’re doing and not engage them.”

“You had a lot of people saying, ‘I’m never listening to your band again.’ And it’s like, you never fucking listened to our band anyway,” says Seamus.

“I know who I am and what my values are and if you want to spit hate and spin yarns about us and make up rumours, that’s cool. I know what I’m about. I’m going to keep doing what I do and be a positive influence on the community.”

Dylan nails the music video shots in just two brief takes. We move on.

“I remember back in 2016 when we had that hiatus, I know we have a reputation for this, that, and the other, but the five of us collectively are the hardest working people I’ve ever met,” says Paddy.

“It was really interesting in that one year, it was just debaucherous, and debauchery had been going on in the past decade or more before that. Debauchery without creativity and hard work is a dangerous place to be. It gets pretty dark, hey?”

“Sticky’s always been good at creating enough natural drama to write about in every album. When we came back to write album number four – Yours To Keep – there was a lot of dark energy surrounding the band we wanted to expel, get rid of, express. I think we did a good job of that.”

“Interestingly enough, it was only once we got up to blocking off studios and record that album we made the decision to get sober.”

“Half the band even went vegan in the six weeks we were there. We went into that studio in one of our darkest hours and came out of it the healthiest and brightest we’ve ever looked.”

“I’m really proud that five albums deeps, it has the energy of a debut album… It still sounds like it’s striving for something new. We also wanted to make an effort to give something to our old school fans too. Make sure there were enough nostalgic Sticky Fingers elements. Everything from Crabs’ lush keys to Seamus’ signature psychedelic wah-wah-sounding guitar.”

I ask whether they binged a lot of The Sopranos during lockdown like the rest of us given a key component of ‘Lupo the Wolf.’

“Nah, Paddy’s a big fan. When we started writing that song, Dylan came in and he’d been reading about Lupo Wolf who was this gangland enforcer,” explains Seamus.

“It was a bit hard to get an actual Sopranos clearance so we just found the best Tony Soprano impersonator,” reveals Paddy.

“He’s fucking good, huh?”

“It’s really funny how Jersey he was too… [Accent.] ‘Can you pay me now? You’re breaking my bawls,'” Freddy adds with a chuckle.

An exclusive feature interview with Sticky Fingers

Back at Brumby’s Shangri-La, I can sense that energy levels across the board are waning. The afternoon is winding up. Whether by mere coincidence or Machiavellian design, Dylan has managed to elude me thus far. Thankfully, I’ve finally cornered him and request a quick chat before I jet off.

We sit on a stoop in the backyard, which opens to a vast sea of unmowed grass and a back fence area where Sam’s chickens roam. I raise my phone recorder and try to remember whatever the hell it was I wanted to ask without being sidetracked by my interviewee’s shamanistic frequencies of conversation.

“Everything is always positive and negative. It’s about trying to find that fucking balance,” says Dylan when I offer to table discussion points involving the more confronting matters of his recovery process.

“It’s never about negative, it’s never about positive, it’s about finding… the fucking spine of what the fuck it is.”

“When you ride a rollercoaster, as soon as you’re strapped in, you can’t jump out. You’re just fucking riding that shit. So I’m riding it.”

Our conversation is already past the juncture where I can feasibly guide anything. I settle in and resign to witnessing the Tao of Dylan Frost unravel itself before my very eyes. My last honest contribution is something along the lines of how growing up in your 20s under ordinary circumstances is hard enough. Under the pernicious spotlight of fame with cameras everywhere at the ready, it’d be a Herculean feat.

“But that’s fun. That’s a small thing, I’m quite a spiritual motherfucker. I feel like it’s constantly under the camera. There’s something far superior and more vast. It’s constantly speaking to us. We’re here right now, we’ve had a couple of drinks, we’re cool. There are certain realms you can jump into.”

“The universe is always fucking speaking to us, it’s whether you listen.”

“I constantly follow what I think is real. What I think is right. What I think is beautiful. I love life. If you’re going to ride that kind of wave, whatever the fuck it is you’re searching for, pull it full strain.”

“Be the eye of the storm. Yes, you are the eye of the storm of your own fucking life so fucking roll with the punches. It fucked me up a little bit but not enough.”

These are by no means the responses I was initially in search of. Nor are they the responses I can sincerely claim to comprehend in the fullest sense. Dylan’s resilience in the face of all he has endured in the span of six years, however, is bloody admirable. And his optimism for Sticky Finger’s return tour was positively infectious. I thank him for his time and bid the rest of the crew farewell.

When I emerge from Sam’s house, the sky has cleared just in time for the comforting amber glow of the Thursday sunset. In my car, I set the course for home on Google Maps and queue up ‘How To Fly’ on Spotify.

I drink the venom to release the pain
While chain-smoking, I suffocate
‘Cause we be rebels, the beast untamed
Sticky Fingers – don’t forget the name.

Sticky Fingers’ Lekkerboy will be available to purchase and stream on April 20th of 2022. Pre-order & pre-save now.

This article is sponsored by Ben Sherman. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Boss Hunting.

Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]



Share the article