Interview: Sticky Fingers' Paddy Cornwall on rapper Remi & being bogan
Directed by Rhys Day

Australian band Sticky Fingers have never felt the need to label their music hence the fivesome defy genres with their unique brew of reggae, dub, Brit pop, pure rock swagger and bogan appeal. Yes bogan, Aussie slang for working class males with an unrefined attitude to dress, music and a certain mindset. However, the whole subculture of boganism in the modern Australian context, has been re-appropriated and made positive. 

This is a badge that the five members – Paddy Cornwall, Dylan Frost, Beaker Best, Freddy Crabs and Seamus Coyle - who all met and came together in the Sydney inner west suburb of Newtown, wear with pride.  Helped by top-notch songwriting, appealing street-wise and camaraderie that comes across their music and live sets, Sticky Fingers have been a band for almost 8 years but the last two years have been a whirlwind of non-stop touring, sold out concerts at home and with hits on heavy rotation at popular radio station Triple J.

As Cornwall has explained in previous interviews 'it’s not just about the bogan chic, what we do is world music, we make it for everybody – we’re not just flying the flags for the bogans.' Indeed their eagerly anticipated latest album, “Westway (The Glitter & The Slums)” which drops this Friday, Sept 30 should gain them an audience beyond their antipodean borders. 

Produced by Dann Hume (Courtney Barnett, Troye Sivan) it has the kind of slick production values - especially on tracks like "Flight 101", "No Divide" and title track "Westway" -  and pared-down dubstep vibe that would not be out of place on tastemaker labels like Future Classic and Ghostly. "One by One" has the jangly-feel of Britpop. "Outkast At Last" a "Rock The Casbah"-feel. And "Something Strange" features a collaboration with Aussie hip hop artist, Remi and recalls the Gorillaz. Yet, none of these songs feel out of place on this polished effort.

Sticky Fingers will kick their North American tour off this Friday at the Teragram Ballroom, followed by a San Francisco show at Rickshaw Stop on Sat, Sept 31. In an interview with AXS, bassist and co-songwriter Cornwall revealed how the collaboration with Remi - one of Australia's most important hip hop artist - came about; why they've decided to return to producer Dann Hume; and the importance of being bogan.

AXS: Hello Paddy – loving the new album can’t believe I’ve had a chance to get all acquainted with it before the release because you haven’t done a lot of the new music live yet?

Paddy Cornwall: Writing for the album, recording and then waiting. It’s really like having a baby. I want to be proud of it, perform the songs for everyone but will need to wait till Sept 30.

AXS: How has having Dann Hume with you guys pretty much from the very start helped with your sound, and it’s evolution?

PC: You know how we met Dann in the first place? There's this festival in Sydney, the Newtown Festival which is where we live - we wanted to play this local festival for the longest time but we were rejected two years in a row. The third year, we decided to build a makeshift stage in our friend's backyard which was inside the festival grounds and play anyway. The organizers saw that and the next year they invited us to join the official lineup. So all our friends came out to support us and it was a great gig - that was where Dann first saw us. He wanted to buy our CD but we were all sold out. It was this mirage of us as a band that were really big, when in truth we were just popular among the local Newtown crowd. He then asked if he could work with us so we recorded Caress Your Soul with him. Every time we have to go back into the studio we think 'should we work with a different producer?' but we always go back to him.  His production matches our sound. And also we are five very different personalities and he understands this.

AXS: The themes of this album appear darker than Caress Your Soul and Land of Pleasure, for example in “Flight 101” Dylan sings ‘I used to be scared of flying now I wanna fall out the sky’ that’s pretty dark. Is he the main songwriter in the band?

PC: I guess that’s open to interpretation because in the next line he sings ‘I used to be scared of flying, now I want to’. On this album Dylan and I write most of the lyrics. All the guys write the music. We've always enjoyed playing around with with production. It's a nice mixed bag of songs and how it's laid out - it's very intentional. It starts out really raw and gets more and more experimental in sound. In "No Divide" you can hear the rain outside - when we recorded it the engineer went to close the door but I said 'no, just leave it'. I love all that stuff that turns up on this record. Lyrically it's pretty transparent, honest and vulnerable. The story of the band for a year. It's almost like a coming-of-age album. In contrast to Land of Pleasure which was light, bouncy and celebratory of the now. Westway has a feeling of nostalgia. We've had a lot of fun as a band in this near decade. We've been through thick and thin together so yes it's a bit darker.

AXS: ”Something Strange” features the politically-conscious hip hop artist Remi – how did that collab come together?

PC: I’ve always liked the idea of collaborating with somebody in hip hop. And I’ve always been a fan of Remi’s – I feel like in Aussie hip hop everybody is kind of doing the same thing ... with Remi in terms of production, beats, themes and rhymes he sounds so fresh. It’s worldly and very original. We met a few times over the years and then eventually became pals. When we were recording the track he was visiting Sydney from Melbourne - he asked me if he could borrow a drum kit. When he came over I showed him what we were working on, he gave it a listen and I just said ‘do you want to jump on the track?’. And that was it! Remi just released his album (Divas & Demons) a few weeks ago and it’s so good. It’s received rave reviews, I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with him, and have him be on our record.

AXS: How have you guys found your American shows in your previous tours, in terms of  the audience and how you guys are feeling – cause there is something specific and grueling about have this many boys traveling in a van together?

PC:Ha! It’s an interesting way to juggle things. We have this big sleeper bus with bunk beds, a kitchen and shower. But it is … let’s say exhilarating trying to take a shower in a bus speeding down the highway at 100 miles. (laughs) It’s a forced bi-polar state of mind - all these dudes living on top of each other. But we’ve been so pleasantly surprised by our fanbase. You know there’s a lot of bands who want to come to the US and smash it but they come too early and they blow their chance. We sort of teased America (laughs) we did tours in the UK, and Europe and waited to tour America and it seems to have worked for us – as we have had great crowds, particularly in California, I couldn’t tell you why. But we are really looking forward to kicking it off in LA on Friday, it’s the first night after the album drops and Dann is already in town. We are going to be in such good spirits.

AXS: When you and Dylan met all those years ago as he was busking in Newtown where you live, did you think you were going to get this far? Can you remember what song he was singing?

PC: I think it was by Katchafire – a New Zealand reggae band, Dylan's originally from there. It is true he was busking but it was not like we immediately decided to start a band then. I just thought he was cool. I’ve always lived in Newtown and I like to think I know everyone so when I saw him busking I was just as interested in who he was? We became friends first. How we became a band was one day Dylan found out that Beaker had a garage out the back. Beaker up to that point had a promising football career. He loved his footie (Australian rules football) but we introduced him to smoking and listening to the Beatles. So in the end he bought a set of drums and the band was born. I think we would still be a band at this point but never could have imagined that we would be 'big' or touring America.

AXS: How did you guys become the poster boys for Bogan Chic?

PC: Ha ha! I don’t know … we’ve always joked around calling ourselves aspirational bogans. Where we come from, not ever having too much, we’re always dreaming of something bigger and better. We kinda felt that we wouldn’t amount to much but with the band we’ve felt like we could really go somewhere.

For more information on Sticky Fingers, please visit www.stickyfingerstheband.com

 

Sticky Fingers North American tour dates:
Sept 30       Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram
Oct 1       San Francisco, CA @ Rickshaw Stop
Oct 2       Santa Cruz, CA @ Atrium
Oct 5       Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge
Oct 6       Seattle, WA @ The Crocodile
Oct 7       Vancouver, BC @ Vogue
Oct 8       Victoria, BC @ Distrikt
Oct 10     Banff, AB @ Wild Bill's
Oct 12     Calgary, AB @ SAIT
Oct 13     Edmonton, AB @ The Needle
Oct 15     Winnipeg, MB @ Pyramid
Oct 16     Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
Oct 18     Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
Oct 20     Toronto, ON @ Opera House
Oct 21     Montreal, QC @ Club Soda