It’s hard for a band to stick together, let alone thrive. It takes guts, energy, and a type of camaraderie that you can’t buy on the shelf or even attempt to really manufacture. Sometimes it can even take a hiatus, a break to gain some perspective and remember what’s most important about the bands. There is a je ne sais quoi when it comes to the chemistry of a group and when you see it, you know it. It’s that special. It leaps off the members on stage.
You can see that chemistry with the Australian indie rock band, Sticky Fingers. The group, which formed in 2008 in Sydney, took a hiatus in 2016 and got back together better than ever in 2018, boasts an eclectic sound, part rock, part pop, and part reggae. Yet, in the end, it’s all their own. And the way the band’s bassist, Paddy Cornwall, talks of his ‘mates, there is clear obvious reverence amongst them all. The way he highlights them, makes you want to join the group.
American Songwriter caught up with Cornwall to talk to him about his personal origins in music, how he came to link with the Sticky Fingers members and what new music they have in store for the world at large, including their newest single, “We Can Make The World Glow,” which is out now.
American Songwriter: When did you first find music, when did music first enter your world in a significant way as a young person?
Paddy Cornwall: I was 15 years old when a rock ‘n’ roll renaissance exploded in Australia. I’d been into music since I was little, What’s the Story (Morning Glory) being my first album when I was seven. This was different though. It was the first time I was seeing it all happen literally in my front yard.
I was living across the road from the Annandale Hotel and it was going the fuck off. Bands playing there every night, and there were parties that would go well past sunrise. This is a time in which The Vines were on the cover of American Rolling Stone and Kings of Leon were the small print. It was inspiring to see Aussie bands make the big time and I grew hungry to be part of the culture.
By the time I was 18 I was pouring beers at the Annandale and from that position I was able to start scoring Sticky Fingers some gigs of our own there. I also managed to get the rest of the band a job too. When we weren’t working, we were feeding our payback into the till, drinking and partying there. And when we weren’t doing that we were up and down the coast playing shows of all shapes and sizes. I’ll always be thankful to the Rule Brothers who owned that special joint. Allowing us their stage and a job to come back to even if we’d go off touring for weeks on end. We were literally the worst bartenders in the world. I dunno why they put up with us.
AS: What jumped out at you initially around 2008 about the band and the members? Specifically, how and why the group’s chemistry worked and has that spark subsisted throughout since?
PC: Sticky Fingers is a band that on paper should have never really worked. You got 5 fellas with totally different tastes in music. More than half the band didn’t even have any real background in music. We’d convinced Beaks to get a drum kit because he had a garage we could play in. We also later convinced him to buy a van as he was the only one with any money from concreting. I borrowed my dad’s bass rig, and I don’t think Dylan knows how to tune a guitar to this day.
I think what’s rare about the band is we were a circle of friends before the band was formed. That we’d finished school and just went at the road all guns blazing. No backup plan. We really just hit the ground running and gave it all we got. Sticky is about as real and raw as it gets. An outfit that flaunts its flaws and has all the scars to show from it. People fuck with that shit.
AS: How does Australia influence the group, its topography, energy, food, or music?
PC: Unlike New Zealand, Australia is sadly really disconnected from the culture of our original landowners. Whites came out here and really fucked the joint up. There was a beautiful way of life before we came along. Living off the land, not just zapping every resource available until it’s gone.
Don’t get me wrong, Australia is a beautiful country. Coming from here you forget how far away it is from the rest of the world. It’s funny coming to places like America and being treated all exotic-like. From our perspective, Australia is a pretty up-and-down kinda joint. I think it comes as an advantage to come from here and have people be like, “Hey there’s this whack as fuck Australian band in town.”
To be honest the only real Aussie culture Sticky has been a part of is the drinking culture. And for a long time that really worked for us too. Five best mates gallivanting around the globe, running a muck playing tunes, and having the time of our lives. It wasn’t til our mid-20’s that our lifestyles became a problem. Rehabs, psych wards, court cases, hospital trips. Sticky is a band that has well and truly been to hell and back. Our very own story alone has always been the top material to write about. I’m tremendously grateful that here we are five albums in. None of us are dead, and we are all still together.
AS: What has been the genesis of the forthcoming 2022 album—made entirely during the pandemic?
PC: We started out in 2019 trying to bang out an acoustic record in Byron Bay at Rocking Horse Studios. This was in between a couple of Arena shows. It felt like a really good idea at the time but looking back we really just should have waited till the tour was over. Beaks quit the band after he and I had a fight on the plane out there (I was definitely being a c**t). And Diz only made it for the last two days, in which he ate an entire cheesecake and slept for the rest of the time. Bless him. Ultimately the Byron session had been a failure. On the bright side, we were sitting on these mega simple and beautiful songs. Unlike the last couple albums, they’d been written armed with acoustic guitars, paper, and pen. I’ve always felt if you can get a song sounding good like that it’s gonna be a fucking cracker however you go about it.
AS: What was the genesis of the album’s titular single, “We Can Make the World Glow,” its sound and content?
PC: Fuck knows why it’s the song first cab off the rank. I’ve heard it that many times now. I’m sick of it. There’s that many other better songs on the album than this one. I dunno. I think I just need to trust the me from three months ago who thought this was a good idea while it was still fresh. We Can Make the World Glow was an easy decision to make the title track. It’s a beautiful sentiment. It’s a good representative of the positive and upbeat nature of the record. The world can sure do with some light and positivity right now. That’s what we’re trying to provide.
AS: What has the past few years taught you about your ability to evolve as an artist and as a person in and out of the band, and, perhaps, what was the role of forgiveness in that process?
PC: This year has felt like dealing with the hangover of the past ten years of my life. I went to rehab back in February which makes me either months clean and sober. I’m pretty bloody proud of that. I’ve had a lot of time this year to reflect on my past. Bad decisions I’ve played and beautiful memories I’ve made alike. I was scared coming back into the studio to write music sober. An activity that I’ve traditionally done intoxicated in some way or another. I was hella worried I wouldn’t be able to weave my magic all dried out. And was mad relieved to realize that’s all bullshit. I’m still here. It all comes from the heart. And I like the challenge of opening myself up to the world without no cool-aid.
AS: Today, what’s the secret to the band’s success—or the quintessential essence of its sound?
PC: We split everything equally. Songwriting, the lot. Because of that, we’ve never had any petty fights about money. We are all equal in this Sticky family of ours. If I could give two bits of advice to any bands starting out it would be to work with what you’ve got and never break up.
AS: With all that you and the band have been through over the past three-to-ten years, what do you love most about music?
PC: We all love the road. It’s a way of life we cherish very closely to our hearts. Though it’s probably taken many years off the tail ends of our lives I don’t think any of us would trade it for nothing. I don’t think there is any other lifestyle where you can cram so many good times into such a short period. Bad times too but that’s all part of it. To play a show in one city and wake up in a different country. Making friends around the world, doing what we love, and making people happy while doing it. And the fact that this is a “job” is still crazy to me. We are damn lucky.