If the 'sold out' signs out front of the Enmore Theatre weren't indication enough, be assured that Sticky Fingers pretty much own Sydney's inner west. It's where the majority of the band grew up, went to school, got drunk, saw bands, and – as bassist Paddy Cornwall and guitarist Seamus Coyle explain in the beer garden of the Union Hotel – still spend far too much of their time.
The seeds of the band were sown on King Street, Newtown, when Cornwall first clapped eyes on busker Dylan Frost, who'd recently lobbed into Sydney having struck out from his hometown of Auckland.
"It wasn't an instant lightbulb moment of, 'Oh, it's you I've been looking for!' We just became friends," Cornwall begins at machine-gun pace. "You know when you see bands play and think, 'This is sounding fucking great', and then the singer... is terrible? I only ever wanted to be in a band with somebody that really had what it takes to be a proper frontman."
"When Pad organised the first jam, he was like, 'Yeah, I can play bass'," Coyle laughs. "And then he realised he could not play bass at all, so he rocked up with a joint instead and said, 'Oh no! I forgot my bass!' How good is that?"
"The bag of weed was a distraction," Cornwall nods. "I just wanted to be involved. We were shit for a long time."
Success came soon enough though, with two well-received EPs and 2013's debut album Caress Your Soul cracking the Top 40 before things racked up a notch with 2014's Land of Pleasure. It reached Number Three on the charts, heralding sold-out tours and international attention. The sky seemed the limit – and then it all nearly came crashing to a halt last year. The band cancelled midway through their European tour amid rumours of fights, substandard gigs and, ahem, "substance issues".
"We were pretty burnt out, but we didn't see it ourselves," Coyle shrugs.
"Yeah, it was just after [2015's] Groovin the Moo – and we did that tour sober, actually," explains Cornwall. "We all like to party a bit, and we've liked to party more in the band. So that was creeping up on us."
"For eight years we've done a really great job of living the rock & roll lifestyle," says Cornwall.
The band came home with their tails between their legs – but this led not to a split, but to the next album. Needing a break but terrified of losing creative momentum, they decided to split the difference by making an album somewhere they could also get some downtime. Thus new LP Westway (The Glamour and the Slums) was recorded with producer Dann Hume in Thailand.
"It was like we needed a holiday, and we didn't want to go on holiday," Coyle explains. "So we were making the album in this beautiful villa with a pool and chefs, and our managers were freaking out, going, 'Are you doing anything over there?', and there's all these photos of us just walking around in these white linen robes."
"But we came home with an absolute banger of a record," Cornwall interjects. "So we hijacked a holiday, but we delivered the goods in the end."
Part of that involved not dwelling on the difficult times. "Seamus and I started cooking up 'Sad Songs'," Cornwall explains, "which was all about how we're done with sad songs and just want to get back out on the road. It was a song that really reminded us just how much we love playing shows and being together. You can sit around and complain about what's going on, or you can get on with it."
"When we play that, all the bullshit just goes to the side," Coyle adds. "You just remember, oh yeah, I really like playing music with you pricks!"
"And for the past eight years we've done a really great job of living the rock & roll lifestyle," Cornwall continues. "Of course, continuously doing that without a break, everything came to a head. But we got through it."
So there's a bit more self-care in the band these days?
"Exactly," declares Cornwall. "We're all 25, 26 now – and we have no intention of joining the 27 Club."
From issue #780 (November 2016), available now.
Topics: Sticky Fingers