Lots of bands in Australia used to sound like Sticky Fingers. It was that haphazardly imported yet distinctly local mix of ska, reggae, funk and soul that launched the careers of every from The Cat Empire to Fat Freddy’s Drop to Xavier Rudd and a million other things in between. Precisely because it was so laidback and chilled-out; the exact opposite of what was happening in Top 40 land at the time, these groups created their own pockets of warmth in an otherwise cold ocean. One thing that bound them together, and continues to do so was the hugely dedicated audience they managed to pull to every show. I remember at one point, The Cat Empire, who hadn’t ever cracked the charts in any major way, sold out something like ten nights in a row at one of Sydney’s biggest venues. Play good music, the rule seemed to be, and people will come. Sticky Fingers fit this bill perfectly. Every time they get on stage, even if it’s in a support capacity, fans materialise from all corners of the city, singing the lyrics to material that hasn’t even been released yet and watching them play with devout concentration. It’s inexplicable in one way and yet totally understandable in another; while they might not be the most edgy punks on the block, they’re incredibly good at what they do. And the bonus is they’re actually really nice to listen to.
To me, this band is one who have been kicking around for so long that I have no idea when they began or when I just imagined they started playing. Though they’re around my age, I seem to remember hearing them when I was in highschool. In any case, they’ve held semi-permanent residencies at almost every club and pub in the city and they pay every show and festival offered to them. Simply put, they’re hungry. They’re also completely batshit crazy; my friends and I still remember the final night of Playground Weekender festival when these guys and their mates ran around screaming ‘STICKY FINGERS!’ like absolute lunatics at four in the morning, wielding knives and everything. For a band who sound so pleasant, they certainly came off like nasty fuckers, and I recall thinking that if they ever made it big, they wouldn’t have to worry about generating a rock and roll mythology since they clearly already had that down. A jam band by nature, Sticky Fingers have two releases under their belt which try to capture their sound in less than twenty minutes per track, but it’s with this new one that I feel they’ve finally done it right. Obviously in a live setting this is the kind of groove that could play out for hours, but they’ve reeled it in tight and stripped it back to it’s core. It works. They’re going to get a ton of airplay – in fact, our friend Dom is already spinning it on triple j – and it will probably break them through in a much bigger way. Which is nice, because independent bands can sometimes feel like they’re butting their heads against a wall in this industry, particularly when they can pull better crowds than headliners.
‘Caress You Soul’ has it all; the falsetto melody, the punctuating keys and finally, the drop into that tightly wound upbeat reggae feel that just works so well for them. Frontman Dylan, who allegedly joined the band after harassing the rhythm section for money while busking outside a pub, has a rootsy, romantic voice that sounds like a lot of the great dub which has come out of New Zealand in the last fifteen years, which helps because he’s a Kiwi. The drums are tight, the harmonies are bang-on, and with a little bit of production assistance from Dann Hume (the man formerly of Evermore who now seems to be twiddling knobs for everyone from Lisa Mitchell to Matt Corby and Apline), they’ve bottled the allure of their stage show and screwed on the cap in only three minutes. It’s not going to be trendy any time soon, but it’s infinitely rewarding for your ears and the chugging breakdown that drops in after the break is a welcome textural change, too. Seriously though, listen to that three-part harmony in the last chorus and tell me you’re not hooked. Sticky Fingers; they may be mental, but I’ll forgive them that if they keep making records like this.
Sticky Fingers – ‘Caress Your Soul’