Words || Erin Christie
September 2014: I successfully snuck my underage best friend into the Metro so we could attend our first Sticky Fingers concert together. She was a few months off 18, and I remember sitting in the cramped Lord of the Fries restaurant across the street, testing her on the address listed on her fake ID. We were reaching the end of our final year at a conservative high school, and Stickies represented the antithesis we sought: messy-looking boys who sang about sex and relationships – both with beautiful women and with drugs. Their lyrics, to me, were poetry – worlds away from the ‘One Way, Jesus!’ I still had to stand for in school assemblies. I captioned Instagram posts with lyrics from Liquorlip Loaded Gun, listened exclusively to Rum Rage when I couldn’t sleep, and sang along to Australia Street as though I knew what it was like to ‘have a blaze’. Although my memories of the concert are hazy, what stands out is the front man, the now-infamous Dylan Frost, climbing atop a tower of speakers only to leap right off and keep singing with the same gusto he’d held throughout the show. Frost was dark, poetic, and still energetic. I loved him. So did my best friend. But I’m reaching a point where I’m not sure how many more blunders my one-sided love affair can take. Dylan Frost has fucked up, and I’m wondering if it’s beyond repair.
August 2016: DISPOSSESSED are an Indigenous group that sing in a mixture of English and Gumbaynggirr. Frost reportedly made racist taunts at a gig of theirs, as part of an audience that had grown to be rowdy and inappropriate. The excuse given by his bandmates was that his comments had been misinterpreted. They also tacked on that ‘he’s actually a Maori, so it doesn’t make any sense’, as though his cultural identity excuses him from participating in racism of any kind. Although this story comes down to which side you believe, or want to believe, Frost’s image was already affected. Around the same time, fellow Indigenous Australian artist Thelma Plum accused Frost of racially abusing and physically attacking her. Her following statement spiked my interest: ‘Before last night I would have never dragged the band name in but time and time again [he has] used his position of power as lead singer of Stickys to get drunk, bully people and is then never held accountable for his actions because he’s ‘had a rough trot.’
The line that followed is what really shook me up, though. ‘Stop drinking if you think you might fight a girl’ Plum wrote on her Facebook page. Whatever went down between these two artists has been kept tightly under wraps, but Plum’s comments do not inspire any hope for Frost’s innocence. A few days following this incident, Sticky Fingers announced they would be taking a hiatus to handle ‘internal issues’. Reading between the lines, it seems pretty clear that the internal issues were Frost’s anti-social behaviour. My heart broke, but was it for Frost, or for the fact that men like him often act so awfully without any major consequences? It was almost impossible to believe that the talented artist I’d come to love so much was a truly terrible person. However, there was no way to quell my growing awareness of the plight of women as they navigate through the world, and I couldn’t ignore the voice in my head telling me that something was really, really wrong.
March 2018: Sticky Fingers have resurfaced, entering the music scene with a surprise appearance at the Bad Friday Festival. This came with a promise that they had ‘reinvented’ themselves, and had recorded their upcoming album completely sober. This caused a certain hype – maybe things had improved? Something sparked within me: a sense of compassion. I truly believe people can resolve their issues and their ignorance with vested effort. In May, though – mere months after their reinvention and return, Frost was asked to leave an Inner West pub after a verbal dispute with a transgender model, Tanygina. Tanygina alleges he called her crazy, ‘a floozy and a bitch’, amongst a rant about his hatred for transgender feminists. What the fuck? Frost’s reinvention only lasted a few weeks before he needed another – seeming to add ‘transphobe’ to the list of adjectives to describe his alleged transgressions that already includes ‘racist’, ‘violent’ and ‘misogynist’.
He might be ‘back’, but I don’t know if he’s here to stay. Sticky Fingers have pulled out of their headline slot at upcoming Newcastle festival, This That, after public outcry regarding the choice forced them to step down. Those who would share their stage were pleaded with by the public: don’t enable them by performing beside them. When asked what I thought about this move, I was finally forced to confront my feelings for Frost and his band, after five-odd years of loving them on and off and on again.
At how many chances are we supposed to draw a line? Frost has tried to excuse his behaviour multiple times – from outright denying it to even making use of the completely un-endearing expostulation that ‘boys will be boys’. Sometimes, in interviews and Instagram posts, I might catch flashes of a man who wants redemption, and the right to practice his craft on a stage before the fans that have always had his back. But it’s a long, long road ahead for Frost, and I’ve decided I want no part in it for now. The only difference between this troubled, toxic man and the energetic, excited one I saw live all those years ago is that we now see his true colours, the darker side to him. My real heartbreak comes from the fact that someone whose writing I respect so much seems to have no actual respect for the people who identify with his own words.
One of my favourite Stickies songs is called Hell & Back. To me, it’s the kind of song that might help pull you through a bad time. And so I have only his own words to offer to Dylan: If you seem to find peace, come find me again.