When ‘internal issues’ become public: Sticky Fingers and the issue of accountability

As we’ve seen this week, Sticky Fingers announced an ‘indefinite hiatus’ to follow their summer festival commitments, due to ‘internal issues’ within the band. Since that initial announcement, frontman Dylan Frost issued a statement addressing his battles with addiction and mental health issues. Undoubtedly, the ‘official’ comments were spurred on following singer Thelma Plum’s take to Facebook, detailing an abusive encounter she and boyfriend (Spit Syndicate’s Nick Lupi) had with Frost over the weekend, resulting in the couple being verbally abused, spat at and physically threatened.

 

While news stories that have emerged have featured ‘accused’, ‘claims’ and ‘alleged’ in their titles and in the body of their texts, the fact is, this type of story is nothing new, sadly. Frost’s reputation off stage and behind the scenes is not breaking news. It’s just that many (media, fans, industry members) have given him, and others in his position, a pass for too long now. Like others in his position of influence and reach who have been at the centre of these types of stories, oftentimes their behaviour is explained away as he or she ‘having a rough time of his/her own’, or it just being part of the road.

This is where bullshit should be called.

We all know at least one person who acts up a bit when they party. We all know someone who loves to get a bit messy on social media. Generally, when we see this behaviour, the logical and expected response would be to call that person/people out – correct?

So what happens when it’s your favourite musician who treats women like they are objects, free to be discarded? Just one of the lads. She loves it. No.

Or if one of your favourite festival bands is called out for racial abuse and threats of physical violence? Classic rock and roll. No.

Whose responsibility is it to hold their behaviour accountable? If we’re comfortable enough to check people close to us or the non-famous online, then why is it hard when it comes to these sorts of people we invest our love, support (and money) in?

A lot of this comes down to the accurate reporting by those who spend an equal amount of time promoting and supporting these artists. This doesn’t include quick pieces pulling quotes from elsewhere online to get some hits and to fan flames – there’s an online audience already hungry to jump in and tear shreds from behind their keyboards, so why not get a few clicks from it?

Throw back to October 2014. Sticky Fingers get thrown out of the Union Club Hotel in Wagga Wagga for a number of reasons including being late, urinating on the balcony and being abusive to security.

The title The Daily Advertiser decided to run: Sticky Fingers Evicted from Wagga Pub as Aussie Rock Bad Boys Run Amok.

May as well have gone with something like, Sticky Fingers Evicted from Pub Because Yeah, The Lads.

Was the incident followed up or addressed properly or did it become part of the hazy rock and roll lore that has conjured itself up around the band so successfully? Take a guess.

We’re talking about a lack of conversation about the culture of turning a blind eye and sweeping this behaviour under the rug by those of us in a position to generate a positive and supportive environment for those affected. I’m not holding myself or our publication above everyone else – this is the first I’ve felt properly felt incensed and compelled to speak about the subject, even though I have seen plenty of these scenarios play out over the years. But with the focus once again on Sticky Fingers, I thought it necessary.

I sincerely hope Dylan gets the help he needs for his mental health problems because Christ knows, he has been surrounded by enablers for far too long. And before you think I’m doing exactly the above in explaining away his behaviour, I too have witnessed one of his outbursts. Thankfully, I was able to remove myself from the situation before it escalated further.

This op.ed isn’t me encouraging others to jump in the tabloid pool (if anything, this is condemning those type of one-off, ‘Musician/Famous person goes off rails again’ articles that are never followed up) – it’s me vocalising a desire for a professional and public environment where people like Thelma Plum can feel comfortable speaking publicly about these experiences without being lambasted online or within the industry by those who admit to being aware of the activity, but pass it off as being some kind of normal. In the wake of triple j’s coverage of the incident (which had Plum’s personal Facebook details inadvertently shared online), the singer has become victim of a horrendous amount of cyber-bullying from Sticky Fingers’ fans and likely internet trolls.

When it comes to issues of racism, sexism and varying kinds of assault, we are making steps in becoming a more open and supportive community. We’re not completely there yet, though. Not by a long shot. We can continue to turn those steps into strides however, by ensuring people are able to be put on blast by those in the position to do so; it not only sets an example for fans to look at, but it also gives those affected by the situations the comfort and confidence to be able to speak up in the first place.

Stop making excuses and call the behaviour out for what it is. Let’s not wait until the situation reaches this point and the only thing fans are going to come away from it with is uninformed vitriol. Obviously, it doesn’t start a constructive conversation.

The curtain of fame and influence should not be iron clad when it comes to this and we should all be accountable for ensuring we’re moving forward, not adding to the toxicity that often clouds a lot of music today.

For issues with drugs, alcohol and other addictions, Lifeline (13 11 14) and ReachOut are available to help.

If you are currently dealing with issues of domestic violence or sexual assault (or know someone who is) and would like to speak with someone about them, you can find assistance and advice via the national helpline – call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

 

 

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