Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles discusses consumption of music and housing
In a couple months I’ll be making the cross country move to New York City, so when Titus Andronicus frontman Patrick Stickles tells me he’s currently walking down a Brooklyn sidewalk, of course I have to take the opportunity to ask for advice on living in the borough which may well soon be my home.
“The smartest thing would be to avoid what my girlfriend calls ‘residential tourism,’” says the singer and guitarist. “Sometimes these young people are kind of like a disease that moves from place to place and consumes all the resources, and then moves on once they’ve had their fill of it.”
This response is kind of brilliant in a hitting-the-nail-on-the-head kind of way, but it’s also a little contradictory. Beyond the fact that Titus Andronicus—the punkish indie band gracing the stage at Don Quixote’s on Thursday, April 14—broke out on the back of an album, 2010’s The Monitor, that was largely influenced by Stickle’s residency in Massachusetts (let’s see how his current neighbors feel about his Celtics allegiance), the New Jersey native is poignantly, and not necessarily kindly, describing a large slice of his fan base.
“There’s no sense in denying it, oh boy!” sarcastically pains Stickles when asked about Pitchfork Media’s effect on 2010’s “boom year” for his four-piece guitar band. “That’s the thing, you don’t want to bite the hand that feeds. But I guess my hope is that the people who came to our music through that avenue did it because they liked us, not because it was part of some game they were playing.”
Although in one sense he’s talking about two completely different subjects, in another Stickles is describing precisely the same phenomenon. There’s probably no irony in the fact that Pitchfork keeps its only satellite office in Brooklyn.
So what is one to do when faced with the dangers of tourism—whether they be residential or musical? The answer is multifold: while Stickles has clearly used his multi-local life experiences to his lyrical advantage, he also keeps (at least in the back of his mind) some sort of ethical code of conduct for his band. It’s the kind of dichotomy that becomes more apparent as Stickles discusses his move to New England in the context of the sophomore album, The Monitor.
“That’s why we sing about the enemy being everywhere,” says Stickles. “Ultimately, the stuff that I was looking for from that state, I should have been looking within for that. It’s kind of one of the morals of the record.”
And indeed, The Monitor is rife with moralizing. But the lyricism beneath the record’s aggressive Replacements-esque indie never seems to match the forward-driving, marching band vision of its sound, resembling rather a hodgepodge of grand statements and pop culture and historical references.
But its brilliance is that its poetry is never as pretentious as this description would make it seem. Rather, it’s a painfully open and acute audible analogy for the trials of a 20-something in an age where possibilities are supposed to be limitless, but everyone’s still talking recession. Oddly enough, the clearest analogy Stickles makes with this subject during our interview is in speaking about the album’s title, a reference to a first-of-its-kind Civil War warship.
“The ship being the crown jewel of the Union arsenal, you can make these fantastic things,” says the 25-year-old amateur sociologist and nautical historian. “You can make a battleship as amazing as you want, but ultimately the futility of our bickering always wins out, however great you want to make your battleship. Or your punk record.”
Titus Andronicus performs at 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 14, at Don Quixote’s, 6275 Hwy 9, Felton. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 at the door. For more information call 603-2294.