Ten Questions with Titus Andronicus (@ Slowdown Jr. March 18); They Might Be Giants tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm March 14, 2018

Titus Andronicus plays March 18 at Slowdown Jr. Photo by Ray Concepcion.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Since 2008 Titus Andronicus music has swayed from one style to the next, from bombastic, fist-in-the-air punk to soaring, swaying sing-along waltzes dense enough to keep a sea barge afloat.

The rock continues on the latest Titus Andronicus collection, A Productive Cough (2017, Merge), that finds singer/songwriter Patrick Stickles flexing his metaphoric pen on music that would sound good next to Exile-era Rolling Stones.

Sunday’s Titus Andronicus show at Slowdown will be an acoustic-only take on this new material, plus some Titus chestnuts. Stickles will be joined by Omaha native, pianist Alex Molini. “No drums, no ‘mosh pit’ every song pretty slow and not as loud,” Stickles said of this current tour.

I caught up with Stickles and asked him to take the Ten Questions survey. Here’s his answers:

1. What is your favorite album?

Patrick Stickles: It has been a long time since I declared an album to be my “favorite,” as I don’t much care these days to turn art into any kind of competition. When I did make such lists, I used to say that the self-titled debut of Violent Femmes was my personal number one, though it has been a while since I revisited it, and the adolescent frustration which the album so effectively embodies has slightly faded within me over time. Over the last five years or so, the album I have listened to most is probably Supreme Clientele by Ghostface Killah, which is so lyrically dense that I can hear it a hundred times and always find new wonders — what a powerful pen.

2. What is your least favorite song?

I try not to give too much emotional energy to the music that I don’t like so when I hear a song that irritates me, I don’t tend to learn its name, but I often find myself getting very frustrated when I am at the grocery store and they play that sort of acoustic, “whoa-oh” music that sounds like the band is wearing suspenders. That music must make some people happy though so I shouldn’t put it down.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

The most rewarding aspect of my career is meeting people who testify that the music has had a positive effect in their life, that it has helped them endure their difficult times. Many people in the audience have gone through struggles similar to my own and I know the power that art has to validate the sufferer and fortify their spirit. It is a great honor to be a part of that exchange and to pay my debt to the artists who have helped me to carry on.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

I adopted two baby cats last year and, of course, they can’t come on tour with me. Leaving them at home was difficult and I miss them very much.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

I smoke a lot of cigarettes, though I do not recommend them.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Performing in New York City is always special, as that is mostly where we all live. As I write this, we are gearing up to play in Toronto, which is a rocking town. Really though, any town with a stage where people are willing to show up and receive the music is fine by me.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

In terms of the quality of the performance, the worst Titus Andronicus gig I can remember was in Oxford, UK, which was marred by extensive equipment malfunctions, out-of-tune guitars, general sloppiness and all those sorts of things which plagued Titus Andronicus for the first five years or so of the career. As far as shows which I enjoyed the least, our last show in Akron, OH was ruined by a certain contingent of drunk bros who took it upon themselves to create and enforce an overly violent, macho vibe on the dance floor, which bothers me to no end. This sort of thing happens more often than I would like, but it is usually the fault of a few bad apples and I try not to let it sour my impression of the whole town, Akron or anyplace else.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I am very blessed that music has been my solitary occupation since 2008, shortly after the first Titus Andronicus album was released. My needs are fairly modest, and it’s not as though I am raking in the dough or figuring that I can retire off this rock and roll thing one day, but I am very grateful that I am able to make my art the focus of my life. There’s no way to know how long that will last, but every day that I get to live the life of the artist is a great gift and I measure my success in those increments.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

The last “regular job” I had before pursuing music full-time was in delivering pizza, so I suppose that if I wasn’t rocking, I would be doing that. Unfortunately, that’s another one of those jobs that is going to be done entirely by robots in a few years. Before that first album came out, I was studying to become a schoolteacher, but I can hardly even imagine doing anything like that now — young people are crazy, especially with those phones they’ve got these days.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

The pianist accompanying me on this tour is a fellow named Alex Molini and he is a native of Omaha. He speaks very fondly of his childhood years and he makes it sound as though Omaha is full of a lot of decent, good-hearted people with strong values. Of course, I have been to Omaha several times myself, always enjoying it thoroughly, and I am sure that our show at Slowdown will be a worthy addition to my expanding book of Nebraskan memories.

Titus Andronicus plays with Rick Maguire (Pile) Sunday, March 18 at Slowdown Front Room, 729 No. 14th St. Tickets are $13 Adv/ $15 DOS. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.com.

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They Might Be Giants returns to The Slowdown tonight. From the promo: “They’re back on the road with a new show with an expanded line-up of musicians. This new set will include all-time favorites, fresh rarities spanning their epic career, and spur-of-the-moment improvisations that will delight even their exhausted road crew.”

They have a new 15-track album called I Like Fun that sounds like everything they’ve ever done over their 37-year career. Check out the setlist from last night’s show in KC. $25, 8 p.m., no opening act.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Titus Andronicus; CVS protest today; Titus, Pixies tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:03 pm September 16, 2010
Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

Our Civil War

Titus Andronicus’ music addresses the battle within ourselves.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A caveat before reading further: Titus Andronicus’ frontman Patrick Stickles’ comments came under the influence of having not slept in 26 hours, after he and the rest of the band drove over night from Toledo to St. Louis to play on a hot Saturday afternoon at LouFest.

“I guess ‘Lou’ is short for St. Louis,” he said, adding that the band was playing “smack in the middle of seven or eight bands. Broken Social Scene is the headliner.”

It was just two years ago that Titus Andronicus, which hails from Glen Rocks, New Jersey, began to break through the oversized, amorphous cloud that is the U.S. indie music scene with their XL Records debut The Airing of Grievances, an LP that captured their rowdy, raucous anthem-punk style.

“A lot’s happened since then,” Stickles said. “We went through a couple guitar players and made this whole other record. We’ve pretty much wildly exceeded our expectations.”

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL Records)

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL Records)

The “other record” is sophomore effort The Monitor, released by XL this past March. While it continued in the same rambunctious fashion as their debut, the album is sprawling — more than an hour long with half the songs over seven minutes in length, and one clocking in at a whopping 14 minutes.

“I’ve never been too good at editing myself,” Stickles said. “At the time we were theorizing these songs, I guessed all would be three or four minutes long. What we ended up recording is a byproduct of me having poor temporal reasoning skills. We always strive for a level of grandiosity, but even I couldn’t have predicted that we’d go that far.”

The recording also expanded on the band’s low-fi punk sound, adding new instruments (bagpipes, fiddle, trombone, cello) that elevated these epic, drunken, Celtic-flavored sing-along ballads to a level as grand as the album’s so-called Civil War theme, which Stickles said shouldn’t be taken too literally.

“The music is set in modern times. The Civil War is only used allegorically; I thought it would be an apt metaphor,” Stickles said. In fact, the lyrics on The Monitor (named after the Civil War-era battleship) are both self-flagellating and confrontational, with slogan-like lines “Baby we were born to die,” “You’ll always be a loser,” “I was born to die like a man,” and most central to the album’s theme: “The enemy is everywhere.” Booze provides a lyrical counterbalance to desperation and hostility.

“The point is that we’re all complacent in our various societal ills,” Stickles explained. “All this stuff about the enemy being everywhere, just as often it’s inside us, our own bodies, our earthly prisons. We as individuals have to be willing to take responsibility for our own happiness and fulfillment. There seems to be a tendency of humans trying to pass the buck for their unhappiness, and say, ‘If other than xyz, I would have the life of Riley.’ To me, it’s a defense mechanism at best. It’s quite possible to achieve peace and happiness on this crazy planet, but we have to allow that to come from within rather than look for external reasons.”

Heady stuff, but beyond their deeper meaning, all those angry lines make for some amazing sing-along moments. Stickles agreed. “They tend to make the best rock and roll songs,” he said, acknowledging how much the band loves it when the crowd shouts the lines back at them. “Their enthusiasm has a way of quickly creating enthusiasm on stage.”

Stickles said the band has never played in Omaha, but heard that the city’s punks “like to rock out in the basement.” He also said he and his high school pals grew up listening to Saddle Creek Records, which opened the door to the next line of discussion.

There are probably 100 reviews of The Monitor online and in print, and I venture to guess that at least half of them compare Stickles’ rambunctious vocal style to Omaha’s very own Conor Oberst, from the overdriven screams to that distinctive Conor bray.

Stickles said he admires Oberst’s honesty. “He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s too scared to lay it on the line,” he said, “though his last two records kind of left me cold.”

As for the comparisons, “I’ll tell you because you rep the Omaha readership,” Stickles said. “I think it’s a little short-sighted.

“The constant comparisons to anyone gets old, even if it’s Jesus Christ. Doesn’t everyone want to be themselves? Don’t we all want to blaze our own trail, though I know this is rock and roll, and there’s not too much under the sun? But it seems kind of like, uh, cheapening slightly to say that if you’ve heard one guy you can pretty much guess what this guy is going to sound like. After awhile it feels like a feedback loop, a house of mirrors, like sometimes (reviewers) get these things to sound so similar that I’m reading reviews of other reviews. But maybe that’s me being a self-righteous, entitled type. Even if it were true, is it helpful? Who’s to say? It’s not in my control. As I put my art out into the world, it’s out of my hands. History will judge.”

It will indeed. Now go get some sleep.

Titus Andronicus plays with Free Energy Thursday, Sept. 16, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information, call 402.884.5353 or visit waitingroomlounge.com.

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An addendum to yesterday’s CVS Pharmacy item: There’s an organized protest taking place today at 4:30 p.m. on both sides of Dodge Street outside The 49’r. It’s called “The Rally to Preserve the Integrity of Dundee.” Find out more at the event’s Facebook page. Will it make a difference? Who knows… it couldn’t hurt…

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So, tough choice for tonight: The Pixies or Titus Andronicus? I grew up listening to The Pixies and love all of their albums. I consider them to be among the most influential indie bands in the last 30 years. And tickets are still available in the $35 to $65 range. The show is at The Orpheum and starts at 7:30. I guess since it starts so early, there’s no reason to not go to both shows…

Opening for Titus Andronicus at The Waiting Room tonight is Free Energy, a hot hot hot new indie pop band from Philly that sounds influenced by ’70s arena acts like Cheap Trick, The Knack and yeah, Thin Lizzy, along with a healthy dose of Pavement. 9 p.m., $10.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.