Stickles Says: An interview with Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles

Patrick Stickles (Center) and bandmates

Originally Published In The Daily Free Press on 2/29/12

On Friday, New Jersey rockers Titus Andronicus are bringing their fierce live show to BU Central. Straddling the line between angsty punk and book-smart indie rock, Titus will draw material from their first two albums (including 2010’s highly acclaimed Civil War concept album, The Monitor) as play numbers from their yet-to-be-recorded third LP.

In advance of the show, lead-singer, guitarist and chief songwriter, Patrick Stickles talked with Daily Free Press music editor Lucien Flores about the band’s upcoming LP, Stickles’ writing style, the Peanuts comic strip and more. Read the interview below and come to show on Friday (doors at 8:30pm). Remember, it’s “partially funded by the undergraduate student fee!”

Lucien Flores: You’ve got the new album coming out later in the year. I know you’ve played some of the new songs on tour, but are you going to play a lot more now?

Patrick Stickles: We definitely will. The fact of the matter is, the reason that we’re doing this tour is that we’re tired of all the old stash…and of course to make money for ourselves and to enjoy the love. What I mean to say is, the reason that we’re doing the tour is that it gives us a good excuse to practice everyday, play all of our new songs. It’ll be killing two birds with one stone. We’ll be practicing to make our record and we’ll be doing a show for the kids so everyone is happy. You see? Time saving.

LF: I’ve seen an interview in which you mention the Peanuts comic strip showing up in the album. 

PS: Oh yeah, that’ll be in there, maybe an allusion or two. I’m not that big for it anymore. Beyond that, the comic strip celebrates the indomitable human spirit. Always losing the baseball game, but yet he never gives up, he always returns for more punishment. Almost Christ-like, returning for more and more. I’ll try to celebrate that in the lyrics, but not that much. Specifically the comic strip, it won’t be anything like that. None of the allusions will get extended too far…I love the comic strip, don’t get me wrong.

LF: In terms of songwriting, what are the themes of the new songs? Is there an overarching theme or are they all sort of freestanding?

PS:  It’s about how the problems that arise that I need to take care of myself because I am an individual first. You look out for number one to a certain extent and yet, I see that I am a member of many communities, large and small, and I have certain obligations to each of them. And yet I think that’s the whole point of my own life…we’ve got this duality, things seem very large on one stage, on another very small. We’re feeling very strong at one moment and weak the next.

LF: I’ve always been impressed with your lyrics. I’ve read interviews in which you say that you’ll think of lyrics when you’re driving.

PS: It’s good to drive the car when you’re doing it because it’s a zen-like activity and it demands your attention, but it’s sort of semi-automatic. You’re not really thinking about it consciously every second. Your mind is sort of free to a certain extent to enter a certain plane of thinking and that makes it easier…[The songs are] constantly moving and demanding it a bit of attention. Really moving to complex faculty…you do that and later try to remember what it was and I play the song, I sing one thing. Maybe it’s good and perhaps it’s not. If not, it goes back on the pile for maybe another day. And if it’s good it can stay and hopefully it will get done later. It takes a long time.

LF: Do you think there’s going to be a No Future Part Four on this album?

PS: I’ll say not. The saga is over, they escaped… it ended in an affirmation that it was okay, don’t worry about it, it’s all right now…we’re moving forward to accepting that we don’t have the future, or more accurately, we accept that. We aren’t necessarily entitled to a certain future or that we can make all the right decisions and perform all the right pieces and we still might not get the future that we’ve earned because the future is totally uncertain so it might as well not even exist for our purpose…that saga is over, a new saga is beginning.

LF: I’m excited for it.

PS: It won’t be until autumn, it’s not ever recorded yet. The tour to practice for it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s almost here.

LF: Is there any new song that’s been your favorite so far?

PS: I can’t reveal any secrets about that CD, you’ll have to come to the concert. [Laughs] I can’t tell you everything; I can’t give away the whole.

LF: I’ve heard you were close to becoming a teacher.

PS: I was close to maybe going to graduate school to learn how to do it, but I was never once had the skill to do it. I only have a degree in just regular old English and not dealing with kids.  I was close to going to graduate school and study it but then I said, ‘forget that.’ The band was an ongoing process and getting hotter all the time. It seemed like a funner option… Four years later…it was the right choice for me. It gives me enough happiness. All I ever need really is happiness to get through the day. Just happiness enough to get from sun to sun.

LF: You’ve quoted from various literatures and from speeches in your records. How is the process of finding the right snippet or is just stumbling things in reading or learning history?

PS: Like anybody else, I go out looking to be entertained in some way and then I find something that strikes my fancy and I take a little mental note of it and I remember to enjoy it again later. I accumulate little thoughts about things I can use later to steal, appropriate, for my own purposes, use to support to my ideas. Selfishly.

LF: One big aspect of the band is that you guys are very proud of your New Jersey heritage and you have so many lyrics about life in the Northeastern US. What do you think the Northeast has done that inspires so much or does it just come natural because it’s your environment?

PS: It’s probably more natural. I could say a lot of things that I like about it or that I think is cool about it, but the fact is, if I grew up any other place else I’d say the same about that place. But that’s okay, maybe I like it better…As much as I’m a punk, I want to be the lone wolf, I also want to feel as if I’m a part of something that’s greater and maybe that just stayed and maybe that’s a crazy place where a punk can find some sort of crazy world. I don’t know…there’s no place like home.

LF: How’d the show at BU come about?

PS: There’s not really much of a story. Presumably somebody set it up…some kind of student perhaps. There’s a club on campus. They got in touch with our agent. Had to do it, it’s going down right now.

LF: When was your last show?

PS: It’s been two months ago. Kind of a local business night vendor fair. At a warehouse where they had all of these local merchants peddling their wares in booths. That was way back in December, it’s been a long time to be off the stage.

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