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Shoegazers take stage on heels of debut full-length album

Titus Andronicus may be named after a Shakespearean drama, but the band's meteoric rise has been anything but tragic.
Photo: Maroon Staff/The Chicago Maroon
Patrick Stickles (far left) uses a wide variety of products to give his beard a lustrous sheen. Happy Februhairy! Courtesy of Titus Andronicus

Brandishing crunchy, distorted guitars and vocals, New Jersey punks Titus Andronicus might just be 2009’s hot band of the year. Titus’s explosive energy and melodic flare offer a fresh take on New Jersey punk. Paired with Welsh indie-pop extraordinaires Los Campesinos!, the band has probably rolled out the most energetic tour of the year. Before the band’s Logan Square Auditorium show, I had a chance to catch up with singer, guitarist, and keyboardist Patrick Stickles on his plans for this year, his New Jersey heritage, and, of course, Bruce Springsteen.

Yusuf Siddiquee: I have heard your name in the Pitchfork/Blog news headline space for about a year now; why the long wait for a wide release of your debut? Are you ready to release another album?

Patrick Stickles: There were no obstacles really; that’s just kind of how it works out sometimes. Things take a while to get sorted…. Some songs on the album are five years old; we’ve been sitting on them awhile. We’re still finishing up a batch of songs for our second record, if it ever comes out. It is still hypothetical because it depends on if this album is a colossal failure. We’ll see what the record label says.

YS: Putting aside what you read in the press, who do you want to be compared to, if anyone at all?

PS: I don’t know—nobody really. I mean, some comparisons are more flattering than others—Bruce Springsteen, The Clash I don’t mind. Some bands we don’t get too thrilled when we’re compared to. Hopefully the referencing of bands entices people to listen to us.

YS: It feels like your songs are eventually recorded in one take and the track just is what it is. Is that true or not really?

PS: I’m glad that it seems that way. That’s much better. It actually takes an extremely long time to learn the songs and even longer to record if we’re playing properly.

YS: What kind of scene, if any, did you come out of in New Jersey?

PS: None, no scene. Not any that we fit into. In our times in early years, it would be weird playing because there was no one like us. I mean, yeah, it was fun, but I feel better now not to play in that kind of scene. Even though, those local scenes with 10 people rocking out to their friends’ crappy punk and emo is beautiful in its own way.

YS: Your name…. Is there any direct parallel you feel with the Shakespeare play?

PS: We had to name ourselves something. A name is a name.

YS: Does the term “New Jersey Punks” (used to describe your music and attitude) bother you?

PS: No, not at all. New Jersey has a special place in my heart. We do try to play punk rock and operate in as much of a punk rock fashion as possible. We try to have the integrity of our favorite punk bands. I’d much rather have it be that than “dance punk” or “balladina punk” or “Jersey-reggae-voyager punk.”

YS: Who will save music from becoming an over-commercialized, undervalued art not worth paying for?

PS: Hasn’t it always been that? It already is. We are at an interesting intersection of art and commerce. Internet makes much larger audiences for more challenging groups. Take Animal Collective, one of the biggest indie rock bands, and they play the biggest rooms around. Their music is really bizarre and I don’t listen to that much of it, but I appreciate the way our music world is now. People are becoming open-minded and are changing their attitude about what they listen to. Modest Mouse had a number one album, Arcade Fire and The Shins had number two albums in the country. I don’t know of any other time that was happening except the ’60s—and I don’t care too much for that.

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