Murder can be fun
Jersey boys Titus Andronicus puts the blood back in rock ’n’ roll
Titus Andronicus is a lot of people’s new favorite band. The four-guitar six-piece from Glen Rock, N.J., is making a kind of seat-of-its-pants, angst-ridden guitar rock that brings to mind such masters of that sort of mayhem as The Replacements and Archers of Loaf. One song in particular, “Titus Andronicus,” the anthem worthy of being named after the band that plays it (which, itself, is named after Shakespeare’s bloodiest tragedy), has the taste-making world of music blogs marking Titus Andronicus as the “next big thing.”
After receiving a score of 8.5 for its debut, Airing of Grievances (Troubleman Records), from ridiculously influential online magazine Pitchfork (aka the “Pitchfork bump") the band’s early limited-runs of CDs sold out. The band also was invited to play the sold-out Pitchfork Festival in Chicago and has even begun to make it onto the radar of the big boys.
A recent nod in Spin coincided with an interview on MTV in which frontman Patrick Stickles summed up what could be called the band’s mission: “We’ve accepted that our lives don’t have any meaning, so we’re going to impose meaning on them in the funnest way possible.”
More from Stickles via e-mail Q&A from the road:
How does it feel to be invited to one of the bigger music showcases?
It is exciting because, when we were younger, my friends and I would take an annual road trip to Chicago to see the [Pitchfork] festival. It was funny, because the second year that we went, Andrew and I were watching Tapes ‘n Tapes, and they had some spiel about how they had been there the year before to watch the bands and now they were playing and isn’t that amazing and it could happen to any of you people out there, and we were, like, “Yeah, right!”
Pitchfork has been very nice to us, and they gave our record a very nice review the day after they invited us to play the festival. It was a week of great Pitchfork generosity.
Has the online promotion been an active move on the band’s part, or has it been more of a happy accident?
When we were first starting out, trying to make our way in the world, I would e-mail MP3s to blogs and stuff in hopes that they would write about us, which they rarely did. It was only after I stopped doing that that blogs actually started to write about us. It is a heart-warming thing, but when you get love on the blogs, people are more anxious to write you off. I had to stop reading Brooklyn Vegan for that very reason. People are mean!
“Andrew W.K.-meets-Guided by Voices,” “The Thermals-meets-Conor Oberst,” “Neutral Milk Hotel-meets-punk rock” … What are your thoughts on comparisons music critics have made about your band’s sound?
The Neutral Milk Hotel thing confuses me, because I am constantly hearing about some new band that supposedly sounds just like Neutral Milk, and it is invariably some polite, precious, sweater-clad nonsense that assumes that Neutral Milk was just about putting archaic language over acoustic guitars and trumpets.
People always seem to forget that Neutral Milk was as much of a punk band as, like, Black Flag. They were impossibly intense, especially live, and their supposed descendants never are. We would like to do what they do, which is have ambitious, somewhat high-minded music that rocked as hard as any punk band.
In your lyrics, guns are stroked, rivers fill with blood and people get strung up more than once. Should we be a little scared of Titus Andronicus?
We are nice guys that wouldn’t hurt a fly. Still, we want to be intense, and that means having intense imagery. That said, it wasn’t entirely intentional. We didn’t realize until later that more than half the songs on our record talk about being executed, be it by hanging or by crucifixion. I guess that stuff is just always on my mind. It could happen to anybody, you know?
How are you feeling about the prospect of more than a month on the road?
The longest we have ever been out previously was, like, 15 days or so, so I can only imagine the highs and lows are going to be all the more exaggerated. We are very excited to go to the West Coast—the only time I have ever been there previously was when I went to San Francisco with the Glen Rock High School marching band, which ended in personal tragedy. I am excited to get back on the horse though. That said, I have no idea if anybody out there likes us at all.