Titus Andronicus Interview
New Jersey's Titus Andronicus get through band members in the same way Newcastle United get through managers. If you're one of those people whose looking for long-term career prospects, they probably aren't the band for you. However, replace the serious bit in the previous sentence with the words 'shambolic melodies' and 'frivolous fun' and you're barking up the right tree.
Contact caught up with them post-soundcheck prior to their Great Escape show in Brighton's tiny Volks venue and true to form, yet another inevitable line-up change had taken place prior to them leaving the States for their latest UK jaunt.
Is this your first time in Brighton?
Ian Graetzer(bass): No, we played a show here once in one of those venues that's down near the water. It was kind of weird as it felt like we were actually playing beneath the sea but it was fun.
There's been a lot of attention focused on Titus Andronicus over the past few months.
Patrick Stickles (vocals/guitar): Really? You think so? Why?
Definitely. We first heard about you via a recommendation from Kip (Berman) of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart just before Christmas.
PS: Ah Kip! He was the first of many members of this band!
IG: He was definitely the first guy that ever came to see us who we didn't go to High School with. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart played at my parents house once.back in the day when they didn't have a drummer and they just used an iPod! He used to work for a marketing company and I was his intern.
There seems to be a thriving scene in New York at present. So many new bands whose influences can be traced back to the whole C86 and shoegaze scenes of two decades ago, people such as you, the Pains, Cause Co-Motion!.
PS: Cause Co-Motion! aren't really a new band though. They've been going at their thing for a long time, throughout the waves of garage rock and beyond. They're almost like the elder statesmen of the scene I guess.
IG: The humble wise men!
Except with a more punk-reared take on Beat Happening perhaps?
PS: Oh I dunno.Beat Happening were pretty punk in the first place I'd say.
IG: Beat Happening?
PS: You know, Calvin Johnson's band.
IG: Ah right, I wouldn't say we're musically influenced by Beat Happening. Ideologically for sure.
How do you feel about the prospect of Titus Andronicus attaining commercial success?
PS: Right now or in the future?
PS: Well not today, seeing as we didn't get the tour vehicle we wanted!
IG: It's been a very bad day and its just slowly getting better. We didn't get the mini-van we asked for, we didn't know if the amplifiers we bought were going to show up, we're touring in a station wagon because all the other bands are gone, we can't bring a bass amp with us..
PS: But at least the amplifiers finally arrived!
IG: Yeah, about the only sweet thing of the day.
The soundcheck sounded pretty sweet, particularly your take on The Misfits 'Last Caress'. Will you be playing it as part of tonight's set?
PS: No, probably not tonight but its something we do every now and then.
IG: We like to remember our roots.The Misfits are from New Jersey like us.
PS: You could still go and see The Misfits now but you wouldn't want to do that, as it's not really The Misfits.
IG: Its as much The Ramones as it is The Misfits.
PS: (pointing at a group of pigeons nearby) What are those birds over there doing now? Oh man, I wish I had my camera!
IG: Pigeon sex?
PS: What! Were they really doing it? I'm gonna get my camera phone ready just in case they do that again!
The soundcheck did sound really impressive though, certainly a far cry from the shambolic descriptions that seem to follow you around.
PS: Yeah, I think we were pretty competent as well. Do you know what the amazing thing about that is? This will actually be the first time THIS line-up of the band has played together!
IG: This line-up was only created three weeks ago.we're down to a four-piece now.
PS: We've been touring our last record 'The Airing Of Grievances' for a while now as a five-piece, and then a few weeks ago two of the guys just left. Fortunately, our old friend Liam (Betson) was on summer vacation from college so we've got him in on guitar.
IG: He used to be in the band when we first started, so it wasn't that much of a problem for him learning new songs.
PS:.no, more a case of remembering the old ones!
What made you part ways with those two guys?
PS: They just didn't want to continue living this lifestyle any more..I mean, we're still on good terms with them and stuff. We can understand why they wouldn't want to be in the band. Its tough being in a band sometimes if you're not built for that kind of bad assery!
IG: Not built to live in squalor I guess.
So it was mostly down to lack of finance and living conditions why they left?
IG: Partly down to that yeah, and also deteriorating relationships with friends and family back home. We're all only a few steps away from going completely crazy!
PS: Its not the life for everybody y'know.
What about the follow-up to 'The Airing Of Grievances'. When do you intend to start putting your next record together?
PS: We'd like to be think we'll get something together soon.
IG:.but for all our talk of self-sufficiency we're really just slaves.
PS: What we really need is for Vampire Weekend to make an album, and then that will bring in all the money for the label so we can afford to make a new album!
There are rumours that other labels are showing an interest in signing the band. Would you ever consider going to a major if the money on offer was right and you were given the artistic licence to operate as a band on your own terms?
PS: Are they the rumours? Really? Interesting..
IG: No, I don't think I would, although it would be a nice carrot to dangle in front of the people we are in business with at this moment in time.
PS: Yeah, let them work a little harder!
IG: So hopefully that will happen at some point, give me some kind of bargaining leverage when I want something done.
PS: In spite of our mini-van problems, we do like our record label XL.
Your lyrics are laced with an almost bittersweet, happy/sad sense of humour throughout. What inspires them?
PS: What inspires me to write them? Just being a human I guess. No really, I see them as just commenting on the world around me. That's what every song we've ever written does.
So if there was nothing going on around you to inspire you or the band, what would you be doing?
PS: I'd be finishing off Graduate School I guess.that would be sweet, I'd finally be a Master! Instead I'm just a Master of.Dick!
So what's the best thing about being in Titus Andronicus? Some would argue that given the number of line-up changes you've had the band may be cursed.
IG: I wouldn't say we're cursed, but I would say that being in a band that's as active as us in terms of playing live and touring is difficult, and very time consuming to say the least.
PS: I'd say we're pretty serious task masters. We don't like to rest on our laurels too much. If you want to be in this band you've got to be hungry.
IG: And get ready to have no fun.. its strictly business!
PS: Its not very glamorous. I mean, our lives aren't exactly filled with a lot of creature comforts yet at the same time there's a certain amount of esteem I can take from this that I wouldn't get from having any other job.
IG: Also I'm young now.there's no way I'm gonna do this stuff when I'm older. I wanna have a house and a yard with a lawnmower eventually.just chilling!
PS: Every band should know when the time is right to break up. I mean, I have this fear that I may have sacrificed my entire future professional career because I had to hold down some crappy dead-end job to keep the band going. I think if it were to ever come to that we'd know when to call it a day.
The album 'The Airing Of Grievances' is out now on XL Recordings.
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