Titus Andronicus is a band that has become known for their raucous live shows, records that transcend genre boundaries, and lyrics which simultaneously evoke ideas of hopelessness, all while assuring you that things can get better. Perhaps more famously, though, the band has become known for their revolving door of members throughout both recording and touring.
When frontman Patrick Stickles, now the lone original member of Titus Andronicus, started the band, it was not his intention to have a free floating collective of musicians, but rather, to have a rock ‘n’ roll band with a solidified line up. However, the constant rotation of members is something he has learned to adapt to.
“I wouldn’t say that I welcome it, I am sort of resigned to it. People quitting the band is not something I look forward to. I’ve got a pretty thick skin about it at this point though,” says Stickles over the phone from his home in New Jersey.
Now, with what Stickles hopes to be a solidified touring and recording line up of five guys, the band is ready to hit the road again in support of their new album, Local Business. The new album, which was mostly recorded live off the floor, was founded off of Stickles’ desire to create an album that could be more faithfully replicated live.
“On the last record we had 10 guitarists and lots of overdubs, there were horns, bagpipes, and every sort of bell and whistle that we could imagine. This one was kind of meant to be a little more back-to-the-basics, more stripped down,” says Stickles on how he approached writing for the album. “We wanted to do a record that was more like what we do onstage. And from a song-writing perspective, playing live so much kind of gave an idea as to what is most fun to play, and that is the more rock ‘n’ roll stuff, leaning away from the more country and folk-y stuff on the first two records… The first two albums were written kind of in isolation, y’know, alone in the bedroom with an acoustic guitar. This one was written with an eye for the stage.”
While 2010’s The Monitor, an album which starts off like a punk rock record and seamlessly transforms into a country and folk album without the listener evening noticing, was a monumental achievement for the band, Stickles found himself actively trying to get away from how he wrote and recorded the album.
“You could say it was a reaction to the last record, because the alternative would have been to do something that had even more bells and whistles, and that just seemed impossible. So it seemed better to go for regular old rock ‘n’ roll this time around.”
For Stickles, the band is all about getting back on the road. While the band’s previous two releases were grand productions, touring showed Stickles he didn’t need all these “bells and whistles.” Instead, he wanted to make a record where the recorded band Titus Andronicus, and the touring band Titus Andronicus, were no longer two separate entities, but rather one cohesive piece. In a round-a-bout way, you could say that touring made this new album, and this new album was made to tour.
“That’s really what the band is all about, the live show. Making the record is, in many ways, just an excuse to get back out on the road. We certainly aren’t making the album to make money,” says Stickles with a laugh, “that would be a fool’s error.”
Catch Titus Andronicus at the Biltmore Cabaret on November 15th.
By Joshua Erickson
Photo: Kyle Dean Rainford