Walking to Shea Stadium in hopes of finding some curbside treasures (successfully), Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus is in the middle of some obscure journey. Sure, we’ve heard that he’s maybe gone through some insanely, depressingly, and otherwise absolutely dreadful past few years. I’m not sure if he’s sick of it or done with the music stuff just yet, however. And what does it matter what people say, right? Because ultimately, the artist—in this case Patrick Stickles—will tell you what you need to hear.
We know the band is releasing The Most Lamentable Tragedy, a 29-track rock opera. We also know it’s going to be released at the end of this month, following their five-night sold-out shows at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn (July 24-28). The media has not been exactly warm toward the group in regards to their previous release (or Stickles, particularly), but are already awaiting the new album with a certain greedy intent. “People ask me why would I want to do this… like it’s a stupid idea,” where he disappointingly sighs with The Aquarian Weekly in a recent interview.
It’s no secret that everyone puffs up the first two albums. They are used to this battle in the ring with journalists, however. “When an artist comes out, every review will be the same,” Stickles quotes. For Titus Andronicus particularly, he explains, “First part, we came out of nowhere, everyone loved our first two albums, and the third one was shit. These journalists got addicted to that narrative. They want to prove that they are the person with the CORRECT understanding.” He explains further, “They want people to believe that there’s a categorical imperative, a perfect vision of hipster culture. Everybody wants to be known as the person that wrote that answer key.” And yes, we joked that I was as much a journalist as he was a musician. Stickles claims, “These journalists critique. [They] are in a pissing contest with each other to show—HEY!—I’m the real oracle of music today.”
Despite the attachment certain “fans” had to the first two albums, Stickles knows it’s really the bona fide followers by the band’s side. And do Titus Andronicus the favor and don’t buy their album unless you’ll unconditionally and unbiasedly listen to it—otherwise,you’ll just represent everything they hate. “People get so attached, they get addicted to their own expectation,” Stickles explains. “[They] use it as an excuse to write off anything that doesn’t fit into what they expect. The last record [Local Business, 2012], real fans liked—people that don’t use the band as a hipster status symbol.” He sighs, “The way people collect new bands like they’re fucking Pokémon…”
Going through a line of member changes, and releasing their first three albums (including almighty acclaimed The Monitor), Stickles is aware that some fans aren’t appreciating the growth of the band. When Local Business was released, websites and music blogs were so quick to dismiss the album as “not their greatest work.” A few even referred to Stickles as “washed up,” while others were concentrated on his mental breakdown. “People love those records so much, which is great, but they get super attached to them because they have these personal connections and they develop these expectations from the band,” Stickles says. “They have their own idea of what the band is supposed to sound like. They think they know better than myself or Eric [Harm], the drummer. They think they know what the band should sound like,” he realizes. “I write the tunes.”
I remember going to Webster Hall in NYC for a Titus Andronicus show after Local Business was released, and my friend jumped on stage, and proceeded to throw himself onto the crowd. This started a whole mess of chaos, even accidentally unplugging a guitar wire. He was ultimately thrown out by security. What makes the story better was that my friend was allowed back in the venue, and our group continued to rock on. It was beautiful. These are moments that Titus Andronicus appreciates, the true moments with their fans. This is when they feel the most connection, not only with the audience, but the art of music itself. “I’m just saying, music is one of those arts that are never finished,” Stickles reveals. “Miles Davis was a big component of this. His thing was that music isn’t real when it’s not happening then and there,” he explains. “It’s true, the true moment of art, of music, is an event—a moment in time. [Miles Davis] made plenty of records, it’s that same kind of idea that you don’t want to do something on stage in rogue. You want to feel it.” He continues, “Basically our job is creating the perfect rock and roll song or experience.”
And Titus Andronicus loves creating these moments, it’s something honest that we can share and genuinely intertwine with our innermost emotions, grievances, and joys—the true work of the band’s art. Because despite people thinking that they are here to just throw their music on them, Titus Andronicus stands for the art. He claims, “Alan Moore is the biggest literary influence on [The Most Lamentable Tragedy], on the themes of it. He is a comic book writer, rather than a musician. People talk to me as though my only interest is in rock music, that I wrote a rock opera because it’s my favorite… which it’s not.” He says,” I like all kinds of art, a unified purpose. People talk to me like I’m crazy. The problem with the state of art today, people want to do the normal expected thing.”
I think we are absolutely convinced that Titus Andronicus exists out the window of the conventional. The sold-out shows this weekend will be at Shea Stadium, co-founded by Titus Andronicus guitarist Adam Reich. Shea Stadium was founded on the same principles Stickles looks up to. He declares, “[Shea Stadium] is in the industrial part of Brooklyn, very busy on weekdays. All up and down the block, there are metal workshops and warehouses. It’s changing fast because of Shea Stadium, and the courage of Adam Reich for founding the space. A street that used to be purely industrial is gentrifying fast.” He adds, “[Adam Reich] proved that you can have a rock club, with the principle that everyone that decides they are the artist, deserves a chance on stage. Not every band is great, but if you have the bravery to say that you’re the artist, then you deserve the stage.” He adds, “That’s how you earn it.”
So take this as a lesson from Patrick Stickles along with Titus Andronicus to figure out for yourself what is the honorable art of the band apart from a 6.7 rating from a pretentious music expert. Stickles adds, “Nobody gets a 9.5. Only Kanye gets a 9.5, or whoever they decide can do no wrong. Although I do love Kanye.”
Titus Andronicus will be playing at Shea Stadium, July 24-28. Their new album, The Most Lamentable Tragedy, will be released July 28. For more information, visit their website at titusandronicus.net.