Decades after the inception of such greats as Black Flag, The Minutemen, and The Clash, the punk genre seems all but completely watered down and washed up.  But every now and then a band comes along that manages to capture the spirit of the tireless and reckless inventors of punk.  Titus Andronicus might be the best example we have right now.  Led by heavily bearded singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles, the five-piece group combines passionate howls and shiver-giving electric riffs to form epic neo-classic rock in punk style.  Sounds scrumptious, doesn’t it?  Well it is.  And during their current grueling, months-long tour, Titus stopped by Fordham University in the Bronx.  IF’s Bryant Kitching and Kathryn Freund were there to lengthily converse with the guys and gal while they waited for Triple A to come get the keys out of their locked van.

Inflatable Ferret: Where did you guys film your new video?

Patrick Stickles: Kittatinny Valley State Park.

IF: Okay, because I was watching it, and some of my friends were like, “Dude, that looks like the Res in Mahwah!”

Patrick: It’s not the Res, though the Res was on the short list for possible locations.

IF: When did you guys shoot that?

Ian Graetzer: The 20th of February.

Amy Klein: Pretty much the coldest day of the year.

IF: It wasn’t actually snowing, was it?

Ian: No, it wasn’t snowing during the day.  That’s a lot of fake snow we just trucked in.

Patrick: Those were feathers, man.  We just busted open some down comforters.

IF: You guys are getting more popular.  Have you noticed any changes since the last album?

Ian: A few more people at our shows, which is the best result you can expect in my opinion.

Patrick: There’s a lot more looky-loos.

Ian: You wonder if these people are going to stick around.

IF: Do you like that?

Patrick: What, having looky-loos around that come and look at the freaks from the Internet for a half hour and then go home and tweet about how it sucks?

Ian: Yeah, but everybody ever is a looky-loo at some point when they’re getting into something.

Patrick: It’s true.  We can’t please everyone, but we’re happy to please the ones that we can.

IF: So, it’s not “any publicity is good publicity”?

Patrick: No, it’s all great.  I’m just messing around.

IF: So, you guys have been on tour for a while.

Patrick: Five weeks or so…It doesn’t feel like five weeks.

Amy: It feels like an eternity.

Ian: A life sentence.

IF: I felt like I just kept bumping into you guys – openers here and there.

Patrick: You’ve got to pound the pavement.  Got to get out there and pay your dues.  “You gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent,” is what Pavement says – another band we’ll soon be opening for.

IF: Really?  No way!

Patrick: Well, just at festivals and stuff, with a million other bands.

Ian: Yeah, fifty other bands will also be opening for them.

Patrick: But there are three free Pavement concerts in the cards for us – a bounteous reward.

IF: Who else are you excited to see?

Ian: Lightning Bolt.  Haven’t seen them in a while.

Eric Harm: Oh man, I’m excited to see a lot of bands at the Pitchfork Festival.  I just heard they announced Wolf Parade and Broken Social Scene – two bands I tried to see a few times when I was in college, but I didn’t have the means to get to Philly, the closest major city.

Amy: I’m excited to see St. Vincent and to see Ian do his special festival dance.

IF: Can we get a demonstration of that?

Ian: Well, it’s not like my festival dance.  It just is the festival dance.  Like, when you’re at the festival, and there’s that guy with his shirt off and he’s just standing there going like this [moves body aimlessly], and that’s pretty much 50% of the festival right there.

Patrick: How about Raekwon the Chef?  We’re going to be in the kitchen with Raekwon.  Hopefully I’ll see him backstage or something, and say, “What’s up, Ice Cream Man?  You got that Snoopy head for me?”  Can’t eat that anymore, I’m a vegetarian.

IF: What made you decide to be a vegetarian?

Patrick: No, I’m joking around.  The vegetarian part was true, but I can still eat the Snoopy ice cream pop because, you know, that’s not a real animal.

Ian: Sponges can’t feel any pain, so you can eat the Spongebob ones.

IF: I read that you guys are big Curb Your Enthusiasm fans and that it may have been an influence on the album.

Patrick: It’s true.  Curb didn’t influence any of the content, but the methodology.  Curb is unscripted, you know.  So Larry gets all his buddies and has a rough outline of the story and says, “ Just get from point A to point B and do whatever you want in between.”  And that’s pretty much what we told all the musicians to do.

IF: Did you like the last season?

Patrick: Yeah, it was awesome.  Eric, you love Curb too.  Don’t you want to say something?

Eric: Love Curb Your Enthusiasm.  That last season was particularly good.

Patrick: When’s the new Eastbound and Down season going to be happening, that’s what I want to know.

Ian: Are you familiar with that show?

Dave Robbins: If you want to make good use of that camera I’ll just play it on my computer and you can tape it.

IF: What’s the guy’s name again?  Kenny…?

Entire Band: Kenny Powers.

Amy: We pretty much watch that show non-stop.  We pretty much live the life of Kenny Powers.  Except that none of us are washed-up baseball players…except one [points to Dave]  Did you guys know Dave was almost a professional baseball player?

Patrick: He got scouted by the Oakland A’s.

Dave: I love how this in, like, every interview.

Patrick: They were loving his lefty fastball.  What was it, like 92 miles per hour?

Dave: No, 88.  That was the fastest I got clocked.

Patrick: That’s why they called him the Flux Capacitor.

IF: Is that true?

Dave: No, they didn’t call me that.  My nickname was “The Judge.”

Amy: Really?

Patrick: Because he always brought down the hammer.

Ian: You know why he didn’t get into the major leagues.  They were like, “We’re going to give you a ten million dollar signing bonus,” and he was going out to his car and slipped on some ice and ruined his knee forever.  And he couldn’t get that split-knuckle back.

Dave: That’s actually all made up.

Patrick: But the part about him getting scouted by the A’s is 100% true.

Dave: That is true.  I saw the Iona team here earlier, and I was pretty jealous.  I wanted to play some ball again.  I wanted to show them how it’s really done.  They were probably thinking, “Look at these punks in their skinny jeans.”  Or whatever it is they say.  Then I throw it and break their birdbath.

IF: So, where did the whole Civil War thing come from?  Are you guys Civil War buffs or what?

Patrick: I’m a bit of a buff.  Do you guys like it?  We’ve never really discussed this.

Eric: I don’t hate it.  I’m just not passionate about the Civil War.

IF: So, you’re un-American is what you’re saying?

Eric: That’s what I’m getting at, yeah.

Ian: When I was younger my grandfather was a really big Civil War buff and would try to teach me things.  He’s got a lot of artifacts from that era that he would show me – weapons and what not.  He’s got a lot of shit.

Patrick: I mean, where did it come from?  Where didn’t it come from?  It’s just interesting.  I think there are a lot of connections that can be drawn from that time to modern times.  The study of history is a way of putting a lot of things into perspective.  “Those who forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes,” or something like that.  We shall be no party to that sort of thing.

IF: So, who does the recordings of all the speeches on your albums?

Patrick: Craig Finn was the voice of Walt Whitman – he plays in The Hold Steady, he’s my neighbor, I’m his cat-sitter.  So, he agreed to do it, because he’s a lot like Walt Whitman.  The guy who did the voice of Abraham Lincoln was my high school drama teacher.  The guy who did the voice of William Lloyd Garrison is this dude named Nolan – he’s the singer for this band from Baltimore called Double Dagger.  It’s a pretty sweet band.  He also did our album artwork.  And then, of course, Cassie, who we’ll see later tonight playing with The Babies, was the voice of Jefferson Davis.  You know, just friends.

IF: I wanted to ask you guys what your favorite Springsteen album is.

Eric, Ian, and Dave: Don’t ask me.

Ian: I hate Bruce Springsteen.

Dave: I’m going to say Nebraska.

Ian: I’ll go with Nebraska.

Patrick: You find that one to be the least offensive.

Dave: I also like Darkness on the Edge of Town.

Ian: What’s the newest one?  That’s my favorite.

IF: [laughs] That was pretty offensive.

Patrick: You heard it here first – it’s an exclusive.  “Titus Andronicus not Springsteen fans!”  But “The Promise” and “Racing in the Street” both from the Essential Lost Masters Volume…17 I think?  There were a lot of essential lost masters.  The dude lost a lot of essential masters.  He’s got to watch his shit.

Dave: Do you guys know who won The Masters by the way?  Did Tiger Woods win?

IF: Phil Mickelson.

Dave: Oh, that’s right.

IF: Tiger was, like, fourth.  It’s pretty ridiculous that he’s that much of a robot though.

Patrick: It’s pretty incredible what he does…I’d love to be sharp enough right now to make some joke about strokes, like, “five strokes off his dick” or something like that.

Dave: You guys want to hear a Tiger Woods joke?  It takes, like, a minute…

So there’s this classroom and the teach says, “Alright, it’s time for recess, but you can’t go outside until you tell me who said this quote.”  So, the first one is “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”  And this little boy raises his hand because he knows it, but some girl raises her hand higher, so the teacher picks the girl.  She says, “That’s JFK.”  And the teacher lets her go to recess.

Another quote is stated.  The boy knows again, but another girl gets picked instead of him again.  She says, “That was Martin Luther King.”  And the teacher lets her go out too.  So the boy gets all pissed off and says, “I wish these bitches would just shut their mouths.”  And the teacher says, “Who said that?”  And the boy goes, “Tiger Woods.  I’m going to recess.”

IF: [laughs] Just wondering, what’s your favorite Smash Mouth song?

Ian: What’s the hit?

Patrick: “Walkin’ on the Sun”

IF: “All Star.”

Eric: I liked the cover of “Why Can’t We Be Friends.”

Patrick: What’s the song on the Can’t Hardly Wait soundtrack?  “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby”?…Smash Mouth sucks.  They’re the All-American Rejects of the 90’s.

IF: I wouldn’t put them to that level.

Ian: I would.

IF: What if the lead singer went on a solo tour and asked you guys to open for him?

Patrick: Only if we could be his backing band as well.

IF: If you could back one band who would you back?

Patrick: Like, open for somebody?

IF: Like, back a lead singer.

Ian: It’d be cool to be in Spider Bags and make that a bigger experience than just three dudes.

Patrick: That’s true – Spider Bags is this band we’re going on tour with in a couple days, and they have an even harder time keeping people in the band than we do.  So, I offered their singer Dan McGee to play bass for them on tour. But he wasn’t having it.  Which is too bad, because their bass player Greg is really good at playing the slide guitar, an element in Spider Bags that I really miss.  But that’s okay.  Dan McGee knows best.

IF: Where are they from?

Patrick: Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

IF: What kind of stuff is it?

Patrick: It’s like…alternative country, I guess you could say, or Americana.

IF: Like…Wilco?

Patrick: Like who, Wilco?  Not at all like Wilco.  It’s not bed-wetting music.  It’s music that kicks ass.  They kind of sound like…they just sound like themselves.

Ian: Whatever explanation we give you is going to sound really lame because they brush shoulders with a lot of other categories.

Patrick: Yeah, that’s true.  But the fact that they come out smelling like a rose really speaks to their abilities as songwriters and performers.

IF: My favorite song on the album is “The Battle of Hampton Roads” and, while you guys are pretty epic to begin with, but the whole album seems a lot more epic in terms of track-lengths.  I was just wondering if you start off trying to write a 14-minute song or if you just start with one idea and it just snowballs.

Patrick: No, it’s not like that.  I mean, all the songs when I started writing them I thought they were going to be, like, three or four minutes long, but I’m just terrible at…temporal…

Ian: You’ve got temporal dyslexia is what you’re saying.

Patrick: Yeah.  But you’ve just got to see ideas out to their natural conclusions, even though it might end up in a song that’s ridiculously way too long.


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