Titus Andronicus Wants to Sleep on Your Floor

Patrick Stickles on Living at Home and Touring on the Cheap

Patrick Stickles is, by most definitions of the term, kind of a rock star. In all likelihood he’s graduated from the youthful stage of parentally-enforced suburban depravity.

But when we spoke three weeks ago, he was in the midst of reliving his suburban punk adolescence, back in small-town New Jersey, living in his childhood home with his parents.

“It was because of a failed romance,” Stickles laughs in explanation of why—after moving to New York when Titus hit the small-time—he had slunk back across the Hudson River with his tail between his legs.

“I’m stagnating in the childhood home I grew up in,” he said.

He’s literally counting down the days until his next tour for the band’s latest record, Local Business, their follow-up to The Monitor —the drunken-singalong-ready record that put them on the map.

Living the idealized big-city life with a significant other only to break up and return to the town you once hated is something that has been tirelessly recounted, and in true Zach Braff style, if Braff was a fist-raising punk—Stickles is bummed.

Breaking up is something that Titus Andronicus and its founding lead singer know all too well. After going through what Stickles counts as “a lot” of changes to their lineup through the years, the band is now touring for the first time with the musicians that actually recorded the album they’re promoting.

“When we recorded all the other albums, the band pretty much fell apart after the recording of it. So we’re looking at some pretty faithful recreations of the songs from the records this time around,” said Stickles.

“I’m feeling confident,” he said in a voice that sounded anything but. “I think we’re going to rock. At least, I’m hoping we’re going to rock.”

When we talked, it was exactly one week before the band would leave on their North American tour. Stickles was excited to escape what he calls the “stagnating boredom” of suburbia, but he did admit that leaving on tour isn’t quite as thrilling the umpteenth time around.

“I guess you can never recapture the initial excitement of hitting the open road, but that’s just like everything else,” he said. “I’d imagine it’s less exciting to jump out of an airplane the second time, right?”

Boredom is probably not something that anyone who has seen Titus Andronicus live would associate with the band.

They’re exciting, they’re lively and they’re loud, with Stickles pounding ferociously at his guitar and inciting the crowd to mosh and sing along with the many chants in the Titus repertoire.

Still, in the indie rock world of next-big-thing buzz bands and one-hit wonders, longevity is a challenge. But Titus Andronicus don’t change their sounds to conform to the flavour of the week, or what would make the Pitchfork homepage—they stick to their guns, which Stickles described as keeping it intense, rocking and and using major pentatonic scales.

“You can’t take anything for granted. We can’t rest on our laurels and we have to try to outdo the next band, try to stick it out, you know?” he said.

“Because tastes change so much so fast these days—with the Internet and everything—so unless we wanted to make some kind of weird R’n’B album or something, we can’t worry too much about staying trendy.”

“Unless we wanted to make some kind of weird R&B album or something, we can’t worry too much about staying trendy.”
—Patrick Stickles, Lead Singer & Guitarist for Titus Andronicus

If you forget the aspect of playing shows every couple of nights, the touring life can start to evoke the monotony of the suburbs if not done right. The constant stream of interchangeable hotels, motels and hostels can be soul crushing, said Stickles.

So to avoid the repetitive cycle, Titus does something usually reserved for bands playing house parties and travelling in a parent’s borrowed Volvo—not a band whose last album, The Monitor, scored high on pretty much every influential “best of the year” chart (including The Link ’s) for 2010.

While on tour, they sleep on the couches of strangers, or futons or sometimes in spare beds—for a night, they’ll take over the apartments of anyone who offers. Despite their recent success, they stay true the promise on their old MySpace page: “Above all else, Titus Andronicus want to sleep on your floor.”

“It’s all about keeping the overhead low,” Stickles said.

“When we’re meeting new people all the time, it keeps it fresh, it keeps it interesting and it helps us to get closer to our fans and get to know more about them, the stuff that they’re into and see what they’re like as people. A lot of bands don’t get that opportunity, or if they have it, they don’t take it.”

And staying relevant sometimes means acting like the perfect roommate—at least for a night. Although putting a call out on your website for places to crash in exchange for free tickets to their show may sound like a recipe for an ill-fated date with a lumpy pull-out, Stickles said, for the most part, it’s not that bad.

There is the pressure to entertain—they run the risk of being remembered more for their couch-surfing demeanor than the performance—and it’s sometimes hard to party every night. But leaving fans with something more personal to remember them by may even help the band stay relevant—not an easy feat.

“It’s just that it can all go away, you know? Like we said, they’re really fickle, and what may be the coolest thing in the world one minute may be completely irrelevant tomorrow,” said Stickles.

“It’s easier to make a lasting connection with a real person than it is with pixels on a computer screen, so hopefully the people that we stay with remember us fondly and hopefully that translates into a more lasting love for the band.”

Titus Andronicus + Ceremony + Topanga / Nov. 28 / Il Motore (179 Jean-Talon St. W.) / Advance $15.00 / Door $17.00