Us vs. Them vs. Ourselves

06/23/2010 4:25 AM |

In March of this year, Titus Andronicus released The Monitor, a hugely ambitious album that uses the U.S. Civil War as a metaphor to explore our urge to define ourselves in relation to a perceived enemy. On a recent afternoon outside Brooklyn Bowl, the band was kind enough to answer some questions about the album, about being from New Jersey, and especially about Lady Gaga.

The L: So, now that the new record’s been out for a few months, you’ve gotten the Best New Music tag from Pitchfork, you’ve toured two continents—how has the time following The Monitor been different than the time following your debut?

Eric Harm (drums): Well, we had two headlining tours in America for our last record. The first one was weird, ’cause we were still on a really small record label. For the second one, the record had been out for a long time.

Patrick Stickles (vocals, guitar):
It was pretty much a dead issue at that point.

Eric: For this one, the record came out, we toured, and it was a considerably stronger tour. A lot more people came out. A lot of people were interested in the record at the time. We played some very good spaces, and we even sold out a few shows.

The L: Was there a sense going into this record that there was a moment for you guys to seize?

Patrick: I feel like we’ve pretty much done the same stuff, you know? The world is just catching up to us now. We haven’t really modified our approach that much. It’s the same thing—just driving around in the old van, trying to do our best, trying to stick by our code of conduct about how we think bands ought to operate.

The L: I wanted to talk about the degree to which you guys identify and are identified by others as a New Jersey band despite living in Brooklyn. Over the years, I’ve noticed in a lot of people a sense of pride in being from Jersey that rivals the pride Texans seem to have.

Eric: I would like to make a funny contrast in the way that Texans approach their state pride and the way New Jerseyites approach their state pride. Texans are like, “Don’t mess with Texas!” and in Jersey, we have t-shirts that say, “New Jersey: Where the Weak are Killed and Eaten.”

Patrick: Very self-deprecating sense of pride from New Jersey. It is true, though, it is like Texas in that Texas is one of those states where people from other parts of the country have a pretty strong idea of what it’s like there, that the people from there don’t agree with. Maybe that’s New Jersey too, you know, people think they know everything about Jersey from seeing Jersey Couture.

Amy Klein (guitar, violin): New Jersey, like punk, is all about the pride of the underdog. Being from Jersey, you’re automatically degraded—you might start life from a lower position than some of your peers, but you’re also proud of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. And even if you don’t make it up very far at all, you’re proud of being the lowest of the low.

Ian Graetzer (bass): I think that’s every state in America. People in Kentucky probably think Cincinnati people suck. Pretty much every state you’re not from, probably thinks you’re shit.

Patrick: What is it about humans that makes us want to have so much of this polarization? It could be a good thing to explore in the context of an indie rock record or something. That would be cool. To try and come up with an extended metaphor or something to discuss that.