My main goal was to just articulate a certain part of my earthly experience in the hopes that it could reach other people that have gone through similar experiences…In that regard, I feel it was a pretty big success. It would’ve been cool if it made me a million dollars also. That’s a lot harder, it turns out.
BY LISA MROCK
PHOTO BY MIKE GREELEY
For over 10 years, Titus Andronicus has created album after album that continue to build upon themes and ideas from preceding albums. Songs about depression and relationships with references to philosophy, history, and literary works are what they’re known for — with 2010’s The Monitor using the American Civil War as its overarching metaphor for various situations. Their latest effort is a 93-minute rock opera titled The Most Lamentable Tragedy about a severely depressed man who goes through anxiety, paranoia, love, and is constantly fighting throughout. To get a more in-depth look into the album, Chicago INNERVIEW talked to lead singer/guitarist Patrick Stickles about depression, why some people prefer night over day, and the appeal of dreams.
Chicago INNERVIEW: A number of your songs reference other songs you’ve done in the past with similar titles, and there’s a feeling that every new song or album is a continuation of a song or album before it. Is that intentional or am I reading too much into that?
Patrick Stickles: It is intentional, and I do want you and all the listeners to read too much into it. I don’t think it’s too much. It’s an attempt to create an immersive sort of universe so that rather than someone getting into one song or one album, they can get into the whole band entity, the whole catalogue, the whole thing that we’re doing. I like to look at it as one piece. It’s one body of work. One thing continues and builds upon the last thing. It’s something I picked up from our future tourmate Craig Finn. His band The Hold Steady very much did the same thing. I think it encourages a more intense level of commitment and dedication to the project.
Chicago INNERVIEW: What felt right about making The Most Lamentable Tragedy a rock opera versus a regular album?
Patrick Stickles: I wanted to tell a story about my personal struggles and everything that I wanted to say couldn’t necessarily fit into a three-minute song, so the idea was to break it up into a sequence of feelings and ideas and string them together in such a way that it would paint a larger, more complete picture. And I’ve always appreciated albums like that, or any kind of work of art that has a certain thematic unity.
CI: Was it intimidating to take on a full rock opera?
PS: At the time when we started out doing it, it seemed like there’d be nothing to it. When we got more into it, then it was like, ‘Oh gee whiz.’ In situations like that, you gotta just put your head down, power through, and keep chipping away at it and when it’s all over, it’ll be hopefully close to what you wanted it to be. It kind of takes on its own life in that process.
CI: One of the things talked about in the record is how the main character hates being awake and hates the arrival of dawn. And when talking to people with depression, one of the things they all have in common is they sleep all day and stay awake all night. What makes the night more bearable than the day?
PS: That’s a good question. You know, I’m looking out the window, I see all these people going about their day and the sun is out. I guess there’s a certain impetus to go out and do something, but when you’re depressed and not motivated and you don’t really wanna do anything, you wanna defy that impetus. There’s also the element of dreams, the peace we find in dreams, maybe because they’re not real. You can float in there and be free from responsibility, rather than feel like you’re getting dragged through life.
CI: There’s also less people around at night.
PS: That’s part of it too. The character in the record starts out in a very antisocial place and maybe that’s because having other people around kind of holds up a mirror to ourselves in a way. And, depending on how we feel at the time, that can force us to confront what we perceive as our flaws and faults.
CI: What was your main goal in writing The Most Lamentable Tragedy and do you think you achieved it?
PS: My main goal was to just articulate a certain part of my earthly experience in the hopes that it could reach other people that have gone through similar experiences…At times when I was feeling very alone and alienated and misunderstood, certain artists were able to tell me that I wasn’t completely alone in the world…In articulating my feelings, I could somewhat articulate their feelings too — just like those other artists did for me. And I feel like I achieved that because I’ve heard from a lot of people since the record came out that the songs on the record and stuff discussed on the record does reflect the way that they feel in a way that other records or pieces of art haven’t — and that it gave them some kind of strength or made them feel better and a little less alone. In that regard, I feel it was a pretty big success. It would’ve been cool if it made me a million dollars also. That’s a lot harder, it turns out.