Ask a Straight Guy: Titus Andronicus’ Patrick Stickles
Patrick Stickles of Titus Andronicus sings a familiar tune to the small town gay; over the loud, brash anthemic instrumentation and in between cleverly crafted pub-rock inspired guitar riffs, Stickles screams the pain of suburban hopelessness – a common queer adolescent experience. However, Stickles identifies himself as straight, though careful not to let his sexual orientation define him. Escaping New Jersey to Brooklyn, he agreed to an in-person picking of his ultra queer-friendly brain.
The New Gay: Being slim and possessing the beard that you have, by gay cultural standards, you’d be considered an ‘otter’, are you content with that label?
Patrick Stickles: Sure! I was always a little disappointed that I couldn’t be a bear, as I’m not much larger since I really like the animal. I’ll say this; anytime I see a gay float in a parade, I always find it that the hairiest dudes have got the sexiest dance moves. What is the correlation between hairiness and sexiness?
TNG: So, I must ask… Who or what inspired the beard?
PS: Well, there’s definitely an element of laziness to it, I can barely bring myself to brush my teeth most of the time, so I can’t imagine always shaving, but I don’t know, I’ve always found men with beards to be very trustworthy for some reason. I don’t know why that is, maybe it’s something to do with Santa Claus or something? And my dad, when he was my age, had a beard like mine. So I guess it’s my personal piece of manhood.
TNG: If you had to ‘go gay’ for someone, dead or alive, who would it be?
PS: Dead: Walt Whitman. He was a wonderful, warm, cuddly man – a sexy beast who walked the line very well.
Alive: John Famiglietti of Health, what a stud, besides the fact that he is totally gorgeous, he can be a Calvin Klein model. He knows it too, he’s always got these super revealing tank tops going on showing on that cut torso, he’s got that long flowing hair. His features are all nice and symmetrical. He’s like the hottest guy in indie rock right off the bat. Besides that, the way he throws himself around the stage, pretty much like a big, sexy tornado.
TNG: Does Titus Andronicus have any queer influences?
PS: All of our ideological influences have been really queer friendly, you know bands like Bikini Kill, Fugazi, Minor Threat, Millions of Dead Cops, The Clash, all of those ethical punk bands, they’ve always been accepting the fluidity of sexuality and the many colors of our sexual rainbow. Another thing, queer folks have always been at the forefront of punk stuff, like Lou Reed for example, had tendencies, before they tried to electro-shock it out of his brain when he was a teenager. The history of punk is definitely indebted to LGBT folks of all kinds. I can hardly claim to be in a punk band and say that we don’t have any queer influences.
TNG: Did you realize that Titus Andronicus has a large gay fan base?
PS: I didn’t until just now. I’ve only met a couple of fans who identify themselves as being gay, like in San Francisco, I met this dude who told me he pumps our records at the gay bar where he works and that was pretty exciting. With our shows we try to foster as inclusiveve of an environment as possible. I hope the reason I haven’t heard about that is because, not to say it’s not an issue, just hopefully a person’s sexuality is not a make or break thing for appreciating our music. Hopefully that’s why it hasn’t come up as much, not because of us having a super macho, heteronormative fan base or something. We’re always looking to have more cool people at our concerts, so, come one, come all! Whatever sexual orientation, I’m sure we would all feel the same way if our expression was ever to be limited.
TNG: In the song “The Battle of Hampton Roads” you warn ‘Prepare to be told that shit’s gay dude’ – what caused you to include this line?
PS: Where I grew up and especially where I went to college, saying stuff like ‘gay’ ‘homo’ or the mighty F-word was such a part of people’s everyday lexicon, that most didn’t even think twice about it. I still see it sometimes at shows even around here, people will throw hard F-bombs around without a second thought and it’s funny, in a fucked up way, that nowhere in civilized America would we throw the N-word like that anymore, so anti-gay hate speak is sort of like casual discrimination; for some reason it’s completely acceptable. When I went to college, it was all the time, to speak of my beard again, – anytime I would get a compliment on it, it would always start with “yo, I’m not gay, but…” or more typically “yo, I’m not gay at all” – so when I say “There’s a way to live the values your forefathers gave you” with the thought that all humans are created equal and granted certain inalienable rights, I’m remarking how it’s somehow so easy for Americans to write that off, just as easy as it is to throw the hard F-bomb out there. If you ever wanted to say that we’re all equal and we all should respect each other, these “bros” are going to say “that shit’s gay dude” – what a horrible thought that is.
TNG: So, what’s your response to people who consider Titus Andronicus to be a ‘bro’ band?
PS: Maybe that’s sort of fair, because there are a lot of qualities of our music that would fit into “broish” rock, but I would say to them that rather than writing us off for that reason, to join us in trying to take back the stuff that’s fun about being a ‘bro’ and adopt it for our side, because it is fun to party and jump up and down and stuff, as long as you’re not getting in anyone else’s space. If we could take all the fun things about being “broish” without adopting their oppressive, patriarchal tendencies, then why should we let them have it? And we do try to foster a sense of camaraderie with our shows – we want everyone to get sweaty and put their arms around each other and go ‘rah rah rah’ – ladies too, and all sorts of queer folk – we want to have an inclusive environment as possible that has all the fun of a frat party, without the bad things. So, it’s fair but only half the story, I guess we are bros, but we’re punk bros – now we even got a sister in the band.
TNG: Is our generation the solution or the problem?
PS: I guess it can go either way – so far I haven’t seen us do too much, collectively, although we did help get a black guy into the White House, but after that everyone seemed to return to their cathartic ways. I think we could, I’ve seen a lot of young people get involved in all kinds of things, particularly amongst punks, so I think there is a great capacity, but at the same time with the way things are going, culturally speaking, what with the Internet and all – as much as I love the Internet as a tool for sharing information – I feel it is making us a little more superficial, shorter attention spans, making us more apathetic about stuff, we could possibly be the greatest generation of the world, but not if we keep going at this rate. I have a lot of hopes and a lot of fears.
TNG: On a completely different note, Titus Andronicus will be touring the Northeast with Hallelujah the Hills, then an extensive nationwide tour with Free Energy, care to share what we can expect?
PS: Our tour with Free Energy is going to be pretty ‘by-the-book’ as in, we’re going to get up there, do our best, try to enable everyone to have a good time (if they’re willing), but with Hallelujah the Hills – three of those guys are going to be in our band for half of our set and play cello, trumpet and additional keyboards, which they three did on the record we just did. So, that should be awesome. I’ve got higher hopes and smaller fears than I do for our apathetic generation.
TNG: Are you considering incorporating the horns and strings into future tours?
PS: I would love to do it, but it’s tough, because the overhead on something like that would be pretty high. We barely can support all five of us, but if there was a way to do it and have it be economically viable, that would be awesome, and by that I mean we’d still be able to survive, because we’ll never be getting rich off of it, one way or another. We’re always trying to expand our sonic palette, our keyboard player Dave plays a little saxophone, which we’re trying to eventually use, but for right now we have the fiddle full time, which makes me happy enough.
TNG: For those who don’t know who your band is, why should they listen to Titus Andronicus?
PS: Because we’re trying and we mean it – whether or not we’re good or bad, I can’t tell you – but I can tell you that we are sincere and trying out best, I can’t claim any virtues beyond that.
TNG: Who else should we be listening to?
PS: Spider Bags, who are sort of a country-tinged rock ‘n’ roll band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the greatest band in the universe, the most criminally under-appreciated band in indie history. I can safely say they made the greatest album of the 21st century so far – A Celebration of Hunger, but also made the 2nd greatest album – Goodbye Cruel World, Hello Crueler World. The fate of Spider Bags is constantly making me lose my faith in my fellow humans. Everyone that listens to them, loves ‘em! I’ve yet to meet a band that can rock as hard as them and still have such an amount of emotional residence – Spider Bags is it.
TNG: What else is on your iPod?
PS:From Brooklyn: Bad Credit, No Credit – they’re a Squirrel Nut Zippers-esque funk band, Boogie Boarder – who are spaz-punk, Double Dagger, Andrew Cedarmark – he used to play guitar in the band and now he’s about to release his solo debut on Underwater Peoples, Fang Island – those guys really know how to play the guitar. Male Bonding, who are from the UK, they kick ass and they’re really nice, plus they have a great queer music video with has hella hot makeout sessions. I’ll say Spider Bags again. Also, Tracy Morgan’s audiobook ‘I Am The New Black’ has almost put me off music.
TNG: Anything you’d like to say in closing?
PS: “When love is outlawed, only outlaws will love” and also, a big shout-out to Garden State Equality.
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