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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
A&E >  Entertainment

‘The Will to Live’ propels Titus Andronicus after the death of a band member

March 2, 2023 Updated Thu., March 2, 2023 at 4:17 p.m.

The members of Titus Andronicus will make their Spokane debut on Wednesday at the Lucky You Lounge.  (Ray Concepcion)
The members of Titus Andronicus will make their Spokane debut on Wednesday at the Lucky You Lounge. (Ray Concepcion)
By Ed Condran For The Spokesman-Review

A number of tremendous albums have been inspired by the death of bandmates, family and/or friends. Neil Young’s brilliant “Tonight’s the Night,” Arcade Fire’s breakthrough release “Funeral” and the Flaming Lips’ classic “The Soft Bulletin” were each triggered by the loss of loved ones.

“The Will to Live,” the latest album from Titus Andronicus is the result of the passing of keyboardist Matt “Money” Miller, 34, who died in March 2021.

“Much of the album is a response to Matt passing away,” singer-songwriter Patrick Stickles said. “Matt wasn’t just my bandmate but also my cousin. He was also my best friend and just an amazing person. He was such a significant person for so many reasons.”

But life is for the living and Titus Andronicus, which will perform Wednesday at the Lucky You Lounge, is moving on while touring behind its seventh album. “The Will to Live” is ambitious, irreverent and at times, quirky,

“I tried to make this album into a singular artistic statement like a movie or a novel,” Stickles said while calling from his Queens apartment. “It’s like I tried to satisfy my own literary ambitions. We put a lot into this album.”

Titus Andronicus, which also includes guitarist Liam Betson, bassist R.J. Gordon and drummer Chris Wilson, recorded with a number of guest musicians. Hold Steady guitarist Tad Kubler, Tim Kingbury of Arcade Fire and E Street Band saxophonist Jake Clemons are among those who contributed to the album.

“Tad added quite a bit to a few songs and Jake Clemons is such a great musician,” Stickles said. “He’s a phenomenal pianist. It’s such a cool thing to have friends who will come in and add to a project like this.”

Stickles has plenty of pals in the music world but there’s often been an outsiders feel to Titus Andronicus and especially with “The Will to Live.” Such songs as “Bridge and Tunnel” and “(I’m) Screwed” are written from the view of someone on the periphery.

“I don’t know if that vibe comes from the fact that I’m from New Jersey,” Stickles said. “But I’m over any of that since I live in Queens since my borough is the most diverse city in the world.”

It’s been a bit of a revolving door for Titus Andronicus, which has 19 former members during the band’s 18-year history. “But we’re keeping it going,” Stickles said. “I look at the plus side, which is that the band has been around for nearly 20 years. The band can almost vote.”

However, Stickles makes the decisions, which is probably for the best since most rock bands are lucky to have one visionary.

“I rule with an iron first,” Stickles said. “I think it’s best that way since when a band has too many songwriters, it makes it harder to have cohesiveness, which appeals to me. Look at Bruce Springsteen. It wouldn’t be the same if Steve Van Zandt started singing songs. This isn’t a knock against Steven. He’s great but with Springsteen you have that cohesiveness and that’s what I aim for with our band.”

Unlike the Boss, who is often mixing up his set by calling audibles, Stickles and his bandmates often play the same songs every night. “That’s fine if you see us for one night,” Stickles said. “But we recently did two shows in England and I told the audience the second night that we’re going to do the same songs in the same order as well as the same dance moves,” Stickles said while chuckling. “I felt a little guilty. Maybe we should mix it up but I never want to just play the weirdest deep cuts in a place like Great Falls, Montana since maybe not a lot of people show up. Maybe we should make a list of our strongest songs and play them in the most impactful order. Maybe we should look back at what we played the last time we were in town so we don’t repeat ourselves.”

Well, Titus Andronicus doesn’t have to worry about prior performances in Spokane since the band has never played the Lilac City. “It’s surprising that we never played Spokane,” Stickles said. “Playing a city for the first time is a big deal so this will be an important show for our band and we’ll do our best to make it special.”

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