Who: A New Jersey-bred quartet who've gone from playing Brooklyn warehouse parties to opening up for acts like Vampire Weekend. After releasing their debut in 2008 — an album that earned them no shortage of Bruce Springsteen and Bright Eyes comparisons — Titus Andronicus are gearing up to return March 9th with The Monitor, an ambitious, kick-ass, so-geeky-it's-cool concept record about the Civil War. "When we weren't on tour or whatever, I got really obsessed with Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War," says frontman Patrick Stickles. "I would stay up and obsessively watch it all night."
Sounds Like: The Monitor may be a concept record, but any trace of scholarly snobbery is hidden by the group's thrilling country-punk racket, powered by bar-band guitar riffage, violins, bagpipes, horns and what sounds like any other instrument the band could get their hands on. There's also a track called "Theme from Cheers," a raucous drunkard's anthem that features shout-along lyrics like "Give me a kegger on a Friday night!"
• For The Monitor, Titus Andronicus rounded up a cast of indie-rock hot-shots to make guest appearances, including members of the Vivian Girls, Ponytail, Wye Oak and the Hold Steady. "When it was time to make the record, I wanted the most proficient cast available to me," says Stickles. "But I also wanted people I felt knew what the band was about and that we could bang out it with. None of them are hired guns or anything."
• Stickles — who says the band has rotated through a whopping 18 band members since he started the group in college — freely admits he was something of a loner while going to Ramapo College of New Jersey. He spent most of his time hanging out on weekends with his dad, swilling beer at a bar called the Glen Rock Inn. (The bar would later serve as the inspiration for "Theme from Cheers.") "One night, I came stumbling home after being at the Inn," says Stickles. "My mom started getting on my case about drinking too much and I felt really conflicted. I was a house divided against itself."
• Titus Andronicus may be hipster-identified, but that doesn't necessarily sit so well with the band. Last October, they were hired to play at Vice Magazine's blowout Halloween bash at a warehouse in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. But Stickles was bummed out by the gig and took to his blog to eviscerate the party promoters for getting man-handled by the burly security guards. "That night was such a drag," says Stickles. "We indie-rockers thing of ourselves as being so civilized, and that we take pains to separate ourselves from meatheads or whatever but then parties like this show there's every opportunity to get our asses kicked. There was so much posing going on and this too-cool-for-school image. We could all do a little better."
Get It Now: Click above to watch Titus Andronicus' video for "Landscape With the Fall of Icarus."