Titus Andronicus isn’t sure why Metallica chose them to play at the mega-metal band’s massive Orion Music + More festival in Atlantic City this weekend, but they’re not complaining.
“We don’t really have that much in in common with Metallica, but we got the call and we were thrilled with the propsect,” said Glen Rock native Patrick Stickles, the indie rock-punk band’s singer, guitarist and lyricist. “It’s a rare opportunity.”
Titus Andronicus performs at 7 p.m. Sunday, June 24, on the Frantic Stage. The festival features an eclectic array of 40 indie, alternative, rock and metal bands playing on four stages. All of the groups were personally approved by Metallica.
“To play in Atlantic city is really cool, being that we’re from New Jersey,” said Stickles, who graduated Glen Rock High School in 2004. “I’ve never actually even visited there.”
Titus Andronicus has a prime spot on the festival billing, playing directly before Metallica. “That an exciting thing but a little bit of a scary thing too, kind of daunting,” Stickles said. “But we’ve done a couple of pretty big festivals before. We’ll see. Hopefully it goes okay.”
Stickles formed Titus Andronics in 2005. The now New York and Brooklyn-based band, which also includes Glen Rock native Liam Betson on guitar, has released two albums, “The Airing of Grievances” (2008) and “The Monitor” (2010). The band is rounded out by bassist Julian Veronesi and drummer Eric Harm.
Each set is driven by Stickles’ visceral vocals that invoke screamer-crooner Paul Westerberg of the legendary indie rock-punk band The Replacements.
Stickles said the band’s music and lyrics are rooted in intensity, honesty, a love of punk rock and intellectual curiousity. His lyrics range from the urgency of Bruce Springsteen, whom he cites as a big influence, to witty phrasing that name drops Glen Rock, Ridgewood and Mahwah, where Stickles attended Ramapo College.
Northern New Jersey proved fertile ground for Stickles’ musical ambitions. “The scene in high school was pretty strong,” he said. “We used to have shows in backyards and basements.
“Anywhere that we could set up was a good place to play,” Stickles said. “That was a fun and empowering experience.”
Titus Andronicus is currently working on its third LP. “It’s really consumed my life the last six months or so,” Stickles said. “It’s been an extensive process.”
He said the album takes a new direction from the band’s previous records, which featured an ensemble of more than two dozen musicians ranging from a cellist and bagpiper to a fiddler and trombonist. Now Titus Andronicus is focused on the core guitar-bass-drum sound.
“The first two (albums) were sort of an attempt to construct an alternate reality, where Titus Andronics was a 30-piece orchestra,” Stickles said. “But we’re moving away from that with this new album with more guitars. It’s an attempt to be more of a real rock band.
“I really hope it will come out in the later part of autumn, but I can’t promise that,” he said. So many things can happen between now and then. It will come out when it’s ready. We can’t force it.”
IF YOU GO: Metallica Orion Music + More festival, 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, June 23, and Sunday, June 24. Featuring Metallica, Titus Andronicus, Gaslight Anthem, Modest Mouse, Avenged Sevenfold and more. Bader Field, Atlantic City. $90 Saturday, $90 Sunday, two-day pass $150 (advanced purchase only). For more information, including a FAQ section, visit www.orionmusicandmore.com.
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