Paired together on the “No Faith/No Future/No Problem” tour, indie rockers Titus Andronicus and singer-songwriter Craig Finn will undoubtedly make for good tourmates. The two have a long history, and they’ve even teamed up for "No Future," a free download single of mutual covers that shows off their love of writing songs with the title “No Future” in them. Titus singer Patrick Stickles recently phoned us from his home, where he was trying to cross the “T”s and dot the “I”s and “get everything ready for the big trip.” And Finn separately phoned us from a tour stop just south of Charlottesville to talk about what we can expect from the tour.
What inspired you to want to tour together?
Craig’s been a good friend to the organization for many years. We first met in 2009 and played at this small festival together in England. We were hanging out outside the club and he came over and introduced himself and said how much he liked our first album, which had just come out. From the beginning, he’s just been a warm and gregarious guy. We were neighbors for a few years and hung out a lot. He has been generous with me in sharing his wisdom and knowledge as a slightly more seasoned veteran of the game. Whenever I have career questions about how to sustain life as a rocker, he’s been open and helpful about that stuff. We played with the Hold Steady a couple times but have never done a big tour. We’ve been looking forward to a more extended collaboration like we’ll be doing on this tour.
Well, we’ve been talking about it a while. I’ve been friends with Patrick for a long time. This last summer, when they released the new record, they did a number of shows at Shea Stadium, the club in Brooklyn. We did a number of covers together. It was really fun and a great night. We thought it might make a great tour. Three nights in, it’s been spectacular.
Do you think your fanbases are similar?
I think so. I know our fans like him and like the Hold Steady. We often see a few Hold Steady T-shirts at the Titus Andronicus shows. I think there’s a good deal of overlap. He appeared on stage with us at our CD release show this past summer as a surprise guest. We did a Hold Steady song and a very sizable and enthusiastic vocal chunk of the audience was very familiar with it and were singing all the words. I think it bodes well.
Yeah, I think so. Mine might be a little older. The solo stuff I do is maybe not as big and rocking as the Hold Steady. That said, it’s nice the way it starts up. There’s no other tour support. I’m the first band of the night and it starts from nothing and builds into the big Titus set. All three nights so far, I’ve done at least one song with them.
Talk about what inspired your new album?
The concept first came to me in 2012. I was having a hard time in my personal life. I was struggling with my mental health. I was depressed and not feeling a great deal of hope for the future. Every record you make is a snapshot of where you’re at when you make it. The themes are the themes of your life at the time it’s being constructed. When I was going through this dark period I said that I didn’t feel enthusiasm to make another record but if ever I did than surely this would be the subject of that record because it was such a highly engrossing and formative experience in my life. It seemed natural that the rock opera format would be the most appropriate way to express all the stuff that I wanted to do. From that point, it took about a year to realize it would be a rock opera about the manic depressive experience. It took about another year or so to write the songs and to learn them with the band and figure all that stuff. It was most of another year recording it. It was a very big process. At times, arduous. It was a lot to do.
My mother passed away, and I went back to Brooklyn and was not really doing much. The grief took on a thing that was not that productive. I wrote at least one song a day for a while and tried to work through it. The process led to a lot of songs. Again, none of them really addressed my mother’s death. A lot of them were about people moving forward about periods of tragedy and change. It’s still got that title, Faith in the Future. The title itself was inspired by my mother’s death.
Do you play the new album in its entirety?
No. We haven’t done that so far and I don’t anticipate that we will. The live concert is supposed to be a spontaneous, fun thing and the audience doesn’t know what’s going to happen. You want to take them on a ride and give them a thrill. When they know everything that’s coming that’s a little predictable and maybe anticlimactic. Furthermore, we have to this record isn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite. Everyone has their own favorites and they all have songs that they want to hear. We try to present a career-spanning set with enough hits that everybody feels like they got their money’s worth. We’re public servants that way.
I don’t think I ever have. We’ve been doing a bunch of songs off it but I also do songs off my other solo record and songs that aren’t on either.
What originally made you want to start writing songs and form a band?
I don’t know if there was any one particular moment. I got interested in music and rock 'n’ roll and playing guitar when I was in my teens. I figured it would be more of a hobby or on-the-side to whatever my traditional life path was. When we made our first record we were just college kids and had an opportunity to record an album. We had support from Troubleman Unlimited, who threw us a little money to make a record. We had gone out on tours we had booked ourselves. We wanted to do as big a version of the rock band thing as we could but not with the intention to be rock stars. The first record we did got some good attention and it seemed like we could get more time out of it so we put our regularly growing up life on hold for a little while and here we are eight years later trying to milk it and see how long it can sustain itself for.
I was always into music from watching the Monkees on TV and things like that. I got into KISS. When I started playing guitar I had this vision that I wasn’t going to be a shredder. I was always into the words. Pretty early, I got into the Replacements and Springsteen and things like that where the songs were kind of the star. There was also this school of Eddie van Halen and the fast guitar players. I sort of knew I wasn’t going to be that guy. I’m a big Dylan fan. Not really until later. It took me a while. I always liked the hits. Now, I’m obsessed. He’s a great artist to get to know when you go older because there are so many periods and places he went and you can go to those places. I’ve seen him a few times. The last time I saw him it was fantastic. It was maybe two years ago. It was great. I think he started playing the same set a lot. That helped. The band was dialed in and he wasn’t changing keys on them.
Titus Andronicus, Craig Finn, 9 p.m. Saturday, March 19, Musica, 51 East Market St., Akron, 330-374-1114. Tickets: $15, liveatmusica.com.