Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images The sad news came across late Wednesday afternoon…
- Posted on Mar 30th 2010 4:00PM by Kenneth Partridge
"Craig Finn was an easy one, because Walt Whitman was one of my favorites for the time period, representing a unique and important thing in that time," Stickles says. "Craig is a really great guy, really very open and magnanimous. I think Walt Whitman would have appreciated what he called the adhesiveness of his character."
"Furthermore, he's definitely in the top tier of lyricists today, and Walt Whitman was obviously the premier poet of that time, in my mind," he adds. "And [Finn] lives in Brooklyn, and that's where Walt Whitman was from, so it's pretty much a slam dunk, as far as I'm concerned."
Finn doing Whitman makes perfect sense. After all, what is the Hold Steady's 'Boys and Girls in America' if not indie rock's answer to 'Leaves of Grass'? In picking Ramone, an old high school friend, to play Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, Stickles made a less obvious, though perhaps more ingenious, choice.
Ramone opens the song 'A Pot in Which to Piss' with a line from Davis' Feb. 4, 1861 speech to the newly-seceded Southern states: "Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits and flowers, but beyond them I saw troubles and thorns innumerable."
"That Jefferson Davis quote, I really thought about her when I heard it, because that song is kind of about being an indie rocker and putting yourself out there and how pretty much trying to express yourself in modern times is tantamount to putting yourself on the chopping block," Stickles says.
Like so many of today's bands, Stickles says, the Vivian Girls have suffered an unfair blogosphere backlash, drawing scorn from the very same people who initially championed the band.
"The Vivian Girls got way more than their fair share of that, people on blogs who don't have anything better to do than pissing on them for no reason at all, trying to feel better about their own worthless lives," he says.
"I was thinking about how being an indie rocker, maybe there are moments you can be celebrated and put on a pedestal, but it's safe to guess that if that happens, you're also going to get the flipside of that," he adds. "People are going to be looking to knock you off your high horse."
Stickles first heard the Davis speech in Ken Burns' 'Civil War,' the documentary series that inspired 'The Monitor.' Although the album is more about Stickles own trials and tribulations than the War Between the States, the snippets of historical dialogue give gravity to Stickles' lyrics, highlighting the ways in which his inner struggles mirror those of America's, circa 1861.
"Most of the [quotes] that I put in there are from the Ken Burns movie -- like when I heard Sam Waterston reading something from Lincoln and [was] totally floored and [had] to listen to it 10 times in a row, with my jaw on the floor," he says. "I guess it's kind of a way to give textual support to some of our ideas and kind of give a little more weight to the conceptual conceit."
'The Monitor' is out now on XL Recordings.