Shot by Shure: The Districts
About the Districts
Whether they're tearing it up in a basement, rocking a festival crowd or hard at work in a studio, The Districts are a band that exists in the moment.
The Pennsylvania four-piece channels its long-forged bonds into visceral, explosive rock and roll. You'll hear hints of Americana, moments of the blues and folk, but written into songs so expressive that those labels are transcended. Their second LP, A Flourish and a Spoil, is out on Fat Possum Records in February of 2015.
Founding members Rob Grote (guitar, vocals) Connor Jacobus (bass) and Braden Lawrence (drums) have been friends since childhood and formed The Districts in high school. You can hear that closeness in their effortless chemistry onstage and off, the way their songs build and grow, the way instrumental bits intertwine and the compelling command they have of whatever square footage they occupy behind microphones and a PA.
The band self-recorded and self-released its Kitchen Songs EP in 2012, followed that summer by their full-length debut Telephone (also a self-release, and all the more impressive for it). By their senior year, the band had already begun to make inroads beyond their small Lancaster County hometown of Lititz, and were performing on the regular in Philadelphia, Delaware and New York ("4th and Roebling" from Flourish is named after the intersection in Brooklyn where they parked their car for their first New York gig at the now-defunct Big Snow Buffalo Lounge).
In 2013, they were being played in regular rotation at WXPN in Philadelphia and were a featured performer at the station's XPoNential Music Festival. That fall they signed to Fat Possum, which released their self-titled EP in January of 2014; the five-song 10" contained two new songs – "Rocking Chair" and "Lyla" – along with three tracks from their self-releases.
With the momentum behind the EP and their buzzed-about live show, The Districts had a tremendous showing in Austin for SXSW 2014, named "the band who owned SXSW" by the NME. They've since taken the show to Lollapalooza, Austin City Limits, Reading / Leeds, Outside Lands, Haldern Pop Festival and many more fests in the U.S. and Europe.
That's not to say the band hasn't experienced its share of setbacks. In early summer of 2014, its van was broken into during a tour stop in St. Louis and all of its gear was stolen. Shortly after, founding guitarist Mark Larson left the band to pursue college, performing as a District for the last time at the 2014 XPoNential Music Festival (where they shared the stage with Band of Horses and Beck). But the band persevered, recruiting new guitarist Pat Cassidy and recording their second full length with producer John Congleton in the fall.
A Flourish and a Spoil is built about those ideas of transition. As Rob puts it, it's a record about "change and loss, the fact that everything sours in time, but also the beauty that can be found in that." It's reflected in the cover art the band made in collaboration with photographer Joanna Ference: a halved grapefruit, dried and decaying, but still attached to a bright green stem.
Sonically, Flourish is a vibrant, eclectic rock record, collecting sounds from toe-tapping fuzz-pop ("Peaches") to contemplative folk ("Suburban Smell") and driving, impressionistic soundscapes ("Young Blood" is well worth 9 minutes of your time) into a whirlwind 45 minute set. The Districts credit John Congleton with shaping their sound on this outing. While the band is used to writing and producing on its own, Congleton "gave us an objective ear that helped us find and refine what we were trying to accomplish with this album."
Rob recalls that, toward the end of the recording process, he had a song stuck in his head: the old Doris Day tune "A Bushel and a Peck," which his mother used to sing to him as a childhood lullaby. "The title was born from that," he says. "A Flourish and a Spoil is our attempt to reconcile lullabies with reality."
It also announces the arrival of The Districts as a captivating voice in contemporary rock: a young band crafting heartfelt music that's honest, raw, energetic and unforgettable.