The Districts are one of those rare bands that you have to see live. Their ferocious energy is infectious and raw. It’s the same kind of energy that grunge era bands from the ‘90s captured audiences with – feedback and all. They lose themselves in the groove of the music but never lose the groove, sucking the audience into that trance right along with them.
Seriously, watch this clip from their show at the Mod Club in Toronto:
The Districts band, originally from Lititz, Pennsylvania, have been rocking out venue after venue since 2014 and aren’t slowing down anytime soon. With the release of their second LP, A Flourish and A Spoil, 2015 is packed with shows and major festivals in North America, Europe and Asia where they continue to stun and captivate both audiences and critics with their intense presence on stage, gripping vocals and soul-piercing wails into the musical wilderness.
Before they take to the SXSW stages for the second year in a row, singer Rob Krote opened up to Stories Behind The Songs about losing himself on stage, writing personal songs with no bullshit, and singing along to Timber Timbre.
R: When I was 2 years old my parents took me to a Phish concert. They passed me around this bubble house with a bunch of strangers. I got a bubble in my eye. I still remember the sting of the bubble!
R: I don’t particularly agree personally. But those influences are certainly around, as we love Neil Young, The Band, Townes Van Zandt, etc. I guess the simplest description is rock and roll, but we always set out to simply try to write no bullshit good songs. There’s a lot of personal content in them so I think the loudness came out of expressing that with as thin of a veil over it as we could.
R: I like most of them in some way. If I could be transported to one it would be the 20’s. Swing to some big band baby.
You have said that some of your non-musical influences include Jack Kerouac, e.e. Cummings and Allen Ginsberg (Interview Magazine). How does the poetry and prose of these writers influence your lyrical style? Do you let the lyrics pour out of you like a stream of consciousness and then edit them or do you consider form when writing?
R: I usually don’t consider form too much at first. But sometimes I do. It’s not too set in stone, however they are almost always edited afterwards, simply out of pickiness. Beautiful language whether in writing or songwriting has always just really moved me. I love seeing how great authors and songwriters can distill broad subjects into single sentences.
You were quoted as saying that the band “wanted to be noticed for the music itself rather than who’s playing it” (Interview Magazine) in reference to the hype about The Districts being a young band. Like the spirit of the Beat generation artists you are inspired by, you too are writing about your experiences through young, creative eyes. Have you ever viewed your youth as a powerful aspect of the band’s identity?
R: Maybe it “sells”. But then again we also can be written off for it as well. I think it’s silly. Plenty of great art and music has been made by young folks and plenty has been made by old folks. It’d be a different story if we were 12.
Your first album, Telephone, was self-released, but with A Flourish and A Spoil you worked with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Angel Olsen). How did the recording processes differ between working alone and working alongside a producer for some of the tracks?
R: Overall it was similar, but having John there with an objective ear and much more efficient studio skill made recording quicker and prevented us from getting stuck focusing on small things.
What made you switch from the DIY style of producing to working with a professional producer? Do you think you will seek out a production team for your next album or return to producing a record independently in the studio?
R: I mean it’d be great to work with John again. We did it ourselves with our friend Taylor because we couldn’t afford anything else.
R: Telephone was a lot of ideas simply put down without much thought. We were just excited to record them and didn’t have a master plan. We didn’t have a huge plan for this album, but we definitely had more developed intentions of specific sounds and themes.
When I saw you perform last fall in Toronto, I immediately noted a parallel between your performance and the performance style of the late Joe Cocker who has been described as “a tremendously sincere singer – you knew he believed the song and what he was doing” by Graham Nash and “one of the great primal rock and roll vocalists of all time” by Billy Joel. What do you feel onstage? Do you do anything specific before taking the stage in order to prepare for your performance?
R: On a good night I’m not distracted by anything and can find my way into a quiet place within the songs.
R: Part of “Peaches” was written in a parking lot in Chicago!
R: I love playing “Chlorine” and “Bold” a lot! My favorite recording to sing along with might be “Hot Dreams” by Timber Timbre. Specifically the saxophone solo at the end!
R: Tommy Lee.
R: The Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin and The Clash.
R: Maybe LFO when I was a youngin’.