Trudging from the suburbs of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, The Districts have been quickly paving a course of success. Starting out, the band played tons of coffee shops and even a burrito shop in Lancaster. But after facing threats from being too loud at numerous venues around the local circuit, the band doesn’t have to worry about that as much anymore.
This past fall, the four-piece, fresh out of high school, joined the lineups of music festivals such as Sasquatch, Shaky Knees, and Boston Calling and signed with Mississippi-based Fat Possum Records, dropping a new EP in the beginning of this year.
I talked to Mark Larson, the band’s guitarist, while he and the band were getting prepped for their seven shows lined up in Austin for South by Southwest (SXSW) this past week.
“Last November, we signed with Fat Possum,” said Larson, “and, after that, things just kind of skyrocketed and led to this EP we put out on the 28th on January.”
The EP has three songs off an album the band did two years ago called Telephones (“Long Distance”, “Lyla” and “Funeral Beds”) and two new songs they just recorded (“Rocking Chair” and “Stay Open”). The alt-folk-rock group is vigorous and heart-stirring, and the EP is a teasing revelation.
There’s a certain electricity that you get listening to The Districts’ music. It’s bluesy in a heartbreaking type way, while still maintaining a youthful charm that is absolutely intoxicating. Rob Grote, lead singer/guitarist, has this edgy yet beautiful sound to his voice. Braden Lawrence, percussionist/drummer, keeps the intensity constant without drowning out the rest of the guys. Mark Larson and Connor Jacobus, guitarist and bassist respectively, bring the music toward a transcendent peak where everything comes together.
I was curious to see what the band thought of themselves as. So I decided to ask them.
“I’d say rock,” said Larson,” but it’s also kinda folky, jazzy, and garagey and soulful – it’s kind of a mash up of all these things.”
My first encounter from the band came from a video I happened to stumble upon one day. I remember watching it and falling in love with the rawness of it. When I first watched it I got goosebumps. Yeah.
“It was actually one of our friends basement where we shot that Hotbox Studios video,” said Larson when I told him about my first encounter with The Districts’ music.
“I think it’s still us,” said Larson describing the band’s new music, “but as time goes on it’s obviously going to change.” The change is evident. More backing vocals, a sense of comfort surrounding the entire band as they play, and generally a more rounded feel comes along with the new tracks. It’s immediately apparent that these guys aren’t just another high school band with a record deal.
“We actually had a fifth member back then,” said Larson about their high school years, “but about a year after we started the band, his family ended up moving back to Colorado. It was really sad.”
He was, however, playing guitar too, Larson noted, adding up to an astonishing three guitars in total.
“Yeah, we were all just playing the same chords anyway, so it didn’t really matter,” Larson joked.
Now, a couple of years post-Telephones , the band is currently sitting down in Austin. “This is our first time at SXSW,” said Larson, “It’s insane, there’s so many people. We’re not even playing a show today and we’re already stressed.” Larson kept offering that the band was so happy and grateful to be at the festival and where they are currently.
“We’ve never played in San Francisco before, this will be our first time,” said Larson, “We’re so excited to play, it’s going to be great. We’ve heard so many stories about California, so it’ll be cool to play there.”
I then had to let them know that San Francisco is rarely extremely beach-weather warm.
“Yeah, man. We were planning on going there with our tank tops, board shorts, and flip-flops,” he replied laughing.
Beach weather or not, they do plan on bringing a show to San Francisco.
“When we play live we like to more around and have a lot of fun. It’s kinda in your face, but in a good way. We like to keep the attention. It should be a fun time,” he said.
The Districts have a long but eventful year lined up ahead of them, and show no signs of slowing down or losing momentum.
“We have a couple of dates lined up in festivals and then we’re also playing in the UK,” said Larson, “We’ll also be doing some dates with Dr. Dog in June.”
The band is also hoping to put a new album out later this year, but Larson notes he’s not sure when that will be. They are, however, recording and looking to release something (hopefully) by the end of fall.
The EP can be purchased via Fat Possum’s web site, but if you want to catch them live before doing so, be sure to check out their upcoming SF date.
Guy Fox, Big Tree, The Districts, Young Moon
Bottom of the Hill
March 21, 2014
8pm, $10, All Ages