The Districts hail from small town in Pennsylvania called Lititz. Like many young bands, they got their start playing coffee shops and eventually began getting gigs at venues around the local circuit. After moving to Philadelphia after high school, they opted to forgo college educations for careers in music and signed to Fat Possum records in November 2013. They released their debut EP in January, which included three songs off their self-produced 2012 LP Telephones as well as two new songs. The band is currently working on releasing their debut full-length on Fat Possum.
Their sound draws heavily on rock and soul from the '60s and '70s and inspires comparison to Cold War Kids, Jack White and Dr. Dog. Their energy is youthful but their spirit conjures emotions well beyond their years. Lead singer Rob Grote's voice is gritty and angelic all at once with drummer Braden Lawrence keeping the intensity right where it needs to be. Connor Jacobus and Pat Cassidy (a newcomer to the group, replacing founding member Mark Larson) bring everything together with their tight bass lines and textured guitar riffs.
They hit the festival circuit hard this past year with sets at SXSW, Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Shaky Knees, Boston Calling, and a few European festivals. This weekend they'll hit the stage at LouFest.
Music Times got the chance to chat with Lawrence about what the group has been through this past year and what fans can expect with their upcoming full-length.
Music Times: This has been quite a year for you guys. You're coming up on the anniversary of your decision to ditch college and pursue music. What have been some of the biggest challenges you've encountered since signing with a label and gaining recognition?
Braden Lawrence: Well we lost our guitar player and we got our van stolen. I guess those are the two biggest things.
MT: I checked out your tour schedule, looks like you're playing almost every night for the next few months. What do you guys do to keep up that endurance and bring the energy each night?
BL: Mostly just trying to sleep as much as you can. You have to [get on stage] every night, so there are really no excuses. I think each night is similar in energy. Each place is different, but once we get up there you kind of get that adrenaline. But at SXSW we had three shows in one day, and I think by the third show we were probably lagging, but we got it done.
MT: What are some things you've learned in the past year that had never really crossed your mind before really committing to music?
BL: The traveling aspect is like nothing we've ever done -- waking up in a new place and sometimes being able to shower and sometimes not showering, not being able to eat for a few hour -- a bunch of things like that that we kind of had to adjust to so we can do this.
MT: I know everyone always comments on how young you all are. I always see the "fresh out of high school" headline. Have there been any disadvantages to being a young band or any advantages such as mentorship from older bands?
BL: It's been pretty sweet. We've met a lot of our favorite bands, and they've been cool to us -- not really thinking about our age, just a mutual respect. We're all doing the same thing, so just a mutual respect for what we're doing.
MT: This year you guys hit the festival circuit pretty hard. Which festival was your favorite to play so far?
BL: Oh man, I'd have to go with Oya Festival in Norway. It was amazing. There was a pool backstage, so after our set we got to go swimming and jump off the high dive and eat good Norwegian food. It was really cool. We couldn't really tell how many people in the crowd were there for us since it was a festival and not our show, but there were a few people singing along. Seeing as we were in Norway, that was pretty flattering.
MT: I know you have a live EP coming out in early October, any idea on when fans can expect your full length?
BL: Probably in the early 2015, during the winter.
MT: Where are you in the process?
BL: We are still trying things out. It isn't done yet, but we are getting there. We still have to figure out [the album title]. It's is going to have more of our live energy and a more evolved sound from Telephone.
MT: What are some of the themes that you are exploring lyrically on the album? Has this major life change inspired you guys?
BL: Most of the songs were written before the touring and stuff. A lot of it is just about graduating high school and moving and dealing with all that stuff, relationships and things like that.
MT: What producers did you work with this time around?
BL: We have picked out who we are working with but haven't announced it yet.
MT: Have you debuted any new material on the road yet? If so, what has the response been?
BL: We've been playing a lot of songs that will be on the new record for the past year or so. We end with the song "Young Bloods" most nights. If people have seen us a few times, they'll probably recognize the songs. They might be out there on YouTube somewhere.
MT: I wanted to also ask you about Mark leaving the band and Pat joining. How has the first string of shows gone with him on board? Will both of them be featured on the record?
BL: It's been really good. Sort of a breath of fresh air. We did a session with the original lineup, but as of now, we don't know if that will go on the record or if Pat will go on the record. It's kind of too early to tell. It's really just what comes out best.
MT: You mentioned this earlier, but before I knew who you guys were, I remember seeing Dr. Dog post on Facebook about your gear being stolen in St. Louis, which is my hometown. I felt so horrible for you guys and hoped it didn't leave too bad a taste in your mouth for the city. Have you recovered all your gear and your van yet? Are you all back in action?
BL: We figured it all out. They found the van. All the gear was gone, but we figured that out. For LouFest we are not having a van there. We are flying in this time, so we should be fine.
MT: Other than getting all of your stuff stolen, tell me the weirdest thing that has happened on the road so far?
BL: We just played with the Arctic Monkeys. Their fans are really fun and kind of weird. They are really nice; when we were walking to the van after the show they were cheering for us.
MT: I was going to say, have you had any "wow, we've really made it" moments yet?
BL: We haven't been headlining our own shows, so it's kind of hard to tell much about how big our fan base is because are at because we've been opening and doing a lot of festivals. But we definitely feel really good about where we're at.
You can check out The Districts's LouFest set on Sunday from 1:30-2:15 p.m. on the Shade Stage.