The Districts possess the ability to make anything sound epic, and they threaten to turn The Haunt into one large hotbed of euphoria in September when they showcase new record Popular Manipulations. If coming-of-age album A Flourish and a Spoil hinted at the band’s forward-thinking signatures, then the new tracks look to be the culmination of that. I caught up with Braden from the band to talk about the LP as well as what the future holds for the Chicago four-piece.
Can you give us a brief history of the band and how it was formed?
The Districts was formed in 2009 in a teeny tiny town called Lititz, Pennsylvania. It’s such a small town that some of us went to pre-school together, played baseball and did lots of All-American activities as little boys without realising it until much later. Long story short, Connor and Rob were trying to start a band and asked now ex-guitar player Mark to join. They needed a drummer and Mark knew me (Braden) from a summer camp, so he asked me to come jam. Apparently I hit the bell of the ride on a cool beat and Rob said with exuberance, “Your’re in Kiddo!”
How would you describe your music?
Alienation trunk rock.
How old are the songs on the album and what was the recording process?
Some of the songs on this album are about a year and half or so old. The recording of this record was split into two separate sessions. The first session took place in May 2016 with producer John Congleton. We recorded ten songs with him out in Los Angeles, then continued writing and ended up finishing the record in the fall in Philadelphia by self producing sessions, and had our dear friend Keith Abrams from local band Pine Barons engineering for us.
Are you conscious of how the tracks will sound live when you’re in the studio?
Yes and no, the last album was basically done completely live and we really wanted to capture the energy of seeing a band live. Popular Manipulations is very much more a studio album in the sense that we weren’t playing live much at all while writing and were very focused on demoing and making sure the recordings held up as a different product than the live show. We still worked hard to make sure the recordings have energy, but also spent much more time arranging and trying to perfect sounds than we did on A Flourish and a Spoil.
Can you pinpoint the influences from the album?
For a song like ‘If Before I Wake’ we wanted to capture a dreamy droney vibe, a la The Velvet Underground. While for a song like ‘Capable’ we tried to display constraint and tension which an artist like Nick Cave is great at.
Is there a particular process that your songwriting goes through when crafting the tracks?
Usually Rob will come into practice with a recorded demo or play us a song acoustically. It then can go many ways as everyone learns the song and pitches ideas out. Sometimes a song can go through three or four different lives each sounding very different until it either gets where we want it to be, or we scrap it. Sometimes we just start playing the song how it is originally and it feels very natural and we keep the original version.
What does the next 12-18 months have in store for the band?
Going to be touring quite a lot, also working on new music/building a studio. We really want to keep making records, we feel that we hit a stride near the end of the last one and are very motivated to keep doing it.
If you could work with any artist, who would it be and what would they bring to?The Districts??
It would be amazing to work with Paul Thomas Anderson. Love his movies, and would love to see him make a crazy music video for one of our songs and see his creative process.
What music are you listening to at the moment? Are there any bands on your label that we should listen out for?
Been listening to the new Big Thief quite a lot, it’s a very beautiful record. Fat Possum has some great artists like Songhoy Blues, Kadhja Bonet, and Soccer Mommy that people should definitely check out.
What is your relationship with the city of Brighton?
The first time we came over to England we played The Great Escape. It was a great night, we played before Courtney Barnett, and the Fat White Family. I ended up being very drunk and stubbing my toe very badly. We’ve been to Brighton quite a few times since, and love the beach late at night after a show. Also last Great Escape we ate amazing halloumi burritos, which was a first for us.