Philadelphia-based four-piece The Distrcits stand out in a busy bunch of exciting new bands, and not because of online hype or a kick-starting buzz track - this is all based on word-of-mouth. Last time they came to the UK, their bluesy Americana took over showcase fests like Brighton’s The Great Escape. On record - self-released debut ‘Telephone’ landed them a deal on Fat Possum - they stick to self-imposed limits. Live, they’re a completely different force.
Frontman Robby Grote admits that it’s been “pretty wild”, getting such an immediate and positive response to their first UK shows. “Playing overseas is really strange and exciting - we don’t really have a concept of how our music is faring over there while we’re on our side of the Atlantic.”
This is your first time playing Reading & Leeds. Where does this rank in the crazy things to have happened to you guys in the past two years?
Playing overseas is really strange and exciting since we don't really have a concept of how our music is faring over there while we're on our side of the Atlantic. In general the past bit of time has been a real weird, awesome surprise.
Are you clued up on the history of Reading & Leeds and does it mean a lot to you? Is it the kind of fest you grew up hearing about / seeing footage of?
Kind of along the lines of what I was mentioning there, is there's a weird sense of knowing it's a really important festival and having seen pictures of Nirvana there as well as The Cure, Thin Lizzy so many bands, but then at the same time it's much more of a separated, distant thing, having grown up in the US. While it has much more history than Lollapalooza or something, it's more surreal since it's been a festival you'd read about that wasn't necessarily prominent in our lives.
How's progress on the new album coming along and how does it contrast to 'Telephone', not just production-wise but also in terms of progression as a songwriter / as a band?
It's going real well! We've been going at it from a few angles, working with some producing, but also self-producing a lot of the recordings. I think the biggest progression is that we're getting better at being specific in our music. Whereas on 'Telephone', we had these songs and just kind of painted them up however we felt, we've been working to really find a balance of not too much and not too little. Trying to balance the energy and raw sound of a live performance, but enough moving parts to be interesting as a recorded piece of music also. As a writer I'm not sure, I'm usually just trying to capture an honest moment and get the feeling across. Hopefully I've done it better than Telephone, that's the goal at least, to move forward!
Bands like you guys, Merchandise, Parquet Courts, have been getting picked up *after* they self-release records. Before bands might've been picked up after one hype-baiting track. Why is it that bands with more of a D.I.Y approach seem to be enjoying success this way (on their own terms), do you think?
I'm really glad we started from scratch making 'Telephone' and playing shows on our own, because I think we’ve developed a real pride in our identity as a band. It makes us stubborn, but I think we'd all rather have a smaller scale career on our own terms than compromise something we believe in. I don't think there was ever a conscious decision to be D.I.Y., I think doing stuff yourself is often a side-effect of just giving a really big shit about what you're doing.
The Districts' new 'BBC Session' EP is out 6th October. They play Reading Festival's Festival Republic Stage, Friday 22nd August.