Better Know the Districts: Talking With the Underage Band at Their Breakout Moment
The Districts were in the middle of a pretty big day when SPIN talked to them earlier this month. The midnight before, the garage-rock quartet’s stellar first LP, the Jon Congleton-produced A Flourish and a Spoil, had been released to iTunes, and later that night, the band was going to play their biggest headlining show to date, at the Bowery Ballroom on New York’s Lower East Side. It’s exciting times for the group of friends (singer Robby Grote, guitarist Pat Cassidy, bassist Connor Jacobus, and drummer Braden Lawrence), none of whom are even of legal drinking age yet — aside from the recently joined guitarist Pat Cassidy, the group met as “wee ones” in the small town of Lititz, Pennsylvania — but who are already moving onto big things, which included a gig later that week on Late Night with Seth Meyers.
SPIN sat down with the band at a then-empty Bowery to talk about their debut album, their 21st birthday plans, and the few things they actually miss about the suburbs.
Can you guys tell me how you all met?
Robby Grote: Well, we grew up in the same town. Well, Pat grew up in a different town, he joined more recently. But we grew up in Lititz, PA, and uh…
Braden Lawrence: Small town, we just kinda met, made a band… no craziness.
Grote: We pretty much knew most musicians in town, because it’s so small.
So you relocated to Philadelphia? Just before you were planning on going to college?
Grote: Yeah, we were planning on going to like, Temple, community college in Philadelphia. But then we started talking to [record label] Fat Possum and pulled out beforehand.
So with a late show appearance, do you get to be like, “Hey, we made the right call”?
Grote: Well, getting our moms into the Seth Meyers show…. any worries they had, I think’ll be eased by that.
You guys are all still under 21, right? Who turns 21 first?
[Band points to Conor Jacobus.]
Have you already got plans?
Conor Jacobus: We’re gonna be in New York, actually. We’re playing at Governor’s Ball.
Grote: Our bass player’s just gonna be on the ground, trashed at Governor’s Ball! [Makes
Anybody else you’re excited to be on the bill with?
Grote: I think Sharon Van Etten’s playing, right?
Lawrence: Tame Impala’s playing.
Pat Cassidy: I’m just excited to play at that festival, because I went last year. Saw the Strokes…
Do your friends give you shit about naming the first song on your album after an intersection in New York [“4th and Roebling”]?
Lawrence: [Laughs.] No, not really. It was kinda like, we didn’t even think about it. It was called something way stupider at first, then we were like…
Grote: We were just, like, parked there…
Lawrence: Yeah, “Ah, let’s just call it that.”
Grote: The name didn’t have too much to do with…
Lawrence: Yeah, it really has nothing to do with the song.
What was it like working with producer Jon Congleton? Did he steward you guys, teach you anything?
Lawrence: It was great, he’s amazing. Super-cool guy. He taught us a lot about being objective in the studio, and honing what is important about the song. And he’s just really fun.
Was there anything he worked on before that drew you to his stuff?
Grote: I can’t think of a thing he’s done where I don’t like how it sounds…
Cassidy: I didn’t even realize he had done Cloud Nothings until the other day.
Lawrence: Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of bands where it’s like “Oh shit, I didn’t even know he did that!” He’s just crazy. He’s a hard worker. And he’s got a Grammy! St. Vincent, the alternative one.
Which song on your album gets the biggest response when you play it live?
Lawrence: I guess “Young Blood.”
Was that written to be like the big closer?
Lawrence: Not intentionally, but like… it’s long! So once we started playing it, we were like “Oh, we can’t play this third, ‘coz then we just won’t be able to play after.” I mean, my calf used to go out; the kick drum is just like… [Makes repeating banging sound.]
Were you guys pumped to get out of the suburbs?
Grote: Yeah, it sucks!
Is there anything about the suburbs that you missed more than you expected to?
Lawrence: Yeah, just like, being able to park really easily.
Grote: I miss being able to just, like, drive around farm fields…
Lawrence: Yeah, it’s like a really beautiful area [in Lititz]. There’s lots of farmlands, and open space.
Is Lititz known for anything in particular? Weird celebrities or something?
Grote: Wilbur Chocolate. Great chocolate. Better than Hershey’s!
Lawrence: Sturgis Pretzels. Where the hard pretzel was invented, or brought to the people.
Linden Hall, girls’ school, first boarding school in America.
Grote: First girls’ boarding school in America, yeah.
Are people going nuts about you guys back there?
Lawrence: We haven’t been back in a while.
Oh? Already forgot where you came from?
Grote: Not like that, just been busy!
Lawrence: Yeah, I’ve never walked down the streets in Lititz and people have just been like “Districts!” That’s never happened to me.
Is that a goal of yours, to be recognized in your hometown?
Lawrence: No, no. [Laughs.]
Grote: I like going there to, like, escape things. It’s kind of just like quiet.
Lawrence: You go into Target, and you see 20 people from high school. It’s a small town.
Is there a band you look at and think, “We’d love to have their type of career”?
Lawrence: Radiohead. [Everyone laughs.] Not even their popularity, but just how they’ve evolved. They don’t just play one trick, they don’t pull out the same thing they’re always evolving.
Cassidy: They got like 20 hats they’re pulling stuff out of.
Jacobus: Yeah, they’re just like, family men. It’s cool.
Lawrence: Tom Waits. I mean, these are just like bands and people you just don’t get sick of.