The Blue Note & Rose Blog


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Q&A: The Districts’ Rob Grote

The-Districts

The Philadelphia-born rock band known as The Districts are gearing up to play at Rose Music Hall on Sunday, April 23 and they’ll be bringing some serious talent with them. The four-piece band, which formed in high school, are constantly evolving. Their sound is hard to place but if you like rock-and-roll, and the likes of Houndmouth, Dr. Dog, Twin Peaks or Heartless Bastards, you need to check out The Districts. I interviewed singer and guitarist, Rob Grote, about how the tour has been going, what the band has been up to and the new music they’re working on.

Tickets for the show are $12 in advance and $15 day of show. Doors are at 7 p.m. so get there early and get a beer during Logboat’s tap takeover and get a spot in the front row to see Abi Reimold and Things On TV kick things off. P.S. Beer tastes better in the front row.

How’s the tour going?

We toured a lot for the last album and we’ve been taking some time off for a while to work on new music. It’s been really cool to get back out there and play shows again and we’re feeling good. We’re trying out a bunch of new songs which has been fun and the response to those seems to be going pretty well.

I saw that you guys just released “Ordinary Day.” Where are you in the process of making new music?

We have a whole album recorded. We spent the last year just working really hard. We wrote a ton of new music, only a portion of which is actually on the album. I’d say most of the year was spent recording and writing stuff so it was really fun. I think we twist ourselves and challenge ourselves to make things new and different to us.

How would you describe the new album? How is it different than music the band has put out before?

There’s definitely some differences, like just lyrically and musically, we went at it with a lot of ideas of using restraint. We wanted to approach a lot of the new stuff by trying to use different techniques to accomplish some of the things like cathartic feelings that we’ve done in the past by having like a loud moment, so restraint was a big idea with that.

Also lyrically, trying to do a “less is more” type of thing at times; just challenging ourselves to look at things differently and not necessarily make things the way our first instinct would be to make them. It definitely still sounds like The Districts. It’s just more of a fully realized kind of idea that we had been shooting for in our sound before. I think we’ve hit the mark on it a little more this time.

What’s the songwriting process like for you guys?

The process varies a little bit…I’ll usually come up with a pretty bare bones idea for a song and make a demo in my room, which will be usually acoustic guitar and maybe a keyboard or another guitar track here and there; like a pretty stripped down unfinished version.

Sometimes it’ll only have one verse written and the chorus, or something like that. From that demo we’ll usually try to work on some stuff, and together we kind of flesh it out and make it into a more completed image of it. We usually record another demo then. It’s usually gone through a bunch of ringers, so to speak, to kind of squeeze out everything we want to get out of it so that by the time we’re in the studio, we’ve all kind of had our say; we’ve all contributed collectively a bunch of ideas and turned it into a Districts song.

Who were your influences for the album, and as who has influenced you as a band?

We all listen to a lot of different types of music so it’s hard to say. For the album itself, there wasn’t a particular influence. We could go from something like old music, like I really like old singer songwriters like Lee Hays and Leonard Cohen, and I also really like dancey music from Africa or something. We all listen to a bunch of different kinds of stuff so it kind of just seeps in in it’s own way.


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5 Things to do before seeing Tennis

Retro indie pop duo Tennis composed of husband and wife Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, are coming to Rose Music Hall this Saturday and I couldn’t be more excited. Riley and Moore met as students in Colorado. A project formed between them when they spent seven months on a sailing expedition. The Denver-based duo put aside their plans for law school and instead got married and took on music full time. Their music reflects the happy-go-lucky nature of their story and the breezy sights of the East Atlantic Seaboard. Tennis has something to offer to a plethora of music fans. Their style spans from old-school twee pop to surf rock and even playful psychedelia. If you were a fan of STRFKR earlier this year, Tennis is right up your alley.

1. Listen to their new album, Yours Conditionally

“Ladies Don’t Play Guitar” and “In The Morning I’ll Be Better” are my personal favorites off the album. The former shines because of its smooth baseline, clean harmonies and inherent irony. The latter for its sublime aesthetic and honesty.

2. Listen to their singles

“Origins” and “Needle and a Knife” are probably the most popular Tennis songs, and for good reason. “Origins” integrates the medley of influences that make a great Tennis song: simple song structure, a hint of psychedelic soloing and upbeat vibes. “Needle and a Knife” explores the push and pull of a long-term relationship — something Tennis can attest to — while juxtaposing its biting lyrics with a sound that emanate positivity.

3. Don’t sleep on the deep cuts

Not all of the best Tennis songs are album centerpieces. “Marathon” starts with a catchy groove that’s driven by nothing more than a snap of the fingers and a simple melody before bursting into blissful yacht rock. “Mean Streets” flirts with indie rock without straying from the delicate production and naiveté that makes their music so charming.

4. Check out their website

Whoever designed their website is a genius. It looks like an old PC screen and it’s glorious. Please, see it for yourself.

5. Come early

This weekend is going to be in the 70s and 80s which means Rose will be open all day Saturday. Don’t miss out on a beautiful afternoon in the park. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if this show sold out so get on it!

This post was written by Ben Kane, contributing writer for The Blue Note and Rose blog.


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Clutch guitarist Tim Sult talks spacegrass, guitars and touring

Hunched over his guitar and dressed in jeans, a plaid shirt and tennis shoes, Tim Sult could not look more unassuming for a member of a band that tours the world. Sult is the lead guitarist in Clutch, a rock band that played at The Blue Note this past October.

Clutch‘s sound lies somewhere in between rock, hard rock and alternative and funk metal. I hadn’t seen them live before but after having friends rave about their show last May at The Pageant in St. Louis, I couldn’t wait for them to come to town, and when I came across the chance to interview the band’s guitarist Tim Sult, I couldn’t pass it up.

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Despite the placement on The Blue Note’s chalkboard bathroom wall, the show was not shitty.

The band is on tour for their latest album, Psychic Warfare. The band has been together since 1991 and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

Sult says songwriting is something that is shared among all members of the band. “It keeps everyone so interested in being in the band. That we’re all artistically and creatively involved in every song from the ground up. That’s what makes it Clutch, the fact that there’s four cooks in the pot,” he says. 

“We’ve always tried to remain creative and move forward and just try to write new songs and try to work on a new album… We never really felt like artistically, we were limited. We always felt like we were allowed to do whatever we want,” Sult says.

The show opened with Don’t Mind Dying, a local rock band with a similar sound to Clutch, as well as Kyng. The bands were a perfect match and Clutch lead singer, Neil Fallon, even gave Don’t Mind Dying a shout out during the show.

Clutch took the stage and kept the energy high throughout their performance. I’ve seen my fair share of concerts that start off strong and die down until the encore, but not this one. If anything, I’d say they started off with some of their more mellow music, amped it up throughout the show, and then came back down a little toward the end.

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Clutch guitarist Tim Sult doing what he does best.

Sult strummed in a concentrated focus, rarely looking up from his guitar. Meanwhile, the audience (who sported more leather jackets than I’ve possibly ever seen in a room) kept security on their feet in a constant effort to mosh.

A fan favorite, “Spacegrass,” was the first song of the encore. “I honestly don’t know 100% what the song is about,” Sult says. “I think we had the title and we were just playing it instrumentally. When we were jamming and playing it, we thought it sounded totally trippy. That was like the early days of stoner rock and that kind of music. Niel always says it’s about driving a car through outer space.”

Overall, the show rocked. Their lyrics drew me in and led me to make a playlist of Clutch essentials. At first, I felt a little out of my element, but by the end of the show I had joined everyone in jamming out in pure rock fury.