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Q&A: The Districts’ Rob Grote


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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Playlist: A Blue (Note) Christmas

We’ve brought you a Mad Men era holiday party playlist and a Christmas hits of the 80s and 90s playlist, and now it’s time to bring you A Blue (Note) Christmas! These songs are sure to get you in a festive mood and all that you have to do is press play.

You can’t go wrong with Frank Sinatra or Michael Buble, but we wanted to bring you something a little less traditional this season. This playlist is full of both covers of Christmas classics and new songs. It even includes a few songs by past and future Blue Note performers like Andrew Bird and Dan + Shay.

1. “A Great Big Sled” – The Killers

The Killers are becoming more widely killing it with holiday music. They come out with a holiday song almost every year. This is their first (and in my opinion their best) one for your listening pleasure.

2. “Lonely Christmas Eve” – Ben Folds

Written from the point of view of the Grinch, you might recognize this jazzy song from the movie’s soundtrack, and you’ll definitely recognize Ben Folds from our lineup of concerts this spring.

3. “A Willie Nice Christmas” – Kacey Musgraves & Willie Nelson

There’s nothing more exciting than finding out two Blue Note veterans linked up to make a quality Christmas song. There’s a healthy use of ukulele in this mellow song, and if you know anything about Willie Nelson, you can probably guess the subject matter.

4. “Player’s Ball” – Outkast

Some people might try to argue that this isn’t a Christmas song, but I argue otherwise. Just listen.

5. “Christmas Song” – India.Arie & Stevie Wonder

There have been so many different covers of this song, but I think this soulful version featuring Stevie Wonder is definitely the merriest.

6. “Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time!” – Sufjan Stevens

Songs like this make for a new era of Christmas classics that might actually make you like Christmas music again. Sufjan Stevens gifts us with plenty of original music to truly get us in the holiday spirit with his album “Songs for Christmas.” With over 40 songs, the album could be a playlist itself.

Stream away! We hope you enjoy, and we hope your holiday season is blue in the best way possible.

For more playlists, follow us on Spotify @thebluenotecomo

This post was written by Abigail Dempsey, contributing writer for The Blue Note and Rose Blog.