December 18th, 2013
The Districts - Vermont
It's a rare thing for a band to spend more time working on their performance than their recordings. The Districts don't worry about protools, or quantizing, they care about the energy they bring. And boy, do they bring a lot of it.
There is a lot of buzz about The Districts out there right now. In fact, we haven't seen this much hype thrown at a young band in a LONG time. Naturally, we were skeptical. However, we ignore our friends, advisors and community members, and they wouldn't let up about it. So, this fall we invited Robby, Mark, Braden and Connor to Miner Street to see what the fuss was all about.
What we found was both surprising and just as we expected. Their track, 'Vermont' is just as energetic and exuberant as anything we'd heard from them before. It's anchored by a tremendous vocal performance by lead singer Robby Grote, and accompanied by solid musicianship from the rest of the band. But we'd been hearing word about that from day one. What surprised us was how eager they were to learn. How quickly they turned their Shaking Through session into a learning opportunity. Hype can be destructive for young bands, but their earnestness and their love of music kept their eyes and ears open for their two days with us. They are well beyond their years in this department.
And don't get us wrong: they are kids--literally. They started playing together in high school, and after graduating this year, moved from Lancaster, PA to Philadelphia to pursue music. "It definitely feels like a risk has been taken," says Robby of their decision to forgo college in favor of a career music. "But the thing that's important to me and the rest of the band is that this is what we love to do, and while we are still young it makes sense to go for it. I think there is such a thing as humility. We find it admirable that they seem more concerned with their song-writing and performances than the hype that surrounds them. If anyone can carve out a space for themselves in the music industry, it would be The Districts.
But while their young-buck attitude is the source of much of their excellence, it did get them into trouble from time to time during their shoot. After arriving at Miner Street and setting up their instruments they tore into 'Vermont' with almost TOO much excitement. They seemed to let their nervous energy get the best of them and were practically bursting at the seams. It took producer Brian McTear a while to get them to settle on the tempo and dynamic range of the song.
But it got there, and by early afternoon the basics for the song were tracked. The only problem: in his ebullience, Robby--who was recovering from a cold--blew out his voice during rehearsals. In retrospect, this is understandable, as Robby doesn't have an 'off' switch when it comes to his performance. Unfortunately, it put the song into limbo.
But this is where Brian and his 20 years of experience producing records comes in handy. When it was time for Vocals, Brian used a series of ingenious techniques (which you can watch in the tech video) to not only make Robby's vocals passable, but make them excellent. It was something exceptional to watch.
In the end, we hope 'Vermont' is a sign of things to come for a very talented band. If the enthusiasm, skill and willingness to learn they brought to this episode of Shaking Through is any indication, we have a lot to look forward to.