Zero Mile Presents
The Districts, Palace Doctor
Sat · March 31, 2018
Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm
This event is 18 and overhttps://www.georgiatheatre.com/event/1606584/
Co-produced by the band and longtime collaborator R. Andrew Humphrey, and mixed by new confidant John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth), the rec-ord is by turns raw, polished and wise beyond its years. The diverse new songs beg the listener to sway slowly, bang their head wildly and question what they were do-ing wasting emotional time on anything less. It is a marked, and some may say ma-ture, development for a band that doesn’t know how to play it safe. They aren’t here to tell you what youth is like or what being a little older now means, though; they want to join you in a conversation about why we hurt, love and tug at each other.
While Twin Peaks is a bit older, they’re not necessarily calmer; their restlessness endures. Born of Chicago’s league-leading DIY scene and with several of them re-maining friends since elementary school, Cadien Lake James, Clay Frankel, Connor Brodner, Jack Dolan, and most recent addition Colin Croom share an enthusiasm, authenticity and passion their audiences have found contagious. In the three years since dropping out of college to support their debut album “Sunken,” the band has covered a lot of ground. They’ve played to ever-increasing crowds, bigger and row-dier each time they come barreling into a city; they were anointed “Best New Band” by NME and countless other blogs, and they have performed for (and partied with) more than hospitable masses at festivals in the states and Europe, including Pitch-fork, Lollapalooza, Reading & Leeds, and Roskilde. In between all this action, the group set up camp in the summer of 2015 amidst the solitude of a murky lake in Western Massachusetts, where they could experiment and record on their own terms in the warm living room of a good friend’s house.
Recording on reel-to-reel with the band learning studio tricks on the fly, Twin Peaks set out to a make an LP that reflects how far they’ve come and how much of life is left, trusting themselves to make a record they’d want to hear. James explains, “I’ve been particularly drawn to records that have a more personal feel, not necessarily lyrically, but in sonic aesthetic, like The Kinks Village Green Society, Beatles White Album, and Rolling Stones Beggar’s Banquet. We wanted to make a record that em-ployed the restraints of our favorite artists from yesteryear. It was about trying to simplify and hone in on the things that are important to our music and ethos.” In considering the development of the band’s sound from “Sunken” to “Wild Onion” and now to “Down in Heaven,” Frankel adds, “The bands we admire are the ones who change drastically over the course of their span, like The Velvet Underground, where no two records of theirs sound the same.”
Whether sneering or pleading, aggressive or impatient, the thirteen tracks of “Down In Heaven” are a continuation of the bands path and an eschewing of previous com-parisons. It is a record all about feel: heartbreak, forgiveness, anger, jubilation, re-invention, growth. Album opener “Walk To The One You Love,” written by James about letting someone close to you go is immediately followed by Frankel’s song “Wanted You,” with lyrics about not getting the one that you yearn for. With “Stain,” perhaps the biggest departure for the band on the record, Frankel says, “I didn’t want another love song, so after a while I got what it is, how you suffer for your art but you put up with it because you don’t wanna do anything else. It’s a song about the love of music.” Even though four of the five members contribute lyrics, there are obvious connections both thematically and musically across the record and the band’s voice rises unified.
“Down in Heaven” will bring old fans and new Twin Peaks most complex record to date, encompassing elements only teased on their previous efforts. Frankel says, “I don’t know yet what kind of band we are, since we keep changing with every year. I guess we are a band unafraid of new influences and changes.” Put simply, “Down In Heaven” makes it increasingly hard to call their sound “classic.” It’s rock new and old, it’s a little bit of country, it’s a whole lot of punk attitude, and it’s something to get excited about. Twin Peaks is here to stay, and they aren’t going to get pinned down.
The total electric charge of Popular Manipulations is just the latest evolution for the impressively young quartet, whose founding members—vocalist/guitarist Rob Grote, bassist Connor Jacobus, and drummer Braden Lawrence—have known each other since attending grade school together in the Pennsylvania town of Lititz. After deciding to form a band in high school, the Districts gigged hard in the tri-state area, releasing a slew of promising material (including the rootsy 2012 debut Telephone) before catching the eye of venerable indie Fat Possum. 2015’s A Flourish and a Spoil found the band refining their embryonic sound with veteran producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Kurt Vile)—and looking back on that release, there are glimmers of Popular Manipulations in chrysalis form to be found on it, hints of the fence-swinging anthemic sound they’d soon make wholly their own.
After touring behind A Flourish and a Spoil, Grote began “playing with different ideas” in his own songwriting by making demos at a prolific pace. “We knew that we wanted to change some things musically, so we were trying to come up with as many songs as possible to narrow the direction we wanted to take the material,” he states. In total, they ended up with 50 song ideas, and so they were off to LA in May of 2016 with new guitarist Pat Cassidy in tow to log more recording time with Congleton, with four of Popular Manipulations’ songs coming out of the sessions.
“We have a lot of overlapping tastes and preferences for how things are made,” Grote gushes about working with the notably reliable studio wizard—but acceding all credit to Congleton (who also handled the record’s mixdown) would be shortchanging the Districts themselves, who went on to self-produce the remainder of the record in Philadelphia with engineer Keith Abrams. “Something we took from working with Congleton was ideas on arranging songs,” Grote explains, and they certainly learned a lot: Popular Manipulations is a raucous and impressively thick-sounding album, overflowing with toothy melodies that pack a serious punch.
The distinctly intense sound of Popular Manipulations—charging guitars, thunderous drumming, and Grote’s searing vocals—was brought on by a few cited influences, from shoegaze’s aggressive swirl to the Velvet Underground’s impeccable drone-rock sound. There’s a distinctly Canadian flavor to this brand of indie rock, too; Spencer Krug’s anthemic, lushly inscrutable work in Wolf Parade and his defunct Sunset Rubdown side project comes to mind, as does 2000s Toronto barnburners the Diableros’ overlooked 2006 gem You Can’t Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts.
But don’t mistake easy comparisons for a lack of originality: on Popular Manipulations, the District are in a lane entirely their own, exploring lyrical themes of isolation and abandonment in a way that ups the music’s already highly charged emotional quotient. “Capable” finds Grote turning his focus to the ruinous aftermath of divorce, and “Before I Wake” is, in his words, “About coming to terms with being isolated or alone—even though we have a whole group of voices singing the whole time.” Grote explains that even the title of the record touches on these universal concerns: “It hints at how people use each other, for good or bad, and
215 N. Lumpkin St
Athens, GA, 30601