Editor’s note: This story was originally published in November 2021.

Last time LNP | LancasterOnline spoke with the vocalist of the indie rock band The Districts, a native of Lititz, Rob Grote, he talked about how it was accidental to release the album “You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere” during the pandemic.

That was in May 2020.

And as it turns out, a lot has changed for The Districts since then.

One of the founding members, bassist Connor Jacobus, left the band (which switched drummer Braden Lawrence to bass guitar and piano). And they added a new touring artist, Alex Held, to play the drums.

Great American Painting’s new (and deliberately released) album is due out on March 11th. Tonight they are scheduled to perform at the Midtown Arts Center in Harrisburg, as well as at the Mr. Small Theater in Millvale during the release of the record. day.

We met with Grote before the Phantom Power show and talked about the departure of Jacobus, the new album, the upcoming tour in support of “Great American Painting” and what a comeback is after the delayed performances of COVID-19. This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

It had been several months since Connor had left the band; how has this changed the dynamics of your band?

Obviously, we are sad to see him leave. He is an original participant. I think this is one of those things where our relationship is stronger, you know? It’s hard to survive, but it’s for the best for everyone. Inside the band, we saw this as an opportunity to change the situation even more, so our drummer Braden is now playing bass and keyboards, and we have this guy Alex who has the same relationship to our guitarist Pat as I had with Braden, where, for example, Alex drummed in Pat’s high school. Still very much feeling like family. Obviously, to some extent everything has changed, but it seems that everything is fine.

And is this upcoming album “Great American Painting” the first album to have new members?

In fact, the opposite is true. This is the last album with an old situation. So, for example, Connor was on record and we recorded with him and it was a great experience. Connor handles this perfectly. It has a song called “Hover,” which is actually the first song Connor wrote for The Districts, so it was cool.

So, this is a sweet “goodbye, we love and appreciate you, go spread your wings”?

Yeah, completely. Absolutely.

Let’s talk a little bit about your upcoming album. What was the inspiration behind this?

This was recorded during the pandemic, and it seemed that in previous years and during it there were a lot of social upheavals … a lot of personal upheavals. So it definitely informed a lot. This was largely due to the experience of trying to survive there, you know? An attempt to break through the world and then grow up in the context of a band in this country. It’s like you realize that you get to the point where you look back and think, “Oh, all my choices brought me here, and there’s no going back.” Not in a bad way, just like a sense of acceptance. And, you know, a lot affects a lot of the world’s social ills, with the Trump presidency and climate change. It’s all on my head. … I always try to highlight these great feelings into something a little more immediate.

So this is like a special, introspective album?

Yes, I would say so.

What song from the new album are you most proud of?

I really like “Do It Over”. … I think it’s one of those songs that kind of talks a lot about the little one. This is something you would always like to achieve when writing something, “How can I get a great feeling in the three minutes that are allotted to you?”

Tell me a little more about this song: what inspired it?

It was inspired on a social scale … the whole conversation is about climate change and where we are in the world with it. Along with some parallel to my own life of what I mentioned before … You realize that in a sense you’re just fussing about life, and you get to the point where you say, “Oh, I” I’ve been making that choice all along. and through them I became older and wiser. ” Just thinking about how I would do it, knowing what I know now? And not in regret, but more sadly.

Going back for a second, “The Great American Painting” … What inspired you to call it that?

I wrote most of the album. I spent some time in Washington State in a cabin and I drove from there … after last summer and it was a very privileged opportunity to be able to just get away from it all and get out into the woods. Last year I took part in a protest in Philadelphia for Black Lives Matter, and me and a bunch of my friends used tear gas, and the whole murder of George Floyd …, a beautiful desert, it was for me like a great American painting. … Just wondering what kind of country is this? What does this country mean to me? Is it just this brutal, soulless place where it’s canine world, and cruelty everywhere? Or is it such a romantic, epic, natural beauty that exists here? That’s all; this is true. And here’s some ridiculous element, which means it’s not a picture, but a record (Rob laughs). And I just like that little game.

How is “The Great American Picture” different from “You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere”?

“You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere” was written as a sound project. I recorded a lot in my room and we didn’t record much all together, but each song was built from scratch as a record. While (“Great American Painting”) in a sense went back to our roots creating a complete record of the band, where most of the songs were tracked live and many of the songs were written with the band in mind … For example, “How can we make sure that have these songs demonstrated our strengths as a band? ”

Will you be playing any of your new songs on Phantom Power?

Yeah! Yes, we will play through a few of them. I don’t know exactly how many, but exactly a few.

I wanted to ask about the Phantom Power itself. You do one or two shows and then another one or two shows, and then you start this like a long semi-American, semi-European tour. So I’m just wondering why Phantom Power and why right now?

Well, I mean, we grew up in Cliff, so Lancaster is home. I think we always try to play Lancaster and Philly during the holidays, just because there are a lot of people we know nearby. On vacation we are already kind of coming home, so this is just the perfect time to play in our hometown.

Tell us how you feel about the tour.

I’m excited. We’ve actually toured Europe a few times, so honestly, no matter how much I love performing in the US, my favorite thing to do is touring Europe. Everywhere is exciting. People are so different. In the US you will drive four hours and be in Pittsburgh or something like that, and there, you drive four hours and you just drove from Germany to France. … I am very excited.

Which show in Europe do you look forward to playing the most? If there is.

Yes, that’s a good question. We went to Prague one weekend on tour, and I really liked it, but we never performed there. This time we are playing a play there. So that’s what I’m definitely most excited about.

What fascinates you in Prague?

The architecture is all like that, super gothic. My memory of this seems to be that late at night there are all these tram cars, and everything is in a fog, and it’s just a feeling of very old Eastern Europe. I really like the atmosphere.

How do you feel playing live again after COVID-19?

It definitely feels weird, you know. We’ve already toured quite a bit since August, and after a year in which there was so much time turning in, it was definitely very unpleasant to be in halls full of people. It was as if speaking again was really alien. I say, “I don’t know how to do it anymore.” As well as the touring lifestyle can be a bit tiring. You play late, you don’t leave the field, usually after midnight, and then you need to get up early to go the next day. So this is definitely a period of adjustment. But other than that, it was amazing, and like this huge piece of my identity since I was 14 … Bringing it back and playing with the people in the room was priceless. So, it’s hard … But mostly good.

What were the crowds like?

In the first few shows we played, I think everyone felt what we felt. We didn’t know how to be on the show. But I feel like they’re getting more and more comfortable, they seem … in full swing again.

Has COVID-19 changed your tour?

At first we were very careful … But, to be honest, the longer we were on tour, the more we simply slipped back to the old habits and did not worry too much about it. Every night we are in a crowd, we can only do so much here and we can control the factors.

Do you have a different view of the show now that COVID-19 has happened?

I guess it just feels less than proper, and less of a sense of confidence that this is something you can always do. It used to feel like, “Oh, that’s what we’re doing, and that’s what we’re going to do forever.” But after last year it seems that it can be taken away at any moment. Maybe it’s just anxiety, but it definitely informs you how you feel about it.

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