You Know I'm Not Going Anywhere

The Districts

You Know I'm Not Going Anywhere

“We definitely went through a total band transformation,” The Districts frontman and songwriter Rob Grote tells Apple Music. “In order to make this record we had to resee each other as individuals today rather than who we were in the friendships we started when we were 16. It was definitely hard.” At age 16, Grote and his three bandmates—bassist Connor Jacobus, drummer Braden Lawrence, and guitarist Pat Cassidy—were high schoolers in Lititz, Pennsylvania. In the decade between forming The Districts and recording You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere, they released and toured three emotionally charged rock albums, all gaining significant critical acclaim. Grote spent a lot of the first half of 2019 caring for his sick dog, writing and recording demos as projects to test himself to a strict daily regiment, unsure if they’d become Districts songs. “Eventually, we came together after a show and I presented the songs to the band,” he says. “A lot of the time, the reason why you get into a band is because you want to process something difficult or because you feel difficult things. Then to do that with others is super out of most people’s comfort zones. But putting ourselves through that with these songs has put us in the best spot we’ve ever been.” You Know I’m Not Going Anywhere (“an impossible promise to make someone,” says Grote) is the band’s most fulfilling body of work—decadently portentous yet uplifting and whirring with melodic invention. Let Grote guide you through, track by track.
My Only Ghost “We open with this anxious, coiled thing. I was thinking a lot about loss at the time of writing. When you lose someone in your life through death or you part ways, there are these intimacies there that you become the sole keeper of. They are no longer these shared things. This song is about that longing that has to become unrequited. ‘My Only Ghost’ is the person who’s always on your mind that you can’t share things with anymore. At the same time, as with a lot of these songs, part of the escape I was looking for in writing the music was in the search for something spiritual. I was really getting back to what first drew me to music. It’s this thing that transcends life. And there’s something healing in that.”
Hey Jo “It could be a letter to someone you care about and wish you could be there for in that moment—or they could be there for you. At the same time, it’s also talking about Los Angeles as a symbol for a lot in the modern world. It’s a place totally built for cars. It’s not made for humans. There’s a dissonance you can feel in the world today, especially in places where there’s been a move from the natural way of being. Anxiety and depression—I feel like a lot of it comes from this living in a world that isn’t designed for us. In a lot of ways it is, of course, but in a lot of ways, we’re natural beings, you know? We shouldn’t live in concrete. Common themes in my life are freaking out about that and just contemplating relationships. This song takes in both.”
Cheap Regrets “At first there were only the choruses. It was just going to be this dancey song about the ‘statue of cheap regrets.’ I’ve always loved the Greek statue Sisyphus—where the guy is pushing the boulder up the hill. It’s this vain task, where the boulder is just going to roll back down regardless. There’s also so much vanity in these things we do in making art. I love making music, of course, but it’s still pretty funny. I’m often looking to make this pretty thing about all my problems. So we were playing this one live a little bit before realizing it needed something going else. I had this poem that I’d written and thought was quite funny. It sounded a bit like the Beastie Boys when we added it to the song as the verses. The poem fit well because it gets at how money and consumerism divide us as a culture. It’s actually quite repetitive, but I think the trick is to put enough things in there to pull you here and there.”
Velour and Velcro “Velour and Velcro was actually the name of an imaginary band my girlfriend and I were going to form. This would have been their first release. We were trying to put a country song over a dance beat. For a while I abandoned that narrative because everyone ever put out country-related things while we were working on this album. I was even calling the album Our Dream Country Space Western for a while. So I was trying to put these Americana elements over dance elements, and attempting to make it neither. It’s got this four-on-the-floor drum machine thing going, but also it’s this upbeat driving thing with country chords, and I love it. The sentiment is pretty simple: Wherever we might end up we can’t say. But right now is heaven.”
Changing “This one is pretty simple: I tried to sit down and write a song about having OCD, when your thoughts won’t leave you alone. It came out quick. I think it’s very much in our band’s comfort zone. I feel like us slamming on some chords together always goes well.”
Descend “This one came pretty early in the process. There are three competing narratives for this song in my head. I was originally thinking about terrible relationships and this idea of pleading with someone to descend into hell with you. I was also low-key freaking about gun violence in America. We were in Paris on the night of the Bataclan theater attack, at a show across town. But weirdly, it didn’t really hit me until the school shootings really began happening in the States about a year later. The other terribly sad perspective, if you want to get knocked down even lower, is that I was playing this song a lot after the dog I was caring for passed away and now it sounds like the song is this wonderful dog singing to me. I do think there’s a hopeful tinge to it, too, though. The ending to me sounds like you’re falling into an abyss but it’s a pretty abyss. There’s a light in the abyss.”
The Clouds “I play guitar a lot when I’m home, so always have little guitar parts lying around needing a home. I always found these guitars wistful and the chords very pleasant, but nothing had quite worked. Then when these lyrics came about—thinking about your head being in the clouds—suddenly the song was born. Little humblebrag here, too: I actually drummed this one. I very politely asked Braden if he’d mind. That’s the other thing about this record—we really blurred the lines of what our roles are. Braden, for example, played a bunch of piano and keyboard. So here, I put down the guitar and drums, and everyone else filled in around it. This Phil Spector idea where it’s about filling in all the gaps to create this giant, pretty thing.”
Dancer “I feel like I have two categories of songs. There are songs where I know how they need to sound right away. Then there are the songs that shape up slowly and you discover all these little things along the way. Here, I had Voice Memos on my iPhone where I’m singing the first verse and then sing the instrumental with mouth noises. There’s a descending chord change, then the bass and horns slide down—basically, we weren’t sure how to record it going into a studio. In the studio, it evolved into basically a polka song. It feels quite demented at the end. I love picturing someone dancing in slow motion to this song.”
Sidecar “The message here is ‘Don’t fall asleep yet.’ It also feels quite spiritual to me. The dissonant chords frequently break open into pretty, nice-feeling chords. There’s a lot of tension and release with this song. It’s about when escaping all your problems goes wrong and you’re ready to crash and burn.”
And the Horses All Go Swimming “There’s an island—two-thirds of it in Maryland and a third in Virginia—called Assateague where I would go camping when I was young with my family. There are a bunch of wild horses—Chincoteague ponies—that live there and go swimming in the ocean. I was telling someone about this place and she pointed out that ‘the horses go swimming’ would be a strange thing to sing. I was spending a lot of time with my dog, too. He looked like a horse, and I would call him my horse—so I’m using these horses symbolically for a true character. I was trying to create an audio dream, where everything feels strangely familiar, and you have this mysterious longing for somewhere.”
4th of July “A lot of songs are getting at this subtle ‘death as transcendence’ or ‘transcendence as death’ idea. Whether they’re one and the same. Is it your old self dying, or just genuine death? This song I think is more about becoming someone new. There’s a lot about memory in the lyrics—a lot about questioning what you do see. Then when the chorus says, ‘We left your body on the bank/And when the tide came in it sank,’ I’m speaking to the death and rebirth idea. The 4th of July itself—regardless of my feelings towards our country in general—represents this collective rebirth and moment of transcendence. Everyone in the country is staring up at these fireworks and suddenly we’re just in awe of these lights and, for a few minutes, not divided.”

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