We just wanted to write something cool and original, and everything came organically.
In one way, the formation of Love District can be traced back to the Guitar Center. That’s where singer and guitarist Chris Pounders first met bassist Alex James and guitarist and keyboardist Anthony Jewett. Inspired by the UK post-punk of the Cure, Joy Division, and the Smiths, Pounders wanted to create a contemporary, American take on the legendary sound. The members of his other group, the Pounders, weren’t into the idea, so rather than force it, he began writing songs with James.
“We just went with it—if you have an idea, let’s write it down instead of scrapping it. Let’s get all our ideas out and then mold it all together,” James remembers. “We didn’t have an agenda when we were writing the music. We just wanted to write something cool and original, and everything came organically.”
With no formula and no expectations, they soon had 14 songs to choose from. After recording studio tracks from their demos, Pounders realized the project needed to keep going. “We only wanted to record an album,” he recalls. “And that’s where the band sort of accidentally became a band.” They soon asked Jewett to join the group for a series of live shows. Drummer Kenny James fills out the quartet.
As a first taste, the group released their Control EP in May 2016, a three-song collection meant to showcase the breadth of the band’s sound. The song “Let’s Do This” pairs a Latin rhythm with swirling guitars that dart around Pounders’ frantic vocal. “Manchester” is the most direct ode to the post-punk sound, with frenzied acoustic guitar speeding the song’s pulse sans overdrive aggression, a centerpiece to their approach. They close out the EP with “Will You Find Me.” Written by Pounders, the tale of longing declares, “And there I go, wherever I go / alone in the world, alone in my mind / trying to find the only way / out of this place that I call home.” This leads to the pleading, anthemic chorus: “Will you find me? If ever I go? Wherever I go?”
The EP may provide insight into their musical DNA, but the members of Love District believe their spirit truly comes to life when they’re on stage. They may be the ones performing, but they’re keen to develop a musical dialogue with the listener. “We’re gonna expand the songs and really get the crowd involved, and create an experience people will connect with and remember,” explains Pounders. “You can’t do that with a two-and-a-half-minute-style 20-song set.”
“With Love District, you don’t have to try to play so many notes,” adds Jewett, who played in a metal band before joining the project. “You don’t have to play so aggressively to get your point across all the time. You don’t have to be the loudest band in the room. But you do have to have something worth saying.”
Since releasing the EP, the band has been hard at work putting the finishing touches on Delusions, a full-length album set for release later this year. Pounders feels that Delusions will provide a deeper dive into the core of the band’s spirit. “This set is where we’re going to get the more introverted, artist types who are looking for that challenge musically,” he adds.
In the coming days, the group is headed to Prairie Sun Studio in Cotati, a well-known recording space that’s hosted the likes of Tom Waits, Iggy Pop, the Grateful Dead, and Faith No More. While there, they plan to record a cover of the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” to build buzz before dropping their new album.
In particular, the group’s focus has been galvanized through their collective experience in teaching music to others. All three light up while sharing stories of times they’ve witnessed breakthroughs from their students. Asked how the experience informs their musical approach, Pounders stresses how that inspiration is a two-way street. “Growing up, I never realized what being in a band taught me about life,” he says. “It’s given me a lot of life lessons. I’ve had some seriously challenging students, but you see the impact after a while. It matters.”
Drawing from their own experience, the musicians of Love District move forward in their goal to create a space that celebrates music’s transformative power.
Written by Brandon Roos
Photography by Polaroid Jay
This article originally appeared in Issue 9.4 “Perform”