London rockers District 13 introduced themselves to us as “Black Sabbath meets The Ramones,” while revealing that frontman Jon Wild has been described as “a cross between Kurt Cobain and Sid Vicious.” So we, of course, had no option but to explore further.
The band has honed an exciting, energetic hard rock sound that also carries up-tempo punk vibes and metal-influenced solos – which is a pretty healthy cocktail for an awesome new rock band.
As Jon explains: “We try to create songs that have the uptempo feel of punk but with vocals and guitar solos that take influence from metal and hard rock. There is definitely a grungy side to our music also. When we started this project our main aim was to create music that we felt was uplifting and energetic that could appeal to a wide audience. We don’t like to be pigeonholed too much and try to not sound like one particular band.”
District 13 – whose name comes from the area in the Hunger Games books/movies where there is a positive chance of rebellion – began with Asen Milushev (drums and backing vocals) and Richard Vanderpuije (bass and backing vocals) holding auditions for a lead singer.
As Asen explains: “We had loads of talented people apply but when we heard Jon’s voice and awesome guitar playing we knew he was the guy for us. We all clicked immediately from the beginning, it’s been awesome!”
They’ve since been working hard on debut album Soma, which was released today. The title is influenced by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and, as Jon explains: “I believe a lot of people want change and music is a great outlet for people to express these opinions.”
The album kicks off with the delicious opening riff to Wild Flowers, which continues along driving drums and a bouncy bassline. Jon’s grungey vocals take over, alongside darting high guitars, through to a singalong chorus, then the fun riff dives back in. A second chorus drops into a cool laid-back section that gradually builds up to a big shredding solo. It’s one hell of an impressive introduction to the band.
And the rocky goodness continues with Dark Horse, which opens with edgy guitars and vocals then a filthy riff kicks in. A more energetic smash of screamed vocals over the top of a repeating riff and pounding drums takes over, then drops into more singalong vocals. A really cool high-pitched version of the riff comes in after the second chorus, then ascending stabbing guitars under Jon’s vocals build up to a final blast of the chorus.
Cantankerous is a particular highlight of the album, opening up with lively vocals and piercing guitars over pounding drums. A fun jumpy riff supports shouted vocals “You’d better get away from here” then cool diving guitars continue under another batch of lively vocals. The track rounds out with a laid-back solo then a heavy outro of cries of “hey, hey, hey” under the bouncy riff.
The band mix things up with the more anthemic Is This The Way and When I’m Gone in between the hard-hitting rockiness on tracks like the excellent Detached, which features a cool little solo and singalong choruses.
The album goes out in fine style with closing track Soma, which is also the longest track on the album at six minutes. It opens up with a darting riff then big low-tuned drawn-out guitars kick in, then give way to a verse of light repeating guitars under laid-back vocals. The vocals suddenly intensify as the atmosphere builds and gives way to huge drawn-out vocals over booming guitar chords. It soon descends into an epic guitar solo over driving guitars and drums to bring the album to an awesome ending. Give it a listen below:
On the album, Jon says: “Song ideas come about in a mixture of different ways. I have written the tracks for this album but some of the new material we have written together. When writing lyrics I try to steer away from typical lyrics of boyfriend/girlfriend etc… Our first single Wild Flowers talks about being disillusioned by a lot of the media, politicians and press and not seeing truth behind what people in power say.
The band’s key influences include the likes of Nirvana, whose Smells Like Teen Spirit inspired Jon to pick up a guitar, Metallica, who inspired Asen to become a drummer when he saw them perform in Bulgaria, and Rage Against The Machine, who Rich was taken away by when he first heard Killing In The Name Of while playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas with his sister.
While on what inspires them to write music, Jon explains: “Some songs take a more light-hearted/comical approach. Cantankerous and Sweet Talk are more tongue in cheek and talk about an explosive relationship.
“One song I am very proud of is our ballad Is This The Way. This song has a different feel to other songs on the album with the main lyric ‘I look into the sky but I don’t see the light today, is this the way, is this the way back now.’ This is about feeling lost in life and never knowing whether you are on the right path. Asen and Rich have done a great job putting their own parts to the songs and have really helped shape the music.”
District 13 have made a seriously impressive debut with Soma. If you like big riffs, super-catchy vocals and melodies then this is the new rock band for you. We firmly recommend sticking Soma on repeat and checking these guys out.