Interview by Tony Cannella
District 97 is a progressive rock band hailing from Chicago. The band has received much (well deserved) critical acclaim for their releases – in particular, their latest opus “In Vaults”, which was released earlier this year. Lead vocalist Leslie Hunt was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions. Here is what she had to say…
Welcome to Femme Metal Webzine. Thank you for taking the time to do this. Your new album “In Vaults” has just been released. It is very good. How would you describe it to those who have yet to hear it?
Thank you very much! I would say that “In Vaults” is our sludgiest, grittiest and most dynamic album to date. The songwriting is more developed, the performances are at their most passionate and the quality of the recording is superb. We pulled out ALL of the stops for this one and we are all extremely proud of how it turned out.
What has been the reaction from the fans and media?
Everyone seems to be thoroughly enjoying it! Haven’t read any negative reviews yet. The consensus is sort of similar to what I stated above. People are picking up on the “next level” factor of this record. Bill Bruford himself even wrote an in-depth rave review for us to tuck in our hats.
What songs really stand out for you on “In Vaults”?
They all stand out for different reasons. Vocally, I am having a blast on “Snow Country”, “A Lottery” and “Takeover”. Emotionally, I am taken on a ride with “Handlebars”, “All’s Well That Ends Well” and “Blinding Vision”. Theatrically, I am in my heaven on “Learn From Danny”. Angst wise, “Death by a Thousand Cuts” and “On Paper” are the winners.
How do you feel the band has progressed since your first album?
Our first album was very much Jonathan‘s baby. He was by far the most hands on, serving as both sole composer and primary producer. We have become much more collaborative since those early days. Everyone in the band has a compositional contribution now.
How did the band first get together?
The band existed as an instrumental quartet before I joined in the summer of 2008. Most of the guys grew up together and then Jim and I met them in college at music school. I opened for them with my solo material and stuck around to check them out. I was blown away and immediately asked Jonathan if I could be their lead singer. That was one of the best moves I’ve ever made.
You recorded a live album with John Wetton. What was it like to play with a legend such as him?
John is one hell of a guy and an incredible musician. We had an unbelievably good time being on the road with him and the live album was the icing on the cake for us. It was the last show of our East Coast tour and we were very acquainted with the material by then. I think it was a pretty surreal experience for all of us.
Who are the band’s biggest influences?
What makes this band really unique is that we are all influenced by different artists, and I think that’s one of the reasons we have such a unique sound. It’s sort of the melding of different personalities and a mix of musical priorities but the end result is somehow still cohesive and undeniably consistent. I have an indie pop/rock background with a slight jazz quality to my voice, Jim is strongly influenced by some of the grunge rock bands from the 90’s as well as current indie rock bands that push the envelope harmonically and texturally… Jonathan is probably the most true-to-form prog fan in the group and his compositions are the most technical, theatrical and harmonically dense. We are all over the map.
Do you have any touring plans?
As a matter of fact, we currently pursuing a European tour in the spring! Stay tuned for details!
What can fans expect when they come see you live?
Our live show is pretty intense. We put out a lot of energy and I dance around like a lunatic the whole time. Movement helps me feel the music, get into character and to know where my entrances are. The guys are ridiculously good musicians and they put on a jaw-droppingly good show.
Thanks again for taking the time to answer these questions. In closing, do you have any final words for your fans?
I just want to say thanks for listening and for being the best fans on earth. For those of you that haven’t been to a show yet, for crying out loud, come to a show. Studio albums only take you so far with us, although with this particular album, we came to the closest to matching our live energy. Anyway, thanks again. 🙂