Ohio-based three-piece the Mason District can’t seem to shake the “Americana” label that follows them all over the internet, and maybe it’s the band’s own fault. The genre tag is featured in each of the band’s music pages, ReverbNation and Facebook and Bandcamp, et al. And the very name “Mason District” seems freighted with a certain rural imagery, conjuring visions of rustic backwaters and dilapidated pickup trucks and jars of misty moonshine garnished with sprigs of browning foliage.
But the label is a little reductive, if not downright inaccurate, as the District’s music has more in common with post-millennial southern and indie rock than it does with most of what passes for Americana nowadays. Their closest musical cousins are probably Nashville’s Kings of Leon, due in no small part to vocalist/guitarist Tom Tobias’ voice, a smoky, lived-in yawp that bears some sonic resemblance to that of KOL frontman Caleb Followill.
“We definitely don’t take the typical American band’s approach,” says drummer Collin Nutter. “I see our music as being more along the lines of back-to-basics rock ‘n roll, with a little southern influence in there somewhere.”
Nutter, Tobias, and singer/bassist Maria Petti first met one another at a weekly jam night at a bar in Cleveland. They bonded over a love of the Black Keys, and spent some months jamming on Keys songs together at the open mic. Cover songs eventually gave way to collaboration, wherein members of the trio brought their own songs to the table.
But things didn’t “get serious”, Tobias says, until 2016, when the band members set noses to the grindstone and churned out their debut EP, “Shotgun Soul.”
“Initially, we were drawn to each other because we were all infatuated with the Black Keys,” Nutter says. “With their music, and with the way their career developed as they went along. And then we all went through a period where we were obsessed with Kings of Leon, and then with Alabama Shakes, and Portugal the Man.
“So once we started making music together, it was obvious to all of us what direction we wanted to go in.”
One thing that sets the District apart from most of their neo-southern counterparts is Petti, who sings backup and sometimes lead on several of the band’s songs. “In the beginning, the first that drew me to Maria was her voice. And when we got together playing, it really clicked. One of my goals for the band as we move forward is to get Maria involved singing more songs.”
That should happen soon, as the band is actively working toward releasing their first full-length, maybe by early 2018. While they already have plenty of new songs at the ready, Tobias says he has a vision to expand the band’s sound, adding keyboards, and maybe a second guitar. “When I first started writing, I wanted to keep it really simple,” Tobias says. “That’s what the Black Keys did. That’s what Kings of Leon did.
“I want to get everyone more involved in writing. And I want to add more sound, develop a fuller sound. We all want to progress, and get to the point where we can say, ‘This is the best work we’ve ever done.'”
The Mason District will play Preservation Pub Wednesday, June 28 at 10 p.m.