By: Elaisha Green –
On March 22, indie-rock quintet The Neighbourhood performed at the Sound Academy in Toronto. Before their performance, we sat down with the LA-based group.
“We have input in actually everything that you see and hear, from a random poster for a one city show to being on television,” starts The Neighbourhood frontman, Jesse Rutherford. “We have input in all that stuff.” Adhering to the band’s highly publicized black and white aesthetic, his white t-shirt peeked from under a large black leather jacket that hung over his ripped black jeans. The band’s 21-year-old guitarist, Zack Ables, sat next to him sporting all black.
Following The Neighbourhood’s compulsory rules to publish all images and videos in black and white has been onerous for members of the press. They declined an invitation to play on Letterman until the show agreed to broadcast their performance in black and white. Their choice for the basic bi-coloured look doesn’t reflect their layered sound of programmed beats, pedalled guitars and Rutherford’s suggestive and soulful vocals.
Their EP’s are the namesake of overused declarations, I’m Sorry and Thank You and their first LP, I Love You was released in April, 2013 with Columbia Records and co-produced by Emile Haynie. Haiyne co-produced all but one track on Lana Del Rey’s well received LP, Born to Die that featured her signature bass-heavy, dark trip-hop sound; very similar to The Neighbourhood. “He kinda chose us,” Rutherford asserted when asked about Haiyne’s work on their album. Ables piped up, “Yeah, our manager has worked with him in the past. One day we got to meet him. We got into a studio and we [played] him some demos and as soon as we left, he hit up our manager…it was a cool thing for us.”
Their new album #000000 & #FFFFFF or Black & White is fully recorded, but Rutherford kept mum on the release date. “We just want to put new music out, so we’re going to be doing that as soon as we can … it’s just [the] finishing touches to put on it to get it to where we want it to be before we release it to anybody.”
For now, fans will have to take to YouTube to listen to live performances of tracks like “Lurk”, a dark song on the struggles Rutherford faces with the indulgence of being in The Neighbourhood or “Jealou$y”, that features an ill-placed “A Milli”, sample and a catchy saxophone riff.
Their first headlining show in Toronto opened with, “Silver”, a track that was posted on the music streaming platform SoundCloud three months ago. The smooth house song has a subtler intonation than expected from the band. When asked whether the record is an outlier on #000000 & #FFFFFF, Rutherford answered, “I don’t know, you’re going to have to see. People might feel that way but the bottom line is we’re making stuff that we like…” Also released on the band’s SoundCloud is “Unfair”, an ambient instrumental song likened to tracks from Canadian duo Crystal Castles.
A year after the California band formed in 2011 they posted “Female Robbery” online, joined by drummer Bryan Sammis, who dropped out of college after hearing the “Sweater Weather” demo to join The Neighbourhood. Sammis’s tenure was abruptly terminated last January via the band’s Tumblr page, replaced by Brandon Fried. Ables remarked that “having a new guy on stage with you, it may take a minute to get on the same level…just building chemistry…[but] to me, it’s a lot better.” Foreshadowing this revolving cast was the announcement last December that RiFF RaFF, a rapper signed to Mad Decent, would be joining the band after a chance meeting last fall. It was soon officially announced that RiFF RaFF’s debut with the Neighbourhood will be on the band’s upcoming full-length release.
It’s tough to categorize the band’s fusion of rock and hip-hop; their adagio tempoed songs with drum loops and layered guitars also makes acoustic performances difficult. “Those things fucking suck…think about if you were a painter right,” Rutherford gestured in frustration, “and they said “ok come into our art gallery that’s going to be all over the world but you can’t bring your original painting you just gotta come in and paint something really quick with the materials that we give you.’ So you’ve just gotta show people that you can paint something real quick…Fuck you I don’t want to do that…We spent so much money and time to record a song a certain way and then to give it to you. If you want to fucking hear it live come to a fucking show.”
On the other hand, their signature song “Sweater Weather” carries a universality, Rutherford proclaimed that they’ve, “played it a million different ways and it always works out.” When asked why he thinks it was successful on the charts he answered, “Honestly that’s a question that we can technically pull apart but…sometimes things just make people feel a certain way…” The hit song was re-released after receiving some radio play and eventually coasted up the charts and peaked at #1 on the US Alternative Chart while breaking into mainstream rotation. The slow song was quite the contrast to the danceable tunes by UK pop-rock band, The 1975 who headlined on their tour together across the pond. Rutherford agreed that their sounds were very different, “…they don’t sound anything like us but it somehow just worked.” He continued, “…until this time recently when we just went [to the UK], we hadn’t had such a welcoming response everywhere, ‘cause…they are [a] different type of music observers. They observe in different ways and listen and watch and like—they’re a different breed of people.” They will be continuing their tour in North America before returning to the UK this May.
After only one LP and packed venues on their first North American headlining tour, it seems the young, stubborn group are fit to be more than one hit wonders.
(Editor’s Note: The Neighbourhood performed in Toronto on March 22 at the Sound Academy. Check out our coverage here)