The first time I spoke with the guys from The Neighbourhood, they put me on speaker phone in their car during the drive back to Newbury Park from some of the more "famous" parts of Los Angeles. It was a great night to be on the phone with the boys from the Neighbourhood—a night that was, for them, a surreal one. It as the first time they had heard their music on the radio.
I asked Jesse Rutherford (lead singer) if he remembered that night:
Jesse Rutherford: Oh yeah, of course. That was an awesome night. I didn't know that was you that we were talking to, though. That's cool."
This time, my conversation with The Neighbourhood wasn't quite as surreal. Instead of getting a rowdy car-full, it was just myself, Jesse, and drummer Bryan Sammis, and instead of using speakerphone, we're speaking face-to-face backstage before a sold-out show (one of several on their West coast tour). That aside, though, there were other parts of our time together that were distinct from our early interactions. Instead of excitedly tripping over their words, Bryan and Jesse's responses were measured and coherent, drawing upon experience rather than imagination. They're the kind of differences that one could expect, given the year that The Neighbourhood have had.
Last October, The Neighbourhood's first few tracks were progressively discovered and spread across the web. These were great songs, and the only clues as to their source were photos of silhouetted figures and a URL sporting a black and white motif that drove bloggers wild (BUZZ MAGNETS).
Within weeks, The Neighbourhood became the embodiment of "buzz band" (explicitly labeled as such by the very music blogosphere that creates such phenomena) (Hi!). Weeks turned into months, and writing sessions and rehearsals in garages transformed into performances in theaters full of contract-toting label executives. It's now been a little over a year, and The Neighbourhood are finally shedding "buzz band" label, transforming simply into a "band."
Names and faces long since revealed, the two songs that were perhaps the most significant producers of "buzz"- "Sweater Weather" and "Female Robbery"- are both radio regulars now. The Neighbourhood have now performed on multiple continents. The Neighbourhood have been booked for performances at both South by Southwest and Coachella. The Foster The People comparisons that used to be insightful have become clichéd.
By now, The Nighbourhood's "buzz" feels like it should be fading, though trying to gauge or quantify "buzz" seems like a pretty arbitrary practice (and a redundant one at that), but it's probably fair to say that the "buzz band" glean is well-faded at this point, along with most of that momentum. The Neighbourhood are now experiencing a whole new set of growing pains as they transform into a "band."
EARMILK: What are some things that have happened over the last year that you didn’t expect?
Bryan Sammis: Selling out London twice definitely wasn’t something we expected. I mean, they aren’t the biggest rooms, but we’re so, so far away from home and we’re selling out shows.
EM: Do you feel like you got a different vibe from crowds in Europe?
Jesse Rutherford: The vibe you get from a crowd varies from hour to hour, but they were all awesome. There was a guy in Glasgow that wanted us to carve our logo into his arm. And then when we didn’t do it he was like, “you fuckin’ pussies.” And the thing is, he wanted us to use a blue pen. I might have done it if it were a black pen or a knife or something, but it was going to look fuckin’ stupid anyway.
EM: The last time we spoke, you guys talked about how much writing you were doing, and that you had loads of songs that you hadn’t released yet. Has that pace slowed at all, now that you’re on the road and performing so much? And how much of that stuff do you look at as being useable now?
BS: It’s funny that you mention that, because I don’t really think it’s slowed at all, but a lot of that stuff that we thought was good enough we’re shelving and moving on from. We want to do our best to try and progress, and a lot of that stuff sounds like really early Neighbourhood, and we want to show that progression.
JR: If it has slowed, it’s just because we don’t have time. I mean, before you came in here I was sitting there with my headphones on working on music, because I think it’s fuckin’ cool and I love it. But I’m always trying to think ahead musically. We all are. If there’s anything about this band that works it’s our ability to write music. I think we write our songs really well, and I’m confident that we’ll be able to keep doing it for a long time. What’s tough is everything else. How people perceive you. It’s what radio station you’re going to be on, what bands you’re going to tour with or want to tour with, what magazine you’re going to be in. You can’t chose that kind of stuff, but we can choose how the fuck we write our music. If our pace has slowed it’s because of everything else. But, when we’re in a creative or inspired mood, I still write a lot of music. It’s still the activity that I go back to.
EM: How much time have you guys spent in your home town in the last year? The last time we talked, it seemed like a lot of you guys still lived at home – have any of you moved? Is that still "home base"?
BS: No, that’s still home base. We don’t have time.
JR: Yeah, I was just about to say that. We wouldn’t have time to move, or change our home base.
BS: We did the east coast, we did the UK, and then we had one day before we did Australia. And then we came home for one week before we had this. And then we go home for another week and a half before we leave again. and when we get home, it’s not like we have all this time to see our friends and stuff. we have days of video shoots, days of photo shoots, days of band rehearsals, and then rehearsal in studios. It’s not really like being home. I mean, I sleep in my own bed.
JR: Yeah, I sleep in my own bed too.
BS: But, my own bed is a fucking twin so it’s not like I’m that stoked on it.
JR: Yeah, I love it though. I mean, I get to sleep in my own bed and hang out with my friends at nighttime, and then wake up way too early for shit, but it’s still so exciting and so cool. We don’t really have very much down time, but that’s cool. I hate down time. It’s awesome.
BS: When it comes to downtime, I’d almost rather have none than have some little teaser.
JR: Man, I love the amount we have. When it’s like a day? That’s stupid shit. But when it’s a week? Then it’s great. It’s like what he [Bryan] was just saying- this last week we were home, but we had shit to do every day. Every single day, because we’re adding two new songs to our set, there’s a video to be shot, there’s a photo shoot to be done, I had to deliver album art…
BS: …and we had to practice, including a full day in a venue that we had rented out.
JR: …but, it’s rad. It’s not like we’re complaining about it. It’s cool. I think it’s fun.
EM: So, you probably haven’t read the interview we did before in a while, but we talked before this interview about how you remember it – you were in a car, and I had all of you guys on speakerphone, and it was right before your song was played on KROQ for the first time – if you could say anything to the guys in that car, having lived through the last year, what (if anything) would you say?
JR: It’s like… okay, if I were to talk to myself when I was 16 and I was getting a whole sleeve of tattoos done by a kid who had never tattooed before, like, “Jesse, it’s going to look like prison art. It’s not going good, I’m telling you. You’re going to have a full sleeve, and I know you’ve always wanted that, I know you’ve had these ideas for a long time, but this really isn’t going to look that good. And, you’ll probably never be able to get it fixed, unless you get it removed later, and you don’t want to do that. Just trust me, and wait a teenie bit longer.” And I would say to myself, "I know, I know. But… Whatever. I’ll handle it. I know what I’m doing.”
BS: I think I probably would have just told myself to drink more Emergen-C, because I didn’t know we’d be flying so much.