Entertainment and Travel Journalist

The Neighbourhood

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There’s a mystery and allure that has surrounded The Neighbourhood since a faceless band with no back-story emerged online. They soon charged up the hype blogs, with a single track entitled ‘Female Robbery’. After a few months, it emerged that the group were a California 5-piece led by heavily tattooed front man Jesse Rutherford, 21. Maintaining a strict aesthetic of “black and white” in everything they do – we were under strict instruction to only shoot them in these colours – the band joined me in Hoxton, East London, and told me why we should always be expecting the unexpected from this talented group.

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THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF MYSTERY SURROUNDING YOU AS A BAND. IS THE MYSTERY NOW OVER?
Jesse: No. We were never out to be mysterious. We only say what we need to say, and give what we need to give. There’s a lot more of the giving to come along. We’ve only put out five songs.

HOW LONG WAS IT THAT YOU HAD MUSIC OUT BEFORE YOUR IDENTITY WAS REVEALED?
Jesse: A few months.

WHAT WAS THE THOUGHT PROCESS BEHIND THAT DECISION?
Bryan: We just wanted the music to speak first. So when everybody heard of this new band, they didn’t see the faces. They could really just soak it in.

DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’D LOST YOUR POWER WHEN YOU REVEALED YOURSELVES?
Jesse: In comparison to a lot of other musical acts that are out, the amount of information about us out there is a lot less. We like to put things out little by little. It makes it a lot more fun and exciting for us.

IT’S BEEN SAID, JESSE, THAT YOU HAVE A “MASTER PLAN”. IS IT NOT RESTRICTIVE TO HAVE TO CONFORM TO THAT?
Jesse: No, I think we all accumulatively have developed the same type of vision, and we wouldn’t be talking to you right now if we hadn’t had this vision a little less than a year ago when the band started. If you don’t have a plan, especially if you’re a musical act that is trying to get your music heard by the masses, I don’t know how well you’re going to be able to do. I think it’s very natural.

YOURE OBVIOUSLY VERY MUCH IN CONTROL OF THE GROUP. HOW DO YOU RECONCILE THAT WITH SIGNING TO A MAJOR LABEL?
Jesse: We got a really badass deal. We brought them into our family. They understood what we were going for. Since I was a little kid I’ve wanted that. We want to make music and have people hear it.

YOUR SOUND IS VERY UNIQUE. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE IT?
Jeremy: Dark pop.

Bryan: I always describe it as ‘black and white’.

Jesse: I think it would be really cool if people described our music like that. It’s not the norm to describe music like that. But to us it makes sense.

SO WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO YOU?
Jesse: Everything we do is black and white. If the whole thing wasn’t black and white our music would sound different. It encompasses everything about us.

Bryan: I think it’s a way of saying that it’s honest. We never try and copy any other bands.

WOULD YOU SAY THERE ARE ANY BANDS OUT THERE WITH A SIMILAR SOUND?
Jesse: No. At the beginning there was a lot of comparison to Lana del Rey, and the Weeknd. But those are the biggest artists on the internet – why would I ever be mad about that? The reality of it is, though, we created our music before either of those acts were even out. More recently, it’s gotten into Maroon 5, Coldplay and frickin’ Radiohead. But all those bands are selling a gazillion records every time they’re singing on a song. And the other bands are the cool internet bands – so to be caught somewhere in the middle, there’s no problem with that. It’s more humorous, to be honest.

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WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM YOUR DEBUT ALBUM?
Mikey: Our song-writing has really stepped up a gear.

Bryan: We had the same producer who we worked on our EP, Justin Pillbrow. We also had another producer, Emile Haynie, that added something else. He worked with Lana del Rey, which was rad, and Kanye and Kid Cudi.

SO PEOPLE WHO ARE TRYING TO PUSH YOU INTO THE INDIE BAND BRACKET HAVE GOT IT A BIT WRONG?
Jesse: We were just talking about this. In a way, it’s kind of flattering to be accepted by that group of people. That’s awesome. It’s so interesting because we have some people that think that we’re a rock band; others think we’re an indie band, and others understand there’s a hip hop influence. Others think we just sing pop music. And we do – I mean, the Beatles wrote pop music. There’s nothing wrong with writing pop songs.

Bryan: We’re really young and we only have five songs out so for people to have misconceptions about us right now is completely understandable. Once we have our album out people will get it more.

IS YOUR AIM TO BE COMMERCIALLY SUCCESSFUL?
Bryan: I don’t think it’s an aim but no one’s going to be mad if it happens. We’re not trying to stay away from fame, but our focus is trying to write good songs that mean something to us, and mean something to other people.

Jesse: Honestly, if people thought that we were a cool indie band forever, and that’s what happened, and a lot of people were appreciative of our music then so be it. If the hood hip hop scene took us in then it would be cool. And if mainstream pop takes us in then whatever. We have our own movement to follow.

Mikey: I want our music to reach as many listeners as possible. So if that means it being played on the radio all the time and millions of people getting to hear it every day then that’s awesome.

WHAT TRACK ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT ON THE RECORD?
Bryan: It’s a song we’ve been playing live for a while now, called ‘Afraid’. I think that’s the same for all of us.

WHAT KIND OF MUSIC DID YOU LISTEN TO GROWING UP?
Jeremy: I think we all find common ground with The Beatles.

TELL ME WHY YOU ONLY WANTED TO BE SHOT IN BLACK AND WHITE TODAY? IS THE VISUAL AESTHETIC IMPORTANT TO YOU?
Jesse: Sometimes more important. We would be a very different band if we did things in colour.

ARE YOUR WARDROBES AT HOME ALL IN BLACK AND WHITE?
Mikey: When I go out shopping, if there’s nothing in black I get bummed.

Jesse: I want you to be excited about the black and white. It feels nice to be part of something. We feel part of something. It’s cool to be here and to have you guys doing a shoot, and you seem excited about it too. That’s rad. When I hear a band and I see their album art it doesn’t reflect their sound, and I say to myself, “that’s what they pictured for their music??” It speaks so much to me.

WHAT DOES THE WORD “POWER” MEANT TO YOU?
Jesse: Kanye West

Bryan: That’s good Jess…

Zach: Being able to do what you really want to do and doing it for a living. That’s very powerful. I’ve had jobs in the past that I’ve hated. So to be able to do something that I love, and for us to be able to do it our way, that’s very empowering.

Mikey: To do whatever you want, is to have a lot of power. Like today I want to write music and tomorrow I want to make a clothing line. To be able to do it is to have power.

Jesse: To me, power is waking up every morning, falling asleep every night, not being alone and the reasons that lead up to those things. When you can’t fall asleep at night, and you’re thinking about all the shitty things that may be going on around you, or whether it’s a selfish thing or thinking about what happened to somebody else that day, the ability to let that go and fall asleep is so cool. You get to die for so many hours. You fall asleep and it’s like black.

HAVE YOU GOT ANY CELEBRITY FANS?
Jesse: Marina and the Diamonds – we’re gonna hang out.

Jeremy: Leona Lewis tweeted about us.

Jesse: Rob Thomas tweeted about us once. But the most flattering are the people within our inner circle. The people at Colombia Records who wanted to sign us and saw something in us from one song without seeing our faces. I’m really interested in the business side of the music industry. I want to learn as much as I can about the rest of it.

WHO ARE YOUR IDOLS?
Bryan: Justin and Emile, our two producers, the fact that those guys were pumped on our demos and wanted to work with us was immense.

Jesse: Emile definitely.

Mikey: Justin, for me, is the most talented man in music.

Interviewed by Holly Rubenstein for IDOL Magazine’s Power Issue in stores now.

Photography by Adam-Peter Hicks

Album forthcoming.