On Wednesday, November 7, SoCal natives The Neighbourhood brought their unique blend of dark, dirty pop to Chicago’s Subterranean. Currently touring in support of Paul Banks, these five youngsters have had quite the year following the release of their debut EP, I’m Sorry.... Chicago Music Magazine caught up with frontman Jesse Rutherford before the show to discuss the band’s influences, aspirations, and what it means to be #blackandwhite.
How did the Neighbourhood get started?
Jessie: I was making music on my own, and I was just friends with all the guys that are in the band now. I was on my own and they were all in other projects and shit, local bands around town and whatnot. I decided I wanted to make a band, and me and my friends just kind of got together and decided to make some music.
What’s in a name? Is it an homage to your hometown? Why the UK spelling?
Yeah, well, basically the way I think of it is like, everybody has to come from the neighborhood no matter what type of neighborhood it is. Ghetto or Beverly Hills or whatever it is. Everybody kind of comes from a neighborhood - comes from a place - a place called home or whatever. I think that’s kind of important in the sense of community that me and the guys in the band have with each other. We’re from a small town so that’s kind of the whole significance for the name.
As far as the UK spelling, the normal one was taken and I suggested the UK spelling with the ‘U’ in it. And what actually turned out was we like it a whole lot more anyway, so I’m kind of happy that happened.
For what it’s worth, there’s something distinctly SoCal about The Neighbourhood. How would you say that being from Southern California influences your music and style?
People always mention it to us and I don’t think we always - we never really noticed it. It’s kind of subconscious, you know what I mean? I honestly don’t know, I couldn’t tell you. It’s just what we know. It’s just our lingo and our feelings. Probably has something to do with the weather because it’s always pretty nice and everything. I think there’s also a certain darkness that makes for a nice pop song, I guess. It’s hard to say.
Your videos and style have a definite film noir aspect to them, and you regularly reference the #blackandwhite movement online. What exactly is the black and white all about?
Basically, just honesty in terms of black and white. It’s not sugar-coated or anything. It’s just kind of right there. That’s what we try to do with our shit, is just be honest about how we all feel about stuff. It’s our honest opinions through playing guitar or me singing or writing the words that I want and feeling a certain way. It’s just our honest input on something. And you know, lyrically, for me, putting something out that is - there’s no bullshit going on. It’s just kind of straightforward, how I felt when I wrote the song, and that’s what you’re gonna get. I think that’s important too. I think we just mix things together in our music.
You have a complex sound that includes everything from dirty guitars and hip-hop inspired drums to R&B style vocals. How did you find that sound and who are some influences?
I know growing up most of the guys in the band all listened to rock music and shit and I never really liked it that much. It just didn’t really hit me the same way as it did other people. I really like pop music and hip hop. I didn’t really listen too much to R&B. I think it’s kind of cheesy in a certain way. I just don’t understand it as much, but I understand how people could make the R&B reference to my voice from the melodies I choose, but I like to say it’s pretty pop. I think pop music’s pretty cool.
You’ll be playing with Paul Banks at Subterranean tonight. What can we expect from your live show?
It’s ever-changing. It’s ever-growing, I guess I would say. The last tour we were on, we were with The Temper Trap and they were different types of shows. Every little tour we’ve gone on with different bands has been different types of shows. With Paul Banks, it’s cool because it’s only a tiny little tour, but from what I understand they needed it to be really, really intimate with smaller places. The way Paul does his shit, is he just goes up there and plays his music with his band and it’s great. It’s a really raw feeling watching him play his songs. It’s just cool. Watching that is always exciting.
For what you’re going to expect from us, it’s hard man. We’ve heard a lot of people say it’s not what they expected but it’s not necessarily a disappointment. Honestly, you’ll have to come see it for yourself. That’s the only way I can really describe it. The same way people describe our music. It’s kind of hard to put a genre on it. It’s kind of the same thing when you come to see us live. It’s kind of hard to walk in and say they look like this band or they act like this band. I don’t know man.
You’ve had a pretty amazing year thus far. What’s next for The Neighbourhood?
It’s been a really great year. We’ll put out an album in March and we have some new music coming out before then. Just music, man. I really like music. We all really like to make music and I think we’re just getting an idea of how to make pretty cool music so we just want to keep pushing that and doing more of that. It’s really fun.
A lot of music. A lot of playing live. And just doing this movement and being more understood as time goes on and letting people completely see our vision because there are a lot of people who haven’t seen our vision and we’re trying to make it as evident as possible.