Boys in the Hood
The face of popular music has changed dramatically in recent years, only to become more uninspired than it ever was before. The vast majority of Top 40 radio, though very catchy, feels insanely formulaic, bland, and aimed at selling millions of records rather than laying down a powerful artistic point of view.
Quantity over quality seems to be the name of the game, but not to the members of Venice-based The Neighbourhood. Uninterested in following trends, and moved by their love for music, Jesse, Bryan, Jeremy, Mikey and Zach are five men who make choices that go beyond the senses. Living under a cinematic mind frame, they can only hope for people to understand their unique style and join in.
Do you consider yourself and the overall musical proposal of The Neighbourhood as bold?
Jesse: Yeah, I definitely think so. We just do what we feel like we want to do. I guess putting our ideas together is a pretty bold thing.
Zach: I also think that since we go for something different, like a different genre of music, that in itself is bold, you know? ‘Cause you can do something that a hundred other bands are doing and that would just be normal but making a difference — I think that’s being bold.
You are quickly developing a cult following of ‘hoodlums,’ as you say. Are you surprised by the audience’s reception to your music?
J: It’s always surprising making music and then having people attach themselves to it in any way at all, so of course, any artist in our position would be humbled by that. That’s always something really cool: going to different cities and states and having people wearing our t-shirt, or coming to talk to us and being like, “Yo, really like your songs.” It’s cool. We are really into our music and confident about what we do. We do the type of music we’re doing because we feel there is a void that needs to be filled, and I guess there are a lot of human beings that feel that same thing.
An interesting thing happened while hearing your first single “Sweater Weather.” At first, I did think “Oh, sounds like a summer anthem,” because it was released around that time. As I found out, there is a lot more to the sound than sunny remarks about life and love. What comes to mind for you as a lyricist when writing down the text for a song?
J: I always like to pay attention to the melody. As far as words go, luckily I don’t ever have too much trouble with putting things together. I like rhyming, I guess that’s when the hip-hop side of me comes out. I like to talk about senses a lot, like taste, touch, smell. In that whole second verse, there’s a lot like, “Put my finger on your tongue ‘cos you love to taste.” There are things that you actually sense. Even when we perform that song, when I’m singing those parts, sometimes I can almost feel it happening. And I think that’s important. I think you have to taste the songs sometimes because it feels right, you know?
Your image is very distinctive. You guys have a definitive flair for all things black and white: from the artwork to the photos you post on Twitter and Instagram. Is there an explanation to this noir appreciation?
J: It always seems like it fits. It all has to add up together and sometimes our art would come before the music. Sometimes I’ll think about something, I’ll be designing something, some sort of a picture or an image, and we’ll take a picture on Instagram and put it up, and sometimes that would almost cue the mood for something. I honestly think that when we all write, we have black and white in our minds. It’s ingrained in there now. I always say that if I could, I’d see everything with black and white contact lenses (laughs). But when it comes down to it, we all kinda think black and white makes things look better. It just looks nice.
There’s also the ‘mystery’ factor in the very beginning, when no one really knew much about who you were or what you all looked like. Why the mystery?
J: It was never really a huge marketing thing for us. It was never about “Well, we’ve gotta be mysterious, and then people are gonna want more.” It wasn’t that. It was honestly, and still is, about putting out fucking cool music. We want to write good songs because that’s what we do. We love to write and perform music and the fact that anybody would latch on to it is just insane. Everybody in this time and age in music feels like they have to say so much or show so much. It’s like: Fuck that, we’re gonna show what you need to see or what you need to hear.
Where do you feel The Neighbourhood’s place is in current pop music?
J: I feel like a lot of the hip-hop world is trying to incorporate indie music or more alternative types of music into their world and vice versa, so in our eyes, it’s the perfect middle ground between the two. It’s a diverse type of music that’s not too far left or not too far right. It’s its own thing. Honestly, through this next section of our generation, I think there’s going to be a big movement and we can only hope to lead part of that movement as far as dark pop or whatever you want to call it.
You are still young and have a long road ahead of you. How do you see yourselves as a band in the near future?
Z: Being more understood.
J: That’s a pretty solid answer because some people just don’t get it, which is okay because you can’t expect everybody to get it.
Last and certainly not least, what is The Neighbourhood’s WILD Wish?
J: Here’s my stance on it: a wish is something, in my opinion, that’s way too far of a long shot. It can’t happen. I would say there are a lot of things that can and will happen with this band and it’s so early and we’re working really hard on that, so there’s gotta be something unreachable. I would say our WILD Wish would be opening up a show for The Beatles, Tupac and Biggie.