The Neighbourhood struck gold in 2012 and have been mining ever since. The five-piece from Newbury Park, Calif. met as teenagers and created careers based on the first song they ever wrote together.
“Sweater Weather” debuted in May 2012 on their self-released EP, I’m Sorry, and propelled the band into mainstream status. The track and EP garnered appropriate attention for their catchy, crisp alternative edge.
Three studio albums and six EPs later (yeah, that is a lot of music to be produced in eight years), The Neighbourhood is consistently challenging the status quo. Their music doesn’t just straddle genres, it blurs them. While alternative at heart, their latest release proves to be a playful homage to the future with heavy hip-hop features over old-school beats.
The Neighbourhood’s latest, self-titled album is an expo of the band’s musical inspirations, with subtle reverences to the warm and fuzzies of the ‘80s and ‘90s. The album conjures immediate recommendations for the true music aficionado: You might feel like you’re at a school dance immersed in the ballad, “Void”, or as if you’ve been taken away by the soundtrack to a popular blockbuster through the track “Softcore”. Maybe you’re hanging out in an old friend’s basement taking in the easy beat, “Saturdaze”.
The Neighbourhood are promising you feelings, that’s for sure.
This musically conscious and generous group have achieved what bassist Mikey Margott says they could have “never dreamed of” but these bright musicians are in flight for more gold.
Margott checked in from the road to talk more about the collaborations on the ever changing EP and give a glimpse into the band’s creative composition process. Highlights from the interview follow.
You’ve had quite a fast journey to mainstream success, and you’ve produced an impressive body of music since we first heard “Sweater Weather” back in 2012.
“Sweater Weather” is the first song the band had ever written together. Everything happened really quickly. We were immediately being flown out to record labels and having meetings and we got a manager, began touring, but it has been six years. At the same time, it felt like it happened so quickly but now it also feels like it’s been a while. We’ve put out our third record. We’ve made so much music. We’ve been to so many places. That song really brought a career to us.
What is your creative process as a band?
[Lead singer] Jesse does all the lyrics and melodies. There will be times when he shares what he wrote and we progress it from there. That’s rare, though. Usually we’ll just get in a room. It’s versatile because everything brings their own thing to the table. With computers and technology anyone is pretty capable of making their own full song on a laptop or even on a phone. Each one of us brings our phones and computers to the studio. We’ll be like, “This is an idea, you wanna fuck with this more and move on? Or does anyone have a progression?” And we jam out on a piano. We try to approach it both ways: In the hip-hop sense, like here’s a beat to work from, or the more classical, band-sense of all five of us in a room jamming.
We’ve tried every single process to find out what works best for us. There’s no recipe for the way we work; we just go with whatever catches the group’s ears and it can come in any format.
Part of The Neighbourhood’s signature sound is the juxtaposition of instrumental and electronic musical application. How much of your composition is derived from your instruments versus additional production?
That’s determined on a song-by-song basis, but I’d say the majority is 80 percent us [composing the sound]. That’s not at all to diminish anything our other collaborators do. Usually, we work with producers who add to and polish ideas we’ve brought forward to them. We love everybody we work with.
Sometimes the best producer is someone that says, “There’s nothing I need to do; the song is good.”
You’ve done some really cool collaborations. How do they come about?
We just released ever changing which has a bunch of collaborations, including [“Beat Take 1”] with Ghostface Killah. That’s an interesting collaboration. Obviously, he’s a legend! That one came about because we’re fans. We grew up on Wu-Tang and loving him, and we thought, “Who would sound really good on this song? We should reach out to someone we really fuck with.”
I never would have thought we’d be able to do something like that. We’re really fortunate to be able to work with those people. Collaborations come about all sorts of ways — if they’re mutual friends and we get in the studio and see what comes from it (that’s happened multiple times) — or it could be all business and manager-to-manager, where we send you the track, and you’ll send back your verse and that’s it. I don’t prefer it that way, but that’s just how it happens sometimes.
Jesse has a heavy hand in that. He really grew up in that world and has had that influence on our collaborative music. He’s always known, even social media wise, how to connect with people and get a connection to feel like a trusted musical collaboration. It’s not just the business aspect. We’re friends making music together.
Who are your musical influences?
The Beatles are the Holy Grail. Everyone else is just on a whole level below, in my eyes. That’s one of my big influences. Portishead is a huge influence, Radiohead, and Pink Floyd. There’s another band that’s been a major influence on all of us, an LA band called Mellowdrone. The Neighbourhood grew up together and knew the band through family friends.
We’ve known each other 10-plus years. The guitarist from Mellowdrone gave [Zach Abels and Jeremy Freedman] their first guitars!
How does the band sustain engagements with your fanbase, which ultimately support your brand and music business?
The world we live in now, you make however much money you can from streaming but at the end of the day it’s from touring and merchandise, which we love doing. I can be on the road 24/7; every night. It’s something that’s a lot of fun. Our fans are loyal and great.
Because we are youthful still, everything is moving so fast. If you’re 28 you’re and an “old man” on social media [he jokes]. Even though we are young and grew up in that world, it came so naturally. Social media is not something I think about in the way of — we’ve never had a record label taking over our social media for us because we need them to. All of us in the band are aware of what we need to post and say. I think fans can tell when it’s not genuine. There are so many groups that are amazing at engaging through social media that I compare myself to — they really know how to connect with their fans. Comparatively, I see other bands that don’t post at all, but we know how to use it to benefit and connect with fans more.
It truthfully is like an old-style band. All of us are actual contributors to the act.
The Neighbourhood are playing October 5 at Brooklyn Steel and October 6 at Terminal 5 in New York City.