When Zach Abels played Jesse Rutherford a guitar riff two years ago in his parents' living room, the two of them knew they were onto something. They immediately recorded the song, and that track, “Sweater Weather” turned into a radio hit.
The Neighbourhood have received strong radio support locally from L.A.'s Rock Alternative 98.7 and KROQ, and internationally from BBC Radio One's Zane Lowe. The British heavyweight was the first to play the band on the air, enthralled by their music and helping them build a following in the UK. “After Zane heard our song 'Female Robbery,' things started falling into place,” Rutherford, the group's vocalist, recalls, speaking to us ahead of the group's upcoming appearances at Coachella.
Rutherford and Abels had known each other from the vibrant hardcore punk scene in Thousand Oaks, before combining forces with three mutual friends. Originally, the band had a much different sound, with Rutherford rapping over guitars, live drums and a drum machine. As they were finishing up the sessions for their EP, I'm Sorry, things took a sharp turn.
“Our demo originally had rap verses on it,” Abels explains. “On the last day, Jesse said he didn't feel right about the song and he wanted to sing. That's how the version of 'Sweater Weather' that everyone knows was born.”
“I knew I didn't want to rap this,” Rutherford adds. “I'm influenced by hip-hop in other ways that I don't need rap and I didn't want us to be pigeonholed, since there would be too many cheesy and poor associations with white rap or band rap. You don't want that shit.”
The group's members ages range from 19-22. From their beginnings, the singer has been involved with shaping the band's image, and ultimately their brand. Throughout our conversation, Rutherford bounces in his seat and fidgets with his iPhone, frantically texting and responding to emails ensuring the band's website looks the way he likes, and artwork receives his thumb's up. To give you an idea of their attention to detail: They're the only group playing Coachella to request photos “in black and white only.”
He can barely sit still, his brain processing the different tasks at hand; still, he's able to concentrate on our conversation. But on-stage is a different matter.
“When I'm on-stage, I'm at peace,” he says. “It's the only time I'm really calm because I don't have to worry about anything else.”
Below: A preview of the group's new song “Everybody's Watching Me”
(“Everybody's Watching Me” preview is above)
The next few months will be busy for the quintet. After Coachella they set out on their first headlining tour of the States and Europe. On April 23 their debut album, I Love You., will be released through Columbia Records.
“In the end, we just want to love our music,” Rutherford says. “The Neighbourhood is my favorite band hands down. I think we make the tightest shit and I'm just excited we get to go out and play it and people care about it. It's just the coolest thing and I want to keep doing it.”
And with that Rutherford and Abels dash off into the singer's white Escalade; rush hour traffic awaits, and it's daunting. After all, when you're part of an in-demand rock band, there isn't a lot time to be wasted.