Let’s just get this out of the way: Yes, during their recent performance at Coachella, the Neighbourhood asked photographers to shoot them only in black and white, in keeping with their well-manicured, monochromatic aesthetic. It’s a fact that’s been brought up many times in the weeks since, and, no, they don’t really seem to understand why.
“We’re not trying to be dicks about it, that’s just our thing,” drummer Bryan Sammis sighed. “It’s a lot like how bands used to be, they had the whole package, and we’re trying to bring that back. The visuals are just as important as our music is.”
“I’ll be real with you, I’m affected by that. That affects me when people go ‘Black and white? Who do they think they are?!?’” frontman Jesse Rutherford added. “It’s like ‘What? Who the hell can be that mad at a theme?’ … But it’s great; if people want to keep talking about how we love black and white, then the movement is spreading.”
Of course, the Neighbourhood’s movement has only picked up speed in recent months thanks to the success of their icy single “Sweater Weather,” which is quickly climbing up the rock charts despite the rapidly warming temperatures. It serves as the introduction to their just-released I Love You album, a swooning, scintillating collection of songs that feature plenty of dark flourishes — slow-diving guitars, moody atmospheric melodies and bleak, hip-hop inspired beats —l; and feel unlike anything created in the sunny climes of Los Angeles. And that’s fitting, considering the same could be said for Rutherford and his bandmates.
“Growing up in the community we lived in, the neighborhood we’re from, I’ve always felt out of place, but I think that’s what makes me a both a product and an anti-product of where we’re from and what blends together to show people that dark place,” he said. “I mean, we’re from a beautiful, happy, wealthy suburb; I didn’t grow up that way, but that’s where I came from, and you can’t help but be affected by where you’re from, and it can’t help but show up in your music.”
And though they’ve risen quickly — the Neighbourhood began in Los Angeles roughly two years ago — Rutherford said that the band still don’t feel like they’ve been completely accepted by the rock community … mostly because he takes most of his songwriting and production cues from hip hop and pop. And that includes the continued jabs by critics, who seem determined to focus solely on the band’s adherence to black and while (it extends to their videos, press photos and album artwork). But, with a hit single, a deal with Columbia Records and a sold-out tour underway, Rutherford’s not sweating his detractors; he’s too focused on the future.
“When I was a kid, I had goals: a record deal with a big old record company, playing Coachella and these cool shows; I want to push it far,” he said. “I truly believe that we’ve written some strong songs, and they’re not the best songs we’re ever going to write, but they’re damn good songs. And I want people to feel part of this, to be part of this community, part of the neighbourhood.”