Watch & Listen

The Neighbourhood

In early 2012 a mysterious band appeared online. The group, The Neighbourhood, revealed no biographical information, no photos and no backstory, offering only a moody track titled "Female Robbery." Fans and the press were confounded, scouring the Internet for any information that might lead them to the identity of these musicians. Pieces of the puzzle, some reflecting reality and some not so much, began to emerge. The Neighbourhood were a quintet. They were from Californiadespite the British spelling of their name. They had a second track, "Sweater Weather," which had an accompanying -- and equally dark -- video.

Although The Neighbourhood's identity remained hazy, it became clear that the music they were making felt transformative to critics and fans alike. The evocative combination of rock instruments with R&B and hip-hop aesthetics seemed, in many ways, revelatory, a reimagining of sounds that seemed to make people clamor for more information with even greater fervor. In April, BBC Radio One DJ Zane Lowe, an early champion of the group, let it slip that The Neighbourhood was the handiwork of musician Jesse Rutherford, a resident of Newbury Park, CA. By early May, as the band unveiled a free, self-released EP titled "I'm Sorry," it became understood that the identity of this young band was, ultimately, secondary to the music itself.

So who are The Neighbourhood? In essence, the group, which formed in August of 2011, is a collection of five friends who make music together. They're headed by Rutherford, a 21-year-old singer who has dabbled in various genres, including hip-hop, before crafting the merge of sounds that categorizes The Neighbourhood's style. Their debut EP produced by Justyn Pilbrow, who brought Emile Haynie onboard to collaborate on "Female Robbery." The EP, recorded at the end of last year, is composed of shadowy, emotional music with visuals to match. And it's all part of the band's master plan.

"I always have a strong vision before I go into anything," Rutherford says. "I don't know how to make music any other way. It was all in my head, and that vision for the music was to make hip-hop beats with guitars and I was going to sing and rap over them. We wanted to do that hip-hop aesthetic on an indie platform."

"I'm Sorry," a five-song disc, is a precursor to the band's debut album, which is also being produced by Pilbrow and Haynie. The album, expected out March 2013, will expand the group's moody sensibility, which pairs brooding layers of instrumentals with Rutherford's hip-hop-inspired croon. The style, which the band has dubbed "black and white" due to its confident inspirations, is based largely in rhythm, as evidenced by the EP. "When I started in music I started doing drums and then I started doing vocals," Rutherford explains. "And then I combined the two together because to me rapping is just rhythmic vocals. I think the rhythm of hip-hop is really what got me into it. It's not just words being said; it's about how the words are said."

In the end, all you need to know about The Neighbourhood is in that music and in those words. There are more facts, more pieces of the puzzle, more information to unveil. But what's the fun in being given the full picture when you can slowly discover it for yourself? It's better to leave some mystery lingering. Because, after all, it's that unknowing that brought The Neighbourhood to people's attention to begin with.

Critics have been bemused and thrilled by the Manchester four-piece and their amorphous drifts between brooding art rock, crisp electronica, dancefloor R&B, and 80s gloss pop. “I don’t think it’s confusing,” says singer Matty Healy of his band. “Feeling a lack of identity and the searching within oneself to acquire a real understanding of what you want to be, that’s something that loads of people can connect with. It’s so strange that with music people want so many rules.”

Matty has known what The 1975 is for some years now, just waiting for the right moment to unveil their stories of lust, intoxication and the unabashed grittiness of modern youth. “This record is a proper soundtrack to our formative years,” he says of their debut album, co-produced with Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Foals, The Kooks). “It’s everything that I know and every single song on the album, at some point, has been the most important thing in my life. I’ve spent my adult life working towards this album. It’s literally everything I am.”

Matty’s adult life’ started young. He picked up the guitar when his dad’s best friend died, leaving him two guitars. His confrontational attitude was in place early too – the private school kick-out (“I didn’t really care for being there, I got in a couple of fights. I got asked to leave, I never actually got expelled…”) transitioning to public school at the age of fourteen he started drumming in a punk band with eventual band mates Adam Hann (guitar) and Ross MacDonald (bass).

One day, “This weird kid turned up at school, he was really tall but he looked about nine and was this odd character”. This was George Daniel, drummer and soon to be Matt’s co-songwriter and “My kind of boyfriend. Well, not really, but he might as well be, we don’t really leave each others’ sides.” The pair bonded over their dislocated childhoods – Matt moved between London and Newcastle while George was born in Belgium and grew up in Seattle – and the sense of isolation they felt in their new homes in the Manchester suburbs.

Adam had heard of a “hippy council worker” who rented out local space for kids to play shows, and the band formed in order to get involved. “Everyone would go and get drunk and it was a proper scene at a time when there wasn’t really much going on.”

They developed an artful sophistication and electronic adventurism to their punk rumbles, it was an intriguing track called ‘Robbers’ that earned them a manager in 2009. Based around a violent, cinematic tale of lust on the lam. “I got really obsessed with the idea behind Patricia Arquette’s character in True Romance when I was about eighteen,” Matty recalls “That craving for the bad boy in that film it’s so sexualized, and the gore with the sexual lust really merges together. It was something I was obsessed with.”

For two years, they relentlessly toured the country and interest began trickling in. But the band, operating under a variety of names, waited. They’d seen contemporaries get snapped up, restyled and spat out by the music industry and wanted everything to be in place– the sound, the songs, and the aesthetic – before they announced their arrival. “We said ‘we’re not desperate to be famous, we’re not desperate to be in a massive band, let’s do it our way, on our terms, and make sure that our projection of ourselves is controlled by us’.” Throughout 2011, as their cache of self-produced demos grew to album size they decided to sign to Dirty Hit in the UK and spent 2011 touring and getting the songs just right live.

Though 1975 was the year The Sex Pistols formed and Talking Heads played their first gigs, the moniker has nothing to do with the date itself. Matty found it in the back of a beat-era book given to him by a “gregarious artist” he met at a yard sale in northern Majorca at the age of 19. “He showed me round his house, it was like a sixties bizarre haberdashery. He had photos of him with Hendrix, I thought this guy was fucking crazy! He gave me loads of beat generation literature, Kerouac and stuff. When I went home I read them and in the back of one of them there was all these mental scribblings, it was almost suicidal, and it was dated at the bottom ‘1st June, The 1975’. I was quite freaked out when I read it, the use of the word ‘The’ really stuck with me. It was the perfect band name.”

The newly monikered group headed to the studio in December of 2011 resulting in the ‘Facedown EP’ – the first in a trilogy of EPs to be produced by the band, released in August of 2012. ‘ Sex’ shortly followed in November of 2013. The final EP installment is ‘Music For Cars’, which was co-produced by Mike Crossey with the band. The band and Crossey quickly reunited to work on the band’s debut album, which will be released in June of 2013.

“We’re not making a record to support a couple of singles,” Matty says of the finished record. “On your debut album, whether you’re hyped or not, you’ve got shitloads to prove to yourself.” And his hopes for The 1975? “People need to get on board with what we’re doing and see that we’re for this generation. I want our music to be a part of people’s lives, properly.”

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The Neighbourhood with The 1975

Tuesday, June 11 · 8:00 PM at The Social

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