The Neighbourhood on Its New Album and the Death of Rock and Roll

The Neighbourhood are that band. They're the Americans who spell their name the British way and they insist on every photo or video taken of them to be in black and white. Here's the thing though: they actually have legit reasons for their approach. They treat the band as an overall project, both visually and musically and the spelling of their name? Simple. Someone else already had the name in Yankee English so their U.K. manager suggested the change. They are also clever enough to craft a brand of pop rock that attracts both the ever fertile teenage market and the adults paying for their records and shows.

Tuesday night, The Neighbourhood, or THE NBHD for short, will play The Fillmore Miami Beach. The California five-piece are famous, or perhaps infamous, for their monochromatic appearances in the media — from magazine articles to late night television (their gig on the David Letterman show a few years back serving as the perfect example) are all constructed in a very calculated and colorful way (so to speak.)

Starting with “Sweater Weather,” THE NBHD have built a strong following of fans over the last few years with their blend of atmospheric and angst-ridden, R&B tinged sound. We spoke with drummer Brandon Fried from the road. Speaking from Denver, just before their next show, Fried discussed the past and present of the band as well as a brighter future and their upcoming record, Wiped Out.

New Times: Okay, don't hang up after the first question.
Brandon Fried: [Laughs] Aw, dude. Oh, no. This is the worst way to start.

I won't ask about the black and white theme but...
Oh, okay. Thank you.

I will ask this: did you guys ever think it would be such a big deal to the media, critics, and people in general?
I think going in to it, we knew it was a different thing. But I think the overall vibe, we wanted to create an aesthetic...the whole band would be like an art project, more than just the music. It's such a normal thing, it's not such a big deal now. It is what it is, but now that we've been a band now for four or five years it's pretty normal. It's almost more surprising now when people don't do it, when we get pictures back that aren't black and white. It's like, come on dude.
In an interview last year, lead singer Jesse Rutherford told Billboard, “I just think that bands right now have no fucking idea what's going on. I think it's a dated lost art, rock and roll is completely dead.” Does the band still believe rock and roll is dead? And if so, what is The Neighbourhood doing to resuscitating it?
I don't know. I think looking at the glory days of rock and roll, the '60s and '70s, I wouldn't say it's dead, I think it's more in a hibernation period. The big thing with music now is Drake and The Weeknd, hip-hop and rap are the new kind of rock and roll. The actual band aspect of rock and roll is not as prevalent in today's pop culture as it used to be. I wouldn't say we're striving to bring it back, like we're the poster boys bringing back rock, but it's definitely in the back of our heads in that we're trying to be a band, five guys on a stage, playing their instruments and having a good time.

Is there anybody left that's not playing it safe, either in rock music or any other genre that the band respects?
I would say, in terms of rock bands today that are doing right, I would say, we all really, really dig Tame Impala. Tame Impala is one of the bands we'll all go see live and listen to their music and see how they do their stuff. I think also a lot of us really like Cage the Elephant. They're one of our favorite bands that you put under the alt-persona or whatever genre. They're a fucking great rock and roll band for sure.

What were the most surprising ways that the success of “Sweater Weather” changed your lives?
I would say the shows — all the attention the bands started getting — the shows started getting bigger and bigger. Tours were getting longer, just traveling more, going to Europe, and just becoming more of an international band.

The first series of albums were I'm Sorry, Thank You, and I Love You. With the band's focus on themes, will we something similar happening with Wiped Out, either musically or aesthetically?
Yeah, we recorded some of the album in a house in Malibu. We were pretty much near the beach for most of the album process. So on the album art you can see the palm trees and waves and sun. We really tried to capture the whole beach idea, the beach was an inspiration for several songs.
So musically, you guys aren't going to be playing Beach Boys songs; it'll be more Wiped Out like when you eat it surfing?
Yeah, I wouldn't say like wiped out and eating it, but there's definitely like a lot of different ideas of wiped out. I always put it like we're floating in the ocean or in this ocean of creativity and like, you wiped out and end up on shore and you're cleansed, like renewed. Like something new, different.

Wiped Out is being billed as a more mature album. What makes it more grown up than I Love You?
Totally. This is definitely the most mature album we've done. Since I Love You came out, that was before everyone started touring and becoming a band. And now it's been pretty much like two years. We've grown musically. Mikey [Margot] joined the band when he was 18 and had just graduated high school and now he's 22. Jesse was 21 and now he's almost 25. We're at that point where we're just older as human beings and just looking around and noticing how the world works and how we work with one another, musically, and as human beings...everyone has grown as musicians and we're figuring out how to do things in new and different ways.

How often has The Neighbourhood been to Miami? What have your experiences been like?
Every time we play Miami, it's cool, so I'm stoked...the last time we played Miami, we played at the Fontainebleau Hotel. It was a private kind of show and that was a lot of fun. The rest of the dudes have played Miami three or four times before I joined the band. We were just talking and they said it's always a good time, so I'm excited.
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you.
Contact: Angel Melendez