Jesse Rutherford from The Neighbourhood on Crazy Fans and Growing up Close to Hollywood
Made up of Brandon Alexander Fried, Jesse Rutherford, Jeremy Freedman, Mikey Margott and Zach Abels, the five-piece from Newbury, California, are not showing signs of slowing down.
Since 2011 The Neighbourhood, or The NBHD, and their indie rock powered songs gained a huge following rather quickly with their debut album “I Love You” in 2013, especially a large female fanbase.
High from the success with their debut, they released the equally successful second album “Wipe Out” two years later, which is acclaimed to be their best album by their hardcore fans.
As well as all of the craziness surrounding the writing of “Wiped Out!“, what the band did in the meantime between album cycles was also crucial to their career. “#000000 & #FFFFFF“ came out in 2014, a mixtape featuring a number of collaborations with the likes of Casey Veggies, French Montana, G Eazy and YG, collaborations made possible by frequent use of Twitter and die-hard fan reposts.
Their latest album, “Hard to Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing,” was released last year just before they embarked on a world tour starting in January in London, and continued throughout Eastern Europe, ending in a last gig in Moskow.
When the band made a stopover in Hamburg we had the opportunity to meet lead singer Jesse Rutherford and talk about the identity of The Neighbourhood.
From hardcore/metal punk to pop music
You started out in 2011 and quite quickly made yourself a name on scene. How would you describe The Neighbourhood, and what is your dynamic? We have been friends for a long time and we are all from generally the same whereabouts, so I think it’s somewhere in the DNA of that. The Neighbourhood is just five guys; it’s a democracy trying to figure out how to work. Just like any other band it has its ups and its downs.
In your eyes, what is one of the best parts about being in The Neighbourhood? I really like being able to meet someone and watch them be able to calm down. A lot of the time when people meet us, especially if they are a fan, they are really excited and I think it’s just the sweetest thing ever. It’s an overwhelming experience for me as well. So, to be able to cut through it is almost a challenge to me. Just to be able to say “Hey you’re a dude. I’m a dude. We’re normal. Here we are”. Of course, I don’t say it like that.
However, just to cut through it that way and have a moment is when something really special happens. I know I have experiences all the time, where I’m too excited and I leave them thinking to myself “Oh fuck, what even happened? Did I say or do that?” I want our fans to just have an experience where they can take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the moment. When I go onstage I am the calmest I have ever been, and I want to translate that calm over to the fans.
Through the democracy, how do you go about writing your songs? Do you take turns or is there a prominent writer? We write our songs democratically of course! It’s whatever, we all throw shit into the pot and the best idea wins. I write my parts a lot of the time, but then I put them up to the council to see if there’s anything that they are not as excited about. There have been times in the past where I’ve had to go back and rewrite things because the other bandmates didn’t relate to what I was saying as much.
When you listen to the lyrics it sounds like many songs are about life experiences. Are any of your songs based on your real life? They are all real, or at least real to me. There have been a couple of songs that I’ve written that have been more like story based, but I don’t really do that that much. Usually they are pretty autobiographical. My thing right now is really trying to not base the music off of myself. I think that’s really important and I’m bored of hearing myself talk about me. It just feels like we should go somewhere else now.
Since you are trying to base your music on experiences other than your own, what are you basing it of then? I’ll still write about my own experiences, however I’ve been trying to listen more to what other people are saying, and pay more attention to what type of people are listening to my music. I know that a lot of women seem to like the music, along with many others.
I grew up with two women only, so it’s really special to me that women are excited about our music. The song “Daddy Issues” is not just about a girl, it’s definitely very autobiographical. However, the way I’m singing and what I’m saying is based on a girl being the subject of those feelings.
You mentioned that growing up with two women really influences how you write your music, but what would you say are your greatest musical influences? When I was really young the first stuff I remember was NSYNC and Justin Timberlake. I grew up in a suburban area where the kids around town and I played hardcore metal punk type of music. I did that for five or six years just because that’s what everybody was doing and I wanted to play and fit in.
However pop music got me first, then there was hip hop. Once hip hop and rap started to come into my world I just thought “Oh wow, this shit’s fucking awesome”. So I would say my biggest influence is hip hop with rock songs in between.
“We’re not that big, but at the same time we are pretty fucking big”
In the world of music, there is a strange dissociation between what the public thinks will make it big or who has what it takes to make it to the top compared to which artists actually become superstars. But it also comes down to important music clusters, and one these influential clusters is found in Los Angeles.
Growing up close to Hollywood the presence of fame and glory have been around the corner for The Neighbourhood, with famous venues as The Roxy or Whiskey A Go-Go being launching pads for loads of bands as Iggy And The Stooges, The Doors, No Doubt and Guns N‘ Roses just to mention a few. But Hollywood was never on Jesse’s mind.
Would you say that growing up in California influenced your music making process or how you guys got started? Did you ever get the feeling, being so close to Hollywood, that you had to get into the best clubs and become instantly famous? Well, I learned how to play the drums when I was in the sixth grade. I kind of had a natural ability for it; that was the only time I’d ever felt that click. When I’d play sports, it never really felt right. However, with the drums it was “Oh shit, what I’m doing feels right. I understand this.” Social media really influenced that, especially MySpace. But I don’t think it would have mattered where I was. It never felt like “Hollywood is right there, I could make it there” per-say. I just wasn’t thinking about Hollywood.
With The Neighbourhood it’s never been about that. We stayed at home at the beginning, and just moved to Hollywood four or five years ago. We were so close growing up, but Hollywood was so different from where we were.
How does it feel to have reached the level of fame where you have fans waiting in the cold for hours with sleeping bags just to get in first to see your show? Realistically, that’s never going to be enough for me. I know that’s just how my mind works. I feel like we are in a weird in-between stage where, if you come to a The Neighbourhood show, you’ll see the line, and the crowd when you come inside, but it’s still pretty niche. It’s wild.
There are billions of people who have no fucking clue who we are. We’re not that big, but at the same time we are pretty fucking big. It’s weird, living in Hollywood where it’s Instagram-City. Everyone is famous, so you really feel less than when you are living in that stupid comparison. But then I go somewhere else and I think “Oh my god, this is nuts. We made it”. There were four thousand people in Cologne the other night which was absolutely crazy. There will be ten thousand in Russia, it’s so weird.
You have to ask yourself “How did you get that big across the world”. You can understand that at home you become well known because of family and friends, but it’s different on an international scale? It seems to me that everybody is depressed, and I think we hit that market early on, before it became a thing for everyone to be sad. Recently, music has become all about singing songs about how sad everyone is. But we just fucking went there, and it really helped us reach people outside of our hometown.
Do you ever forget that you are famous? I don’t. I live in Hollywood, and if you walk around in there, then trust me, I’m not famous. In other places however, I’ll get reminded of it. If anything the reminder restores my ego. So when someone does ask me “What’s it like being Famous?”, I just think “Damn, it’s just perception.” I am living life and not thinking about becoming more famous. I used to be obsessed with that, now I think it’s such a stupid pathetic thing to be obsessed with. If it’s meant to happen, then it’s going to happen.
Right now I’m in a listening stage, so we’ll see where that takes me. Iggy Pop didn’t get his shine until much later, and now everyone is saying “Iggy Pop’s the man!” So I’m riding along and just enjoying the moment.
For you personally, what was/is one of your favorite stages to perform on? We just got to play The Greek again in LA, which was really nice. Usually with most experiences, the first time is awesome and then the second time is usually not as great. However, the first time at The Greek was fun and the second time was just as awesome, maybe even better, and that felt amazing.
What country on this tour are you most excited about performing in? I don’t even know if there is one. Amsterdam, especially with the weather being a little nicer, is such a beautiful city. But no, I think the more I come to this side/part of the world, the more warmed-up I become, and the more I like it.
Even though it’s a winter tour in Eastern Europe, where you know you’re going into bad weather, it’s almost comforting or exciting at this point. We’re really locked in with each other as a group right now and everybody is excited about touring. So in general, we’re all in a good mood.