By: Ella Nilsen
When I call on a Tuesday afternoon, Jesse Rutherford is busy ordering a burrito. “If you ever want to know what I want on a burrito, you’re going to find out,” he laughs. “Cheese, beans, rice…real simple. Doesn’t get too messy.” Rutherford is genial, easygoing, and on the edge of what will likely be an extremely successful career in pop music.
He is the front man of the Neighbourhood, a little-known LA band that released two singles with accompanying well-crafted, black and white music videos in mid-March, and promptly found themselves at the top of The Hype Machine. Lying low until now, the Neighbourhood has released very little information about themselves in the past month. Nevertheless, they have gotten endorsements from major music blogs including Pigeons and Planes, Earmilk, Nylon Magazine, NME, and the popular BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe.
With gorgeous pop melodies and Rutherford’s voice, reminiscent of Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koening, the Neighbourhood is definitely one to watch over the next year. The free release of new EP “I’m Sorry” on May 7 and their Califournia tour in May is just the beginning for this immensely talented group. Main Street recently talked with Jesse Rutherford in an exclusive interview.
Main Street Magazine: You guys are coming off of a great past couple of weeks. How does it feel?
Jesse Rutherford: It feels really good. I guess the best way I can describe is that people seem to care. I mean, you’re calling me right now, so, people seem to like the music; it’s the coolest shit in the world. It’s awesome; we’re all really happy.
MSM: What was your reaction when Sweater Weather and Female Robbery attracted so much attention on the major music blogs/The Hype Machine?
JR: It’s funny, “Sweater Weather”…we had a plan for that song. It was done with our vision and everything. You know, the mystery and all that bullshit, its all been part of our plan. When it was actually happening, it was like, “Wait, hold on…really? Really??” When it got to number one on Hype Machine, it sat there for three days, and we’re just seeing our Facebook likes and our Twitter followers skyrocket. It’s unbelievable; it’s the coolest thing. We’re so excited.
MSM: After “Sweater Weather and “Female Robbery” were released, all the blogs were speculating on who exactly the band was. No one knew.
JR: As far as the mystery goes, there wasn’t a point for us to have our faces to be a part of it; it didn’t go along with the music yet. Putting ourselves in the video, it just wasn’t something we thought was essential. A lot of it was because we genuinely wanted people to hear the music. It’s cool that people just got to hear the music and see the vision.
MSM: How many people total are in the group/who are they?
JR: Actually we’re not putting out any names right now, we’re still keeping that under wraps for now. But there’s me, and then two of the guys play guitar, another one plays bass, and another one plays drums. There’s five of us total, I guess a pretty standard five piece band. Me and the two guitarists are the writers of the band. But all of us are really, really close friends. No one’s been recruited or any bullshit like that. We’re all just really, really close buddies and luckily all of our close friends know how to play music really well, and it’s fucking awesome.
MSM: How long have you been playing together?
JR: This whole thing went pretty fast. We played in bands around the area for quite a while, but separate from each other. We’ve been playing together for about eight months.
MSM: How would you say that your sound has changed over the years?
JR: I look back at stuff that I was doing… I think every artist goes through the point where you’re embarrassed with your old stuff, but I can’t see that anymore. There’s stuff that I’ve done that was like, fucking bullshit. It was awful, genuinely bad, and cheesy. But I still think that doing those stupid poppy, catchy melodies got me to the point that I’m in with the Neighbourhood now.
I like pop melodies, that’s what I like, a good pop melody. This has cool music behind it and a cool feel to accompany it. I can’t say I’m embarrassed with what I’ve done, I think it’s really awesome growth. I went from the hardcore scene originally, so I went from that to pop-rap, to hip-hop, to the Neighbourhood. I feel like I can take on any sort of music and make it great, that’s kind of what I’ve tried to do.
MSM: Describe the sound of the Neighborhood.
JR: As far as the Neighbourhood goes, it’s not a plan to be a cool, under-the-radar indie band. We don’t want that. I want to be the biggest artist in the world; I don’t think you should reach for the goal of being a cool, hip, indie band. We can’t stand any of those indie, snobby kids. We think all that shit’s really annoying. We make fucking pop music; we make popular music. The best way to put it is, the Beatles made pop music…it’s not Britney Spears, but it’s pop music. That’s what we’re doing.
We just want to make good music…we want the snobby kids to like us, and we want the fucking moms to like us. Whether anyone likes us at all, we think the music we make is fucking cool. The only band I really listen to is the Neighbourhood, honestly, whether it be “Sweater Weather” or the other 30 plus demos we’ve made.
MSM: What are some of your influences?
JR: Yeah, I don’t really listen to music. I don’t really like listening to music… my friends, when they first started hanging out with me and driving around with me in the car, people had to get used to not listening to music because I like talking and conversation, and I never really turn on music. At first, all the guys in the band were so weirded out by it.
MSM: You guys have been using a lot of social media to get going. A lot of EDM producers and rappers are actively using social media to self-promote but rock/pop seems to be a little slower to do so. Would you say social media is helping propel you?
JR: Oh, it is us. It’s everything. Our base thing is, you’ve gotta work the machine, whether it be Facebook and blogs, and social media networks and shit, or whether it’s a major label. You have to find the rules, bend them, break them…but you have to know the rules first. And we have a really, really great team behind us that really concentrates on keeping it all going. And as far as our social network goes, we post everything. It’s always me and the rest of the guys that are posting on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, etc. But with the blogs and everything, we’ve had tremendous success.
MSM: You said you are in charge of the visual look for the band. What does that entail and how important is the visual aspect?
JR: I take on as much as I possibly can…more than I should maybe, just because this whole thing is my child. It’s what I want to do. I don’t want to go down in history as just the fucking coolest rock star in the world. I have brands on my mind. Design and art is just as important as the music. If some has boring cover art or something on a blog, I’m really not going to check out their music, because I’m really not interested. So, I think that the art has to tell the tale of the music. Sometimes it has to be better than the music. Because if its better than the music, then, to me, the music will shine a little bit more.
MSM: Best case scenario, where do you see the band in a year or so?
JR: Um…probably the Grammys. (Laughs) I mean, honestly, I don’t know. At the pace things are going, I’m not going to say I’d be the most surprised person if we ended up at the Grammys, but at the same time, it could all fucking end tomorrow. Honestly, I don’t even know what’s going to happen. What I can imagine happening is that I’m still working my ass off a year from now and if you ask me what I’m doing five years from now, I’m still working my ass off. I live for this…my whole life, these conversations, what you’re doing right now. So I hope I’m still doing this; I hope I still love it.