The Neighbourhood Q&A: 'Rock 'n' Roll Is Completely Dead'

The Neighbourhood
Chris Godley

The Neighbourhood

Jesse Rutherford talks about the state of rock, his band's mixtape model, and working on a new full-length album

"I just think that bands right now have no fucking idea what's going on," the Neighbourhood's Jesse Rutherford tells Billboard bluntly on the state of rock and roll. It's a bold statement, especially given that the Neighbourhood are on the main stage of KROQ's Weenie Roast, playing alongside so many of their alternative radio brethren. 

But Rutherford isn't looking to start beefs or make headlines. He puts his own band right in that company. "Everybody's so safe right now, even us. I think we could be doing a better job," he says.

The Neighbourhood will at least be trying to shake things up with a new mixtape, one they are giving away free. In this candid interview Rutherford spoke to us about the joy of covers, how the band is growing up in public and the last rock stars. 

Now that you are reaching the point of pyrotechnics, what would you most like to blow up on stage?
I don't know if I'd want to blow up objects, I just want to blow fire out of the stage's ass. 

When you played KROQ Red Bull Sound Space you busted out a cover of YG "Me And My Bitches." Anything special planned for tonight?
We don't have any covers tonight, but we'll probably learn some more. They're fun as shit to learn. We did a "Cry Me A River/Say My Name" cover and that one actually turned out pretty dope too. It just gets a little long at the end. 

What's coming up for you guys?
We're putting out a mix tape right now, we just put out a song the other day, a new one, called "Jealousy," it's got a couple of rappers, Casey Veggies and 100s, new west coast guys who are fucking tight, really on the come up. So that one has a super west coast vibe. 

What else is on the mixtape?
It's gonna be a free project, we are the first fucking band in the world to put out a mixtape and all these other bands need to catch on to that part of it because this whole fucking scene is so dead. So we want to give music back to the people, back to how the dudes in hip hop do it, they give it back to the streets. We know how to make music, it‘s so fun, why wouldn't we put out music?  

Does a mixtape allow you to be less precious than you would be on an album you've spent three years making?
To a degree, but we would never put out songs just to fucking put them up. Anything you put your name or your face on you should probably mean or if you don't, you're gonna get found out. Or you'll figure yourself out and move on to what you really are. We found our little spot so we're just gonna keep going with this and put out the raddest stuff that we can. 

What one or two bands should've done mix tapes who are they and why?
I think just the idea of putting out a mixtape is cool, so I guess everybody. Everybody should put out free music, sell yourself, not music. The music is the vessel, the music is your truth, the music gives you a reason to be something. 

Do you feel like then a lot of bands are not ready to let go of the old model?
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. Have you ever walked around this place? You could probably walk by all the guys in the bands that have quadruple platinum hits but not know who they are. And the same thing would happen if they walked into a mall. Nobody knows who anybody is. It's like our own little world over here, but I want to have more than that. 

So is there a timeline for putting out a new album?
Oh yeah, after we finish this tour we're gonna go back into record our next album. We're so pumped, dude, it's gonna be sick.

Have you started writing the new album already?
Yeah, there are just ideas floating around. We used to always write and demo out shit on my computer, but now we don't want to demo shit anymore because you get demo-itis. We want to go in together as a fucking band and just make all the sounds. We're gonna spend a whole bunch of time just making a sound bank of our own before we even record.

Who were the last rock stars then that you still know?
Who was the last band that you could really name all band members? Blink-182 were pretty recognizable, but I can't help but think of Guns N' Roses and shit, or Motley Crue, how everyone in the band was recognizable. Blink was pretty good, but they only had three members and Travis is arguably the most recognizable one now. And I wonder if my kids, when I have kids, will know him from being the drummer of Blink-182 or being Travis Barker. It's just such a weird thing. And I understand it too, nobody's really that fucking interesting. All the music is so safe right now, everybody's so safe, even us, I think we could be doing a better job. 

So do you feel like you can get closer on next album? And I do understand that no artist is ever satisfied so you can only get closer, not achieve your goals.
Never. That's why when you were talking about spending four years on an album I'm like, "Get the fuck over it. Four years you're going to spend on an album? I can't even have the same hair for two months." That's ridiculous, your emotions change so much. Dude, thank god the music we've put out has been able to be put out pretty much as we write it, we've been very lucky with that situation. And I'm so happy about it because now we're able to write to our emotion, write to now. 

But once you go back in the studio that changes and by nature it takes time. Let's say you do an album in October, by March it's totally different.
Of course, but I always view our projects as an entire idea. And until the idea is done, the whole idea, then I can't really get out of the mode of it. So I'm in this mode, like a lot of time I'll think of our album art, or that kind of shit, before I even go into put the music down. I'll do art first and be like, "I want to embody that picture in a fucking song." 

So what images have come to mind thus far for this new album?
Our minds; what we've seen, what we've lived, what we've done since this whole ride started. We've had such a cool life since this all started, it's crazy. We're growing up in this way, it's bizarre. It's like the kid you met after high school that was home schooled all those years, so they were raised a little different, but they still totally blend in. That's how I think of us. We get to do this cool shit that everybody knows about, but it's a job that everybody else has too. It's turned into that, which is pretty rad, because my job is fun. 

How has your perspective changed?
I'm thinking about lyrics in a different way now and I just want to give everything the space it deserves and I want really rad songs. Straight up, I just want it be where anybody, any kind of person, could hear it and be like, "That makes me feel something I like." Whether it makes you feel bad or good it makes you feel in the right part, the right little frequency of your body gets tickled. That's important and we'll know when it gets there.

What was the last song you heard that made you feel that way?
I've always liked "We All Try," by Frank Ocean, I think that song is perfect. I just love it. He put me in his world, straight up, he talks about things and I see it.