“Don’t tell them anything,” whispers The Neighbourhood’s Jesse Rutherford to the languid beat of “Female Robbery.” Since forming in August 2011, the Californian quintet [employing the deliberate Anglicised spelling of their name] have spent months driving the blogosphere into a hot mess of wild curiosity, bagged BBC Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record In The World title four times and played a string of sell out shows. Yet somehow they’ve managed to keep a tight lid on their rapidly increasing profile.
Whilst singer Rutherford boasts photogenic, male model looks and an esoteric monochrome style that have propelled him into Tumblr fascination territory, The Neighbourhood have kept their collective persona shrouded in mystery and opted for a synthesis of moody hip-pop ballads over black and white visuals. It’s not the ubiquitous marketing hammer route, just a perfectly matched synergy of image and sound that creates some intrigue and that coveted ‘buzz’ every new artist hopes to achieve.
As if to further alienate themselves from easy recognition, The Neighbourhood are problematic to categorise. They’re not part of a movement and don’t belong to any specific genre. Instead, they’re a Venn diagram of hip-hop, R&B and indie at a time when the three worlds are slowly colliding. Look at the band’s strong monochrome aesthetic matched to the suave and morphine-paced sound, and it’s easier to ally the Cali natives with a cinematic genre, as a sort of sonic equivalent to film noir.
While readily available mp3s, torrents and deliberate leaks dictate today’s consumer culture, the Columbia signing prove a savvy young bunch (barely out of their teens) by creating a rare level of excitement – much like The Weeknd – through a ‘less is more’ approach; a tact that’s worked in their favour so far, as they find themselves cropping up in a slew of ‘Big for 2013’ predictions and playing sell-out shows with only the five track I’m Sorry… EP to their nascent catalogue.
Weaving through tales of twilight encounters (no, not encounters with sparkling vampires), the singer combines his background as a former hip-hop artist with a through-the-wire hazy vocal dripping in ennui that’s seen him touted as the male Lana Del Rey. As if to throw concrete over this comparison, Born to Die’s producer, Emile Haynie worked his magic on “Female Robbery” and is currently doing the same to the as-yet-untitled album. If Del Rey’s success is anything to go by – and not to jinx them, but – this omen could trebuchet the band into a spotlight that’s surely going to make all this mystery impossible to maintain.
The Neighbourhood’s dusky, atmospheric efforts don’t exactly lend themselves to day-to-day drudgery, so it’s surprising to discover Rutherford’s lyrics are born from his own real life experiences due to a self-confessed ‘limited imagination’. Up until now, the 21-year-old’s former girlfriend has served as prominent muse. Post-split it will be interesting to see how this big change in his personal life will lead to other sources of inspiration on The Neighbourhood’s debut album, set to drop in April 2013.
Hit play on The Neighbourhood’s latest video, “Let It Go,” below.