The story so far – five friends, neighbours even, from the area of Newbury Park, California with one vision.
That vision resulted in the formation of The Neighbourhood, fronted by lead singer Jesse Rutherford along with guitarists Jeremy Freedman and Zack Abels, bassist Mikey Margott, and last but certainly not least, drummer Bryan Sammis. Formed in late 2011, the band quickly garnered attention through a mysterious online presence attached to their first single, “Female Robbery”. The black and white imagery consistent in their media, whether in the form of promotional photos or music videos, is part of the band’s vision and appeal.
We had the opportunity to chat with drummer Bryan Sammis before The Neighbourhood played to a packed crowd at the Biltmore Cabaret in Vancouver, and he gave us the scoop on the band and their live performance.
asapmusicblog.ca: So we’ve heard the story about how you guys came up with the band name, The Neighbourhood, and I noticed that the logo for the band is an upside down house – what is the story behind that?
Bryan Sammis: It kind of made sense with the name and the fact that we all kind of come from the same neighbourhood, and I think turning it upside down was initially a bit of a pun on how everyone was turning everything upside down – crosses and triangles and what not. It looked great, so we ended up leaving it.
a: More of an artistic appeal to it?
BS: Yeah, and initially it fit really well in a thumbnail – that’s important nowadays, because it’s a square.
a: Since you guys have arrived on the music scene last year, there’s been a really positive response. The sound that you guys have is a lot to do with the chemistry – and it sounds really seasoned for a new band.
a: How does that translate into your live shows?
BS: The live shows are always a little bit different, because I know a lot of the times when we write, we write in someone’s bedroom with a computer and a drum loop. We sit down, we build a loop or listen to some loops and we decide collectively on one that we like, and then we’ll loop it and they’ll play their guitars over it – usually plugged directly into the computer with digital amps, and stuff like that.
So it’s always a little interesting coming and playing live, because live – it’s much more organic, which is not necessarily our feel. Tonight, you’ll hear my snare sound, but you’ll also hear another one ‘cause I trigger things. It was a little bit of a struggle at first to get that electronic sound of ours to translate well live with a real drum set and real guitars for it to not sound too rock, because we don’t want it to sound rock, we want it to sound more like the record – hip-hop beats and stuff like that.
It was a little bit of a struggle, I think we’ve got it now – we’ve honed in on it and it’s pretty solid now.
a: I’ve seen a couple of the live videos on YouTube and you guys sounded really, really good.
BS: It’s funny, even those videos though, they don’t necessarily capture everything. We run a back track, we run triggers on the kick and snares to make them sound like the kick and snares on the recording. Live videos always make it sound a little bit more rock-y, and my cymbal just cuts through – the minute I hit the cymbal you can’t hear anybody else but me. I think that we’ve got it pretty down.
We’re going to try some stuff in the future, we have some ideas we want to do – like pads instead of toms. So pads that have tom sounds, but I can change them depending on the song. You’ll hear on the record that there’s a lot more toms than there were on the EP, there’s a lot more different sounds per song.
a: You mentioned that there are some hip-hop beats in the songs that The Neighbourhood have written. There’s always a tendency to try to pinpoint bands within a specific genre, and you guys have talked about in previous interviews that you have had a variety of different influences. In your own words, how would you describe the music of The Neighbourhood?
BS: I like to say… basically, if I was talking to my mom and I had to describe it to her, I would say that it was dark pop. But if I was getting in depth about it, I would say that it was dark pop with hip-hop drum beats. So you have that hip-hop backbone, the hip-hop drums and bass, and then you have the spacey kind of guitars with our effects – we always try to make our guitars not sound like guitars. Sometimes people are like, “What’s that organ on that song?” – and it’s not, it’s a guitar with an organ pedal, a pod pedal. Yeah, so maybe dark pop with hip-hop undertones.
a: There was a mystery attached to you guys prior to the release of the first single, “Female Robbery” as well as leading into the release of the I’m Sorry… EP. Do you find that there are any common misconceptions about the band?
BS: I know that we didn’t want there to be a misconception, which is why we didn’t release any pictures. We just wanted it to be like – this is the music, judge us… if you need to judge us, judge us off the music and not what we look like. There can be some misconceptions when people see me or the singer [Jesse Rutherford] primarily because we have a lot of tattoos, and you can get a negative pre-connotation to us, whereas we don’t ever really feel that, you know what I mean?
Even down to its most primal point of where sometimes people look at people with tattoos and think they’re not nice people or they’re tough guys, whereas we’re super sweet, or I like to think super nice, sweet, loving individuals who just like to make music. There shouldn’t be any what type of band we are, where we should be, shouldn’t be determined by how we look. If you like the music, judge it off of that.
a: I believe you were the one who was off at college when the EP was written, but all five of you were involved in the process of making the upcoming debut album. What was that process like for you?
BS: It was easy. There was a song on the EP that was an old idea, that me, Jeremy – our lead guitarist, and Jesse wrote a long time ago. We were going to do something else that carried over to this project, so getting back into the process of writing again was super easy. I didn’t feel like I came in fresh faced, I’d kind of done it before a couple of years ago. It was fun – it was cool to have all of us there, obviously sometimes there can be too many cooks in the kitchen. Like with drums, I’m primarily a drummer – I do think I’m a better guitarist or singer, but I play drums and I’ve played drums my whole life. Jesse used to play drums, and Mikey used to be a drummer, and then I play guitar, and Jesse plays guitar, and the other two guitarists.
Sometimes you have different opinions, but at the end of the day, it’s about trusting your peers. Sometimes someone says, “You gotta trust me on this one, we gotta do it this way” – and it’s never an argument, it’s always like, “Yeah, cool.” There have been arguments about stuff, but it’s always for the best, you know? It’s good that we trust each other and we trust each other’s opinions. If they all decide on something that maybe I don’t, I trust them, and I think that it’s going to work out for the best.
a: You guys are currently in the middle of your US and Canada tour, and you’ll be heading to Europe in a little while as well. What has been the most memorable moment on tour so far?
BS: This isn’t really anything that exciting, but when we landed in Australia to do Laneway Festival which we just played, there was a moment when I got off the plane where I was like… it didn’t hit me so much, like I’m not one of those people who is super aware of what’s going on. I’ll clarify with that – like when our song’s on the radio, the first time it ever happened I was jumping up and down in my apartment, just going crazy. Now when it happens, and someone sends me a picture, I’m a little detached, I’m a little, ‘Oh, cool. Thank you!’.
When we got to Australia and stepped off the plane, I was like, I think it just hit me what we’ve been doing and what we’re doing – like it just hit me, because we’re in Australia. That and Japan were two of my places that I really wanted to go, along with Boston, because I’ve never been to Boston. We landed there and I think it just hit me, what we’re doing, and I was just in this state of euphoria. I was so happy about it. That’s honestly one of the most memorable, I remember turned to everyone and told them about it and we were all like giddy little kids again, whereas sometimes we can be pretty detached.
Check back on Thursday for Bryan’s playlist picks, and an exclusive contest. The Neighbourhood’s debut album, I Love You, is slated for release on April 23, 2013.