To paraphrase a certain children’s TV host for whom it was always sweater weather: It’s a beautiful day in the Neighbourhood.
Life for the L.A.-area alt-R&B quintet couldn’t be better. After a rocky period when members were exhausted and new music was a rarity, the Neighbourhood came back stronger than ever in 2018 with a trio of EPs and a third full-length that were all collected into one larger work, almost exactly a year ago, into the reissued album Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing.
The Neighbourhood will also return to South Florida this Friday, November 1; the band's last appearance here was in 2015. Fort Lauderdale's Revolution Live is one of three stops in the Sunshine State as the group continues a fall tour that began October 11 in Las Vegas. New Times spoke with bassist Mikey Margott, who was on a short break at home in California after having just returned from a string of shows in Mexico.
In better personal news, he said no one in the band has been affected by the wildfires raging across the state, but "it’s close, and you can see it,” he said.
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For the time being, the interview stuck to topics within the band’s control, and that includes its new music, namely “Middle of Somewhere” and the recently released “Yellowbox.” The former headlines the Neighbourhood's current tour, while the latter will be on the soundtrack for the upcoming PlayStation 4 game Death Stranding. All avid gamers, according to Margott, the five bandmates jumped at the chance to work on the PS4 project and even had the perfect instrumental from a song originally written years ago for the group's second LP, Wiped Out!
The band members told the developers: “It sounds like the game looks.” The dev team agreed, and the Neighbourhood had its first foray into videogames. Even with the band's involvement in the highly anticipated action game, there have been no sneak peeks of Death Stranding. “Honestly, I wish,” Margott laments.
The Neighbourhood's other 2019 effort, “Middle of Somewhere,” was a bit of a departure for the darkly romantic band. It was miles sunnier and dreamier than previous work, and, according to Margott, it’s a good barometer of where the band stands now.
“I would say that song feels that way because it’s the first time in a long time that the band is clicking on a level that does feel those things. We all five write, and we all write based on the mood that we’re in. And at times, over the last couple of albums, especially on Wiped Out! — for instance, it was titled Wiped Out! because we were all so drained and tired and honestly sick of each other at the end of that process. Now, with this album, we’re all really happy, clicking with each other, really excited to push forward into the future.”
Margott reassures us the Neighbourhood is by no means going to be all rainbows and bright palettes, but there will be new elements added to the brooding, slightly dangerous aura for which the band is known. One of those those will be Rutherford picking up an acoustic guitar and writing off of that, something he’s never done before, “pushing forward his artistry.”
And, yes, when Margott says, “this album,” he means the next Neighbourhood album and not last year’s self-titled record. In fact, he sounds ready to move on from Hard to Imagine the Neighbourhood Ever Changing.
“That record, for me, is strange because there are moments I really like and there are moments I don’t. I think it’s because we made such a large body of work. If we [had been] able to hone in on a normal record and do ten to 12 songs, I think we might’ve mastered that in a different way.”
Although Margott says they're working toward an album, that’s not to say a new LP is imminent — or even an EP for that matter. The point is, the bandmates are writing and recording, but as for releasing, they’re taking a different tack.
“Now it’s feeling better to take our time and put out music whenever we feel more comfortable. Even if it's just a low number of songs, so be it,” he says. “I think that approach is working for us now, where last year it felt like, Hey, let’s just do this. Let’s just go and go as hard as we can.”
For fans hungry for the new, for the more, they can get their fix at the live shows.
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“We’ve been playing 'Middle of Somewhere’ on this tour, and just that alone has been so amazing,” Margott says. “We’re also playing a song that’s unreleased on the tour. So that’s been a lot of fun.”
Though making music is the their livelihood and the Neighbourhood has been through some rough patches, Margott clearly understands the most pivotal element that allows the band to speed up, slow down, and ultimately work toward a common goal.
“All five of us are genuine friends. We were friends before music. We became friends like anyone does, and music came second. I think the fact that music came second is so important to how we work as a band compared to others. I think that’s really cool, that people should know.”