The second album from The Neighbourhood, Wiped Out! came to life in a makeshift living-room studio near the band’s Southern California hometown. After spending three months dreaming up riffs and beats and melodies at a live-in studio by the ocean, singer Jesse Rutherford, guitarists Jeremy Freedman and Zach Abels, bassist Mikey Margott, and drummer Brandon Fried took up in Abels’s mom’s Simi Valley home, set up their equipment on a ping-pong table, and began piecing those otherworldly sounds into songs. Working with producer Jono Dorr—one half of the production team 4e, who collaborated with The Neighbourhood on their 2014 mixtape #000000 & #FFFFFF—the L.A.-based band built off their hip-hop-meets-alt-pop aesthetic and shaped a whole new sound that’s stark but intricately layered, moody but hypnotically melodic.
“Since the last album came out, people have asked us about how we came up with a song like ‘Sweater Weather,’” says Rutherford, referring to the double-platinum breakout single from The Neighbourhood’s 2013 debut I Love You. “I’ve thought about that a lot, and I swear it just comes down how we felt on that day and where we were at in our lives. Being at Zach’s place really brought us back to that, and put our emotions in exactly the right place.”
In making Wiped Out!, The Neighbourhood also reunited with I Love You. co-producer Justyn Pilbrow, who headed up their sessions at Morning View Studios in Malibu. And for lead single “R.I.P. 2 My Youth,” the band joined forces with producer Benny Blanco (Marina and the Diamonds, Mikky Ekko, Icona Pop) and created a hazy meditation on getting older and shedding naiveté. With its sleepy beat and piercing lyrics (“Tell my sister don’t cry and don’t be sad/I’m in paradise with Dad/Close my eyes and then cross my arms/Put me in the dirt, let me dream with the stars”), “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” perfectly embodies the emotional dynamic at the heart of Wiped Out!. “One vision I had in the beginning of making the album was that I wanted it to be happy music for sad people to listen to,” Rutherford notes.
Another element of The Neighbourhood’s initial vision for Wiped Out!: the crashing ocean waves and assorted other beachy sounds heard all throughout the album. “Atmospherics have always been really important to us,” says Rutherford. “I like the idea of putting people in a certain place visually—like picturing us in California, the ocean being part of us.” Along with adding to Wiped Out!’s swirling textures, those atmospherics also subtly reflect the album’s theme of growing up and getting on. “For me it’s got to do with becoming whole, making a complete circle and getting a clean start,” says Rutherford. “The ocean takes you up and spits you out, and you feel new but aware.”
From the spacey guitar tones and chaotic sprawl of its title track to the slinky groove and delicate vocals of “Daddy Issues” (“I know that you’ve got daddy issues/And I do too”), Wiped Out! endlessly warps genre but maintains a fragile beauty from beginning to end. “It’s like in Malibu we were building a scrapbook of ideas, and at Zach’s we pulled out the best ones and brought them together all into one package,” says Fried of the album-making process. Evident in everything from the psychedelic guitar work on “Baby Come Home Pt. 2” to the bass-heavy groove of “Cry Baby,” that process involved what Fried describes as “taking what we were doing as a live band and bringing it to the studio and creating a sound that’s more like what we vibe off of when we’re touring.” And as a result, The Neighbourhood achieves a more frenetic energy and looser feel than ever before.
“With the last album, we started in a studio and then translated the songs live and became a band through things we wrote all on computers,” says Rutherford. “These songs were written as a full fucking band, so you sit there and play them and it’s like, ‘Oh, this feels really good.’”
Along with expanding their sound on Wiped Out!, The Neighbourhood also sharpened their lyrical sensibility. “I used to write in a more stream-of-consciousness way, just writing whatever was happening in my life at the time,” says Rutherford. “But for this one I wanted to really get to how I was actually feeling.” Though he notes that getting more raw and revealing in his lyrics had its painful moments, Rutherford hopes the result will strengthen the songs’ power of connection. “If people could relate to the old stuff, I feel like this could be even more relatable because it goes past just the boo-hoo problems of the day and gets to something deeper,” he says.
Formed in summer 2011, The Neighbourhood grew up together in the Newbury Park area of Thousand Oaks, California. After self-releasing two EPs in 2012 (I’m Sorry… and Thank You,), the band made their full-length debut with I Love You. in April 2013. With their first Columbia Records release hailed by Billboard as a “darkly moody album [that] aptly culls together indie rock and R&B,” lead single “Sweater Weather” emerged as one of the biggest singles of 2013, shooting to the top 10 on the pop charts and holding at #1 on the alternative charts for eight weeks total. As second single “Afraid” climbed to #3 at alternative radio, The Neighbourhood followed up the album with extensive touring, selling out venues throughout the U.S., Europe, and Russia and taking the stage with artists like The 1975 and a then-little-known Travis Scott. Digging further into their hip-hop roots, the band next put out the Don Cannon and DJ Drama-hosted #000000 & #FFFFFF, with the groundbreaking mixtape featuring the likes of Danny Brown and French Montana.
Since their earliest days, The Neighbourhood have embraced a black-and-white color scheme that extends to their clothing, artwork, and every other visual element of the band. According to Rutherford, holding true to that imagery allows for some guiding limitation as they explore so many textures and tones and rhythms within their music-making. “When we start working on a song, the one thing I know is that it’s in black and white,” he says. “Having that one rule really keeps our heads in a certain space.”
If there’s another rule that steered the band through the making of Wiped Out! and continues to guide them now, it’s a commitment to staying inventive in their artistry. So while The Neighbourhood have a shared passion for pop music (“I love hooks of all sorts, I love catchy things, I love candy,” says Rutherford), they’re also uncompromising about their belief in pushing pop forward. “There’s a lot of artists making music that takes an old idea and just updates it for 2015,” says Rutherford. “And sometimes it’s really good music, but it’s not really new. For us, if we’re working on a song and it reminds us of some other song, we’re automatically like, ‘Okay, so we can change everything, or just get rid of it altogether.’ We don’t ever want to sound like anything else or stay in the same place. We’ve progressed with every new thing we’ve done, and we’re just going to keep on progressing.”