Calling any song “song of the year” is a fallacy because in the space of 365 days, the love the public shows any given song varies at wildly different rates.
It would, however, be no understatement to assert that The Neighbourhood’s “Sweater Weather” is a song that triumphed over other so-called “songs of 2013” by virtue of nothing so much as the sheer power of its subtlety. Some pretenders include Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” which was all about the masculine conquest of the female, or Lorde’s “Royals” which slathered greed itself with its wettest, most backhanded compliments to date. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” presents the violently absurd notion that either Pharrell or robots have ever had to worry about luck. “Sweater Weather,” however, tenders a kind of nuanced tenderness those other songs could only dream of in all their heavy-handed grossness.
So now we pause for a moment to actually talk about love.
The Neighbourhood — lead guitarist Zach Abels, rhythm guitarist Jeremy Freedman, bassist Mikey Margott, singer Jesse Rutherford and drummer Bryan Sammis — has crafted a thing that is so elusive in a music scene suffused with cynicism and fatigue: a song about two people in love that’s believable. Laudable. Desirable, even.
The ancient Greeks had six words for love: agape, eros, philia, storge, thelema, xenia. Each served a very particular purpose in the daily life of the Greeks. So how do these kinds of love relate to The Neighbourhood’s new LP I Love You? Sammis had this to say about that.
On agape (contentment or respect for another): “Being in the studio with each other, trusting each other with all of our respective instruments, walking this road together, this life we’re on . . . we definitely had that in the studio between the guys in the band.” Was there any point during the making of the album where they felt that more acutely than at other times? When all five musicians hit that third-mind moment and didn’t even have to say anything, when all creators existed on that unspoken level and really worked well as a band? “A lot of that came afterward,” he says, “when we were listening back to the recordings. You can be playing and not even realize what’s going on because you’re focused on making it happen – and then listen to the recordings and realize that we five made that. That’s when that moment really happened for a lot of us.”
On eros (passionate love, sexuality and desire): “Some of the album is about Jesse’s last relationship, what he was going through at the time with his girlfriend. It brought up some positive stuff and some negative stuff. I think the positive stuff probably falls under that eros category.” Was it something that he had been talking about during the making of the album, or was that something you could sense in the lyrics and what he was getting at musically? “He talked about it sometimes. We’re like a family now at this point. We’re a unit, so we don’t even need to really talk about it.”
On philia (friendship and loyalty): “That comes out in a song on the album called “Alleyways.” It’s about Jesse growing up with our tour manager Ellis Bertschi. And then there’s us being in this band together . . . the level of respect we have for each other.”
On storge (the affection parents have for their children): “We all created this thing, this baby of ours, and made it perfect. We all feel responsible that we’ve fathered this piece of art. We wanted it to represent us, how we saw it in our heads, that all five of us can be proud of.” Are there songs on the album about which he’s prouder than others? “When I got something on the album that was outside my element, I’d be especially proud of that, the harmony on the bridge of ‘Flawless,’ for instance.”
On thelema (the desire to create and to be recognized for that creation; to exhibit excellence): “We all wanted to create something that lasts beyond us; we want people to remember what we did after we die.” What about the foreseeable future? “We want it to be something to be proud of in five years, or in 10 years … we want to do this band for the rest of our lives.”
On xenia (the relation between a host and a guest). What is The Neighbourhood as a host in relationship to Bryan Sammis, its guest? “My place in the band goes beyond playing the drums. They’ve all been together a little bit longer than I’ve known them. I traveled before I joined this band, so I think I bring to the band something different than what the guys are used to. I come from a different place than they do.”
And what else is a neighborhood if not a sense of place?
The Neighbourhood will perform at the Ventura Theater on Saturday, Nov. 2. Tickets are sold out.