The members of Norwegian outfit Neighboring Sounds possess decades of experience crafting emo/indie-styled tunes, dating back to prior acts such as Crash and The First Cut. The quartet debuted a few years back with standalone single "Everyone's From Somewhere Else," and if their aim has been to recapture the energy and aesthetic of '90s emo with perhaps a touch of the sophistication that becoming adults who have been writing and performing this type of music for 20-some years bestows, then they have succeeded in fine form with follow-up single "Spolia" b/w "When Everything Goes."
While the initial listen may come across as a bit of a relaxed slow burn, the band's shrewdly memorable songwriting will certainly reveal itself hours later when you're still humming those hooks. The more I've streamed these new tracks in preparation for this piece, the more I've been inescapably hooked by Neighboring Sounds' approach, so I find myself eagerly anticipating additional material—hopefully sooner than later!
In the meantime, stream the wonderfully catchy new material below, followed by a nice chat with guitarist/vocalist Arild Eriksen...
The roots of Neighboring Sounds date back 20-some years to a band called Crash, which then became The First Cut, which was reborn as Neighboring Sounds in 2014. Talk a bit about that slow evolution into your current incarnation as Neighboring Sounds, and how your history contributes to (or differs from) what you're doing now.
It is clear that the music we make now does not differ significantly from what we did with Crash in the early-2000s. Members of Crash had previously played in bands like J.R. Ewing and the old school band Kids Like Us, therefore we were perhaps both heavier and faster. We have all missed heavy rock with roots in '90s emo, but at the same time our bass player has toured the world with Datarock, so he is an even more danceable bassist than before. And if we are not better instrumentalists than before, then we are older—children, gray hair—that characterizes the band. We miss the energy and simplicity of bands like Texas is the Reason, Hey Mercedes, and Static Prevails era Jimmy Eat World and want to explore how that sounds in 2021.
I was going to ask why you've continued to change the band name over the years, but now that I've had a little time to explore some of the Crash and The First Cut recordings, I would actually say that Neighboring Sounds is fairly different from what those bands were doing, so it makes sense that this really is a new project. It's such a cliché to state, but—with the age you've referenced—Neighboring Sounds truly does feel more "mature."
We want to sound upbeat and angular, but we also want to write music we miss. There are really not many bands that play such music today. Sparta recently came out with a new album. It sounds pretty mature, too. The same goes for Braid's No Coast. I feel that many of the bands today that say they play emo are inspired by American Football and early Braid. We liked the rock. We want to invite you to dance and we want to talk about society and politics. We still intend to do that.
The band's first single, "Everyone's From Somewhere Else," appeared during the early portion of 2019, and I believe this new single is your first public-facing material since that time, so it's been a long road toward the eventual release of your debut album. What has your writing process and pace been like over the last six-plus years since Neighboring Sounds' formation?
That single was recorded with Yngve Andersen from Blood Command on bass. When he quit, we took a short break. Most of the band members have kids and day jobs. The band is also based in Bergen, but I live in Oslo and run what I like to think of as a fairly successful architectural office called Fragment. In recent years, however, we have met regularly and at least every month. Sometimes, we have traveled to a small farm by the sea owned by our bass player to write songs, swim, and make pizzas with wild mushrooms from the woods. Other times, there may have been more beer than rock in the rehearsal room in the drummer's basement in Bergen. We are not in such a hurry anymore. There are not many bands that make this kind of music now, and we are even a little more picky than before. But in the last year, the songs have started getting better and more catchy. We look forward to recording more and perhaps touring when and if the pandemic is defeated.
"Spolia" b/w "When Everything Goes" offers relaxed, memorable emo/indie rock with a few subtle post-punk tendencies in the rhythm section. Both songs are somewhat eerily catchy in that you might not realize until hours later when you're still humming a hook in the back of your head just how enduring they really are. How would you say these tracks fit in against the rest of the album?
Those two tracks are a good indication of the rest of the material we have completed for recording. In recent years, we have really missed bands with roots in '90s emo that use power chords and stop/start dynamics with pop hooks. We have missed the great Swedish bands of the mid-'90s like Fireside, Starmarket, and Last Days of April. In rock today, I think age is just a number. Listen to the new Hum release and the track "Step Into You"—a perfect blend of heavy rock and soaring shoegaze.
Your aforementioned debut album is set to be released later this year, possibly through the Sound Fiction label. What else can you share about the record? Title? Number of songs? Etc.
We are planning to record 8 - 10 songs. At this point, other labels are also interested, and if we can have several nice and small labels release it together, that's at least how I would like it. Even if Sound Fiction has released bands like Favez, Solea, Hey Mercedes, and Logh, it's still just a hobby releasing a 7" now and then. We want to spend some years now really pushing the limit of what an adult family life can endure.
I'm now realizing that Sound Fiction is your label, is that right!? What's it like to get "back in the game" so many years later?
I started Sound Fiction together with Aaron Arjuna Rudra (1979 - 2004) in 2000. It was mainly to release the first 7" with Crash, but eventually other temptations emerged. I did an interview with Sergie [Loobkoff] from Samiam in the mid-'90s for a fanzine I ran with a friend and invited his new band Solea to do a split release with Crash. In the years after, we released amazing 7" records by bands like Hey Mercedes, Favez, and Logh. The most recent release is two songs on a 7" with Golden City, one of the bands of Eric Richter from Christie Front Drive. Currently, it's more fun to be a dad, play in a band, and run an architects' office. I'm not going to shut down Sound Fiction. I plan to make a simple website where I can sell the records I have left. But the next time I release something other than my own band, I will work more methodically and thoroughly.
I always ask this type of question because I'm such a music junkie, but since you have a long history in the scene, what are some underrated Scandinavian emo bands that curious readers should investigate?
To me, the most important Norwegian band has and always will be Life... But How to Live It? They would probably object to being labeled "emo," but it's the closest we get to Revolution Summer bands like Rain and Rites of Spring. They released several records on different labels and are perhaps best-known for their 12" on Ebullition. In the mid- to late-'90s, Swedish bands like Fireside, Starmarket, Last Days of April, and later bands like Sounds Like Violence and Logh had a lot of impact on the Scandinavian scene. In the 2000s, bands like Amulet and J.R. Ewing were the ones we played the most concerts with. The band Youth Pictures of Florence Henderson released their first full-length album when we ended The First Cut. Now they have also quit, but the members play in bands like Onslow and Ben Leiper. Together with Beezewax and Spielbergs, those are the bands I think carry on the legacy of Norwegian emo from the early-2000s.