No Good Fences Required

Written by Nicole Rallis on . Posted in Miscellaneous, Posts.

Electro-pop troupe Neighbors is
a communal effort in every sense of the word. Named after the eccentric folks
living adjacent to frontman Noah Stitelman, the
band attributes childhood friendships to the making of its debut EP, Hooligans
, and boasts half a dozen members with six degrees of

The brainchild of Stitelman,
Neighbors manifested in 2009 when Jacksonknife, the band he was previously part
of, was on the brink of breaking up. A departure from his past band’s alt-country
rock sound, Neighbors takes listeners off the beaten indie-rock path and onto
an experimental route combining various instruments, like keys, violins and
drums with poppy synths. “When I started doing the Neighbors stuff, I didn’t
want to make rock music so much anymore,” Stitelman says. “So I just started
making electronic music instead.”

Recording the four-track Hooligans almost entirely on his own in his Williamsburg
apartment, Stitelman reached out to longtime friend Matt Rubin, who helps runs
San Francisco’s Paper Brigade Records. Meeting at school in San Francisco where
both were studying photography, a passion that Stitelman still pursues today,
the two have remained friends throughout the years and decided to join forces.

Another friendship-fueled
collaboration came in the form of mixing and producing the EP. Stitelman
recruited renowned engineer, producer and his “oldest friend” Kyle Johnson, who
has worked with Modest Mouse, The Hives and Rogue Wave in the past. “That guy
is a genius,” Stitelman says about working with Johnson, who he’s known since
the third grade and played music with before. “He’s really good at what he
does, so I learned most of what I know from just watching him.” And while
Stitelman recorded most of Hooligans himself, it wouldn’t have been complete without the help of his five

Meeting Evan Johnson, Steph McCarthy,
Anne Miner and Eric Beug through friends and finding Brian Harney via a
Craigslist ad for a violin player, the group came together toward the end of
the recording process and put the finishing touches on the album together.

With a surprisingly limited
electronic background, the Neighbors mastermind relied on his musical tastes
and the Harry Potter franchise for motivation to complete this record.
Listening to a variety of indie rock and looking to old-school idols including
Jimmy Dorsey and Dean Martin, a pair whose music Stitelman would “rather make,”
and finding his muse through J.K. Rowling’s magical Hogwarts-centered series, Hooligans began to take shape. “Actually it’s funny the
movies I was watching the most and books I was probably reading the most was
Harry Potter,” he reminisces. “I distinctly wanted the record to sound more
fantastical in a way that those movies and books seemed, and for it to sort of
be very bubbly or colorful…w which I guess isn’t very cool.”

Whether he believes his
bewitching inspiration was cool or not, Neighbors blends haunting vocals,
exploding synths and wondrous melodies
of the mythical elements that the films offer. Enforcing a
song evolution by meticulously going through each track from the lyrics to the
melodies, the creative process for Stitelman is a slow, but rewarding one. “In
the beginning you’re not really comfortable with the song, you don’t really
know it yet,” he explains. “The melody doesn’t stick, it’s not sort of
ingrained in your head, yet. But the better you can pick apart your stuff and
know it before you call it finished, the better it’ll be in the end.”

And while this method of
revisiting his work and improving it has remained a constant, the manor in which
songs are created varies. While the electric guitar and percussive tinged track
“I’m A Building, I’m On Fire” gradually
transpired and went through many different incarnations, the idea for the
enchanting, accordion-laced “Hooligans,” on the other hand, was randomly
stumbled upon. “I was just sort of sitting down and screwing around, and not
having any idea of what I wanted to do,” he recalls. “I just started messing
around with the accordion line, and out of that, sort of built that song.” “Hooligans” boasts softly sung lyrics
about not being “100% honest with people
and how that sort of manifests in your daily relationships,” multi-instrumental
orchestrations and electronic beats, all of which are elements spread
throughout the EP.

Pairing lush, other worldly
melodies with very real and relatable lyrics centered around themes of
withdrawal and relationships, Neighbors is making its mark in Brooklyn and has
plans to hit Philadelphia, Boston and D.C. in the upcoming months, with hopes
of expanding their fan base, playing different venues and seeing what the music
scenes there have to offer. But for now, Stitelman will continue to work on his
music in Brooklyn, the place he feels most at home, with his band of Neighbors.