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Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

The Neighbors' Max Subar And Lucas Tamaren Talk Music

Jackie Lainez |
April 21, 2015 | 6:26 p.m. PDT


The Neighbors (Twitter/ @Da_Neighbors)
The Neighbors (Twitter/ @Da_Neighbors)
The Neighbors, which consists of former and current USC students, released their self-titled debut EP in February. Although they categorize themselves as a folk rock band, their music takes influence from a number of different genres including R&B, jazz and blue grass. This unique blend of musical genres translates to an energetic live performance. We caught up with band members Max Subar (lead vocals, guitarist, songwriter) and Lucas Tamaren (lead guitarist, vocals, songwriter) as they prepare for their upcoming performance at Tommy’s Place on Thursday, April 23 to speak about the band’s beginnings, influences and what the audience can expect from the band in the future. 

NT: When did you meet and how did you decide to form the band? 

Lucas Tamaren: Freshman year. 

Max Subar: We met freshman year in the dorms. Well, first online I guess. We were sort of random roommates. We both just enjoyed music so that's why I kinda just hit him up. 

NT: For someone who has never heard your music, how would you describe your sound? 

LT: Well, we don't really know (laughs).  

MS: It's a fusion of a lot of different genres and influences. 

LT: We have so much material and we only have a snippet of it online. Five songs verses our repertoire of songs, which has grown. I think if you were to see us live verses our EP it would be a bit of an odd experience because we don't exactly play the style of our EP.

MS: We write a lot of that. 

LT: We write a lot of that and we do play it in certain situations, but we're kind of just developing and figuring out where we want to take it, and that's part of it, but its not the whole picture.

NT: Speaking of your live performances, you guys always have such a huge ensemble. How do you gather all of the musicians and make the arrangements? 

MS: Luckily, a lot of people that we play with are really really talented. A lot of them come from the jazz school. We kind of just all started, I would say jamming, and by jamming out songs and letting everyone work out their own parts as we go along. I wouldn't say we arrange the band necessarily but we all give each other critiques. 

NT: Your band performs a lot of covers during your live shows, how do you choose which covers to perform? 

LT: Someone suggest one and then the rest of the band goes "Yeah!" (laughs) 

NT: Do you guys tend to gravitate towards a certain style?

LT: We tend to hover between R&B and Rock 'n' Roll for out live shows. 

NT: What's your favorite cover to perform? 

LT: Probably "The Weight" by The Band. We play that at every show. 

NT: What are your biggest musical influences? Or your top five bands? 

LT: Well, for me I would say The Allman Brothers, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Wes Montgomery, and let's go with Bob Dylan

MS: I would say The Band, Wilco and then Jeff Tweedy is the lead songwriter of that band and I really like his solo stuff as well. An artist called Nick Drake, he's more of a melancholic folk artist. Those are my top probably. 

NT: What is the first album that you remember buying or that changed the way you thought about music? 

LT: For me it was Led Zeppelin's "Four." I was like 10 or 11. We were on a road trip. I bought it in the place called Steamboat, Colorado. We listened to it on repeat on the way back. I remember listening to "Stairway to Heaven" probably 20 times in the car. Memorizing it. 

MS: This was not like the first album that I was exposed to, but I guess it's one that I remember listening to a lot. It first opened me to me up to a lot of different genres and styles. Wilco's self-titled album. My uncle had just recommended that I check out this one band and so we were in Laguna Beach and we were at a record store and I just happened to find that one and my family listened to the whole thing in the car and it was really cool and just cool scenery while we were listening to it. Just a good experience. 

NT: Do you have an specific inspiration behind your EP? Was there a theme behind it? 

LT: Kind of. Just transitioning into college. This is the first time where you−or I−felt out of place, or just shaken up a little bit. A lot of thought went into that and we just started writing songs about it. A lot of the songs are from that period. The initial shakeup/dealing with it and getting over it.  

MS: And with the end of the EP, I guess the last couple of songs are a look back on that experience. I like to think that "It's All Alright" is a song that is a closing of that chapter, more reflective. It's a new period. 

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NT: How long did it take you to make your first EP? 

MS: Five months. 

LT: We had no idea what we were doing at all. In terms of producing and recording and mixing and mastering. It was a learning experience, so we plan on making another one and I think it will go a lot smoother now that we put our feet in the water. 

MS: There were a lot of times when we would finish a song and thought we had a song finished and someone would be like "Is this just bad?" (laughs) and then we would just sometimes start over. So it took some time. 

NT: What's your songwriting process like? 

LT: Sporadic (laughs). Anyway I can get it done. I'll either write poems and then put it to music or write music and then put it to poems. And then just trying to capture everything immediately as it comes. Write it down almost as fast as I can. Before it floats away. 

NT: Do you have any songwriters that you take influence from or that changed the way you approach the songwriting process? 

LT: Yeah, from Cat Stevens, to Bob Dylan, to The Band. They are all really stylized in what they do. You kind of know what you are getting when you listen to a Cat Stevens record verses The Band record. They mold to different genres of music. When you listen to a [The] Band's song, its very straight ahead and punchy. Their message is really direct. So, that helps with the Rock 'n' Roll style or The Stones even. They are saying it, but they are like punching you in the face, whereas Dylan is sort of weaving around and just saying a lot of shit. You don't even really know what it means a lot of the time. Stylistically they are people that fit the style very well that I try to take influence from. 

NT: I know you (Max) mentioned Wilco earlier. Would that be one of your songwriting influences? 

MS: Definitely, Jeff Tweedy in particular. I kind of studied a little bit of his songwriting process. He talks about it a lot in interviews and I guess it's a similar feel to Bob Dylan in a sense that he tries to capture a vibe instead of maybe directly saying certain things. I guess I just jump around different styles. I don't have one way of writing a song and I don't know if I ever will really. Sometimes I will finish one in 15 minutes and sometimes it will take a couple of months. A lot of times they are not great songs and some of the times they are songs that I'm happy with. 

NT: Do you have any weird or funny stories from when you have been playing live? 

MS: I foiled it a bunch. One time I was doing a countdown at a concert waiting for Lucas to finish tuning his guitar because I didn't know what else to say. So, it was like "Five, four, three..." and then by one he still wasn't done tuning and I was like "oh sh**." 

LT: (Laughs) It's mainly just in between moments, between songs where no one really knows what to do. There's kind of a lapse in communication between the audience and us. We collectively are awkward. That's one thing we are actually trying to work on. 

NT: Last question, where do you see your band in 5 years? 

LT: We would hope to be on the touring circuit. That's were we want to be, that's the dream. Playing festivals and stuff. 

MS: Yeah, festivals would be fun. 

LT: Just getting better, honing our sound, coming out with records. 

 For more info and to purchase tickets go to theneighbors.eventbrite.com.

 Reach Contributor Jackie Lainez here



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