Jesse Rutherford's Blonde Ambition
I want to start off by saying I love the album.
I was in LA with my girlfriend when I first heard it and on that same morning, I actually dyed my hair blonde.
Yo (laughs). That’s sick.
So cool. It looks great, by the way.
Thank you, man. But that leads me to my first question. "Born To Be Blonde." What was the inspiration for that song? I know you were very specific about starting the album with that song. What went into that thought process?
The general statement just kinda means be whoever you wanna be. It’s just kind of a twist on how to say that or my particular way of saying it. I felt like it was a chance for me to be as stupid and as smart as I am — or as I think I might be — all in one go. I don’t know. It just kind of happened. It was a poem. It was a poem that I wrote while The Neighbourhood was recording our Wiped Out album. It was just a poem. I wrote it one day and or one night. I don’t even remember. I just know it was during that process cause I was blonde at that point and I was really psyched about it. It was just the way it made me feel I guess. Wrote it down. Maybe 75% of it came from that initial poem. The last 25% — the bridge and shit — was written in the studio as I was recording it. But I tried doing it a couple times. It was going to be a Neighbourhood song a long time ago. Nothing ever happened to it.
It’s very interesting how often I hear a good portion of songs that we hear on someone’s new album are actually old.
Yep. And that comes with age and with time. It’s crazy you say that cause I’ve thought about that a lot recently too and it’s given me a new hope with writing music because I probably have hundreds of songs that are not released and now I know sometimes I can go back in the fucking Rolodex. Oh okay. Wrote it in 2013. It’s 2018. Now they're ready for it. That’s how it goes sometimes.
You have to be ready to let it go.
You have to be on time. You can’t be early in this game. That doesn’t get you anywhere. At least from my experience. I feel like there have been moments where I’ve been like well I did that first and then something else happens and someone else does it. And maybe they did it at a better time. Maybe they had it more refined. Maybe it was better than the version I had. Or the type of song. Or the type of sound. Sometimes you gotta wait for the right time.
The 2014 mixtape with the band. Two features I want to ask about. You had Gerald and Kossisko. Two really good friends of mine.
Oh, you grew up in the bay?
So, I’m curious. How did the Bay Area connection come about?
It's always a good answer when they laugh before answering.
Well, Kossisko, 100s at the time, that was through our friend Matthew. Kirk, who has a label now, runs it with Matthew’s partner label.
What’s the label?
And Matthew, he’s like my LA homie. He’s like my first LA friend. When I was like 19 trying to rap and putting my shit on the internet, he was the first dude from the city — cause I’m from the suburbs outside the city — he was like the first dude from the city to be like, yo, you’re tight, come hang out with me and my friends. And those friends ended up being 4e, who helped me produce the mixtape and then helping The Neighbourhood do our Wiped Out album. It was a long process. That was, you know, six or seven years ago. It was a while ago. I met Kossisko through him.
He’s a good dude, man.
Yeah, dude. He’s smooth too.
Staying on collaborations, on that same mixtape, you had Danny Seth. And I noticed on this new album, you had MD$, both of whom are big on the music scene in London. How did that connection come about?
Danny was also through Matthew.
Of course he was. Danny lived in LA for a bit, yeah?
Yeah, and Matthew was fucking with him for a minute. I could give you Matthew's number if you want (laughs). He’s in with everyone.
Collabs are important. How did you go about choosing who to work with on this album?
Well, I met Dylan Brady, who produced the majority of the project. I think I was playing a show and Kirk came out. Kirk met with Dylan. I think we were in St. Louis, where Dylan is from and he just walked in and I saw him. I know this may sound very surface but I basically just judged a book by the cover. Like, clothing and how you present yourself, matters. Dylan walked in and he just had this steez that I’d never seen before and I was like there’s something about this guy. Then I ended up hearing his music and it was so ambitious and unique and at the time I was trying to figure out how to find my own lane and find my own sound and do my solo thing. So we got in the studio together, we had a week in Paramount in LA, five days, and we ended up doing seven songs, and about four or five ended up on the record. It was a solid week for sure. He’s a great producer. He can really do anything. He’s unlike anyone I’ve ever seen before. He’s a fucking machine, dude. He’s nonstop. Dylan kinda kicked it off. We started with this sound. I worked with Daytrip a couple times before when they were back in LA and we did a couple records but nothing that was my favorite. They were amazing doing what they do but I wasn’t pleased with what I was doing on the songs.
The mind of a perfectionist, man.
Right? But then they randomly sent me a 30-pack and I was like this is fun. So I went through them, picked ten that I liked, recorded on about four or five really quickly and two of them ended up being on the album. MD$, that was just another random session when they were in LA.
MD$ is fire, dude. That’s good music.
They make really good music.
London, for the most part, is known for Grime Rap. When you think rap in London, you think grime. But what they do isn’t grime. It’s so dope and so different.
Very musical. Absolutely. I really want to meet the dude.
He’s a mystery. You never saw him?
He’s cool. He has a swag to him for sure.
How old were you when you decided on music?
I started playing drums when I was in the eighth grade. High school came around and I met this guy who became my buddy. I grew up in a suburb where it’s like hard core punk kinda shit and I just wanted to be a part of that. But my balls took forever to drop and finally when they did I started singing. Voice is still pretty high so they only dropped so far (laughs). But I would say around 17 is when I took it seriously.
And around that age is when you knew this was what you were going to do with your life?
Yeah. Especially once I stopped doing hard core and started making really bad pop rap. I had to start somewhere though (laughs). I’ve never really thought twice about thinking twice. This is all I’ve ever done. And luckily it’s worked. It’s always felt so good. It’s the only thing I’ve ever felt natural at. I’m not that great at video games. I’m not that great at fucking school, all the cliche shit that everybody says.
Knowing what you know now, what would you tell that younger self?
Don’t get those tattoos on your right arm (laughs). Save that real estate because you’re going to want some other shit some day. Maybe don’t get any of the tattoos so early. But 17 year old me, looking at 26 year old me, with like neck tattoos and shit, would be like "yo this guy is so sick what the fuck.” I know that really surface level but I think the boxes you in. If I’m in the whitely tatted lane, then okay. I did it to myself. Other than that, just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s working.
Are you familiar with the word synesthesia?
It’s basically a condition, although I don’t know why they call it that cause it almost gives it a bad connotation. But, Lorde has it, Frank Ocean, few other artists. Basically, you can taste, smell, see colors, in ways other people can’t. It’s amazing.
Me and my team talk about that all time time. We try to relate things to colors when it comes to Neighbourhood music and my own music. We try and connect songs to seasons. Some songs always seem to fit with certain seasons. Day or night. That’s a big one.
Very true. I have music I only listen to at night time. Or when the sun isn’t shining.
That’s the struggle of being asked to play a festival, when you make night music, but they give you the noon slot. How do you like the sun, yo? Yeah, this dark ass song is going to sound great while this bright ass sun is turning my pasty skin bright red.
What color would you say your music is?
I feel like I have to just say rainbow because it has to be the opposite of rainbow because The Neighbourhood has always done the black and white thing. But I don’t know. I really do like yellow. I think yellow is a really cool color. And it doesn’t even have to be bright yellow. Just a nice warm yellow that kinda has some warmth to it.
I’m not going to ask you who your musical inspirations are cause I think that shit is corny as fuck but I am curious where do you draw inspiration from? Are you the kind of dude who has a movie playing on silent in the studio at all times?
No. I’m terrible at watching movies. I need to start watching more. I just started on Apocalypse Now.
Started. Didn’t finish?
Not yet. I’m about half-way through. It's a slow process for me. But inspiration… It’s funny cause I do like Spongebob (laughs) but I feel like a sponge. I just absorb a lot of shit around me. Sometimes I can’t even pinpoint it. It’s just like shit that’s coming at me. Between the different styles and sounds of music that I like and what’s fucking constantly stewing in my head. I just feel like I can do all these different types of music, so I need to do it. And sometimes I fail. And sometimes I think, from what I’ve seen from the internet and from what fans tell me, I think I nail it sometimes. With this project especially, the title alone, just using &. Calling it that left it open to anything. Cause you can’t just have that and nothing else. There has to be something before and something after and you know that. So that alone it’s just like, I’m a sucker for that kind of shit. I just love hooks. I want everything to be a hook. A photo, to a fucking pair of shoes, the title of something, hooks only. I did a book two years ago I called that. It’s a collection of photos I took with my friend, ended up turning it into a book. I’ve always called that book the Bible of Jesse. In that book, there’s no words. All pictures. Just me wearing a whole bunch of shit. It’s all over the place. But that’s how I felt. That’s who I am. I think a lot of people are like that. Especially young people. With the internet how are you just gonna be one thing in this shit?
You have to do everything. It’s the norm now.
You have to. Remember when Drake came out. And he was singing and rapping? People were confused. But now? You can’t not do that (laughs). It’s all that. Which is great. It’s fucking incredible. I feel like now more than ever music is ready for me. You know what I mean? And I’m ready for it. I don’t feel old, I just feel grown enough to just be like, oh yeah I can do all this shit. I’ve been doing this shit for years. It’s just about catching the right moment and knowing what to do. Last time I caught the moment I didn’t know how to hold onto it. I never know how it’s gonna work anymore. I never know what song is going to work. You said you love Barbie and Ken. I was terrified to put the song out because it’s so, so opposite to the character of Jesse Rutherford from The Neighbourhood is known for.
Well, that’s what a solo project should do, innit? Show that other side?
I think so. I hope so.