How many bands make it through a four-album contract and still have a bright future? It’s an impossible question to answer, but let’s be generous and say not many. Yet here stand The Neighbourhood, seven years and four albums after “Sweater Weather” was overplayed on radio stations across the country. The band’s lineup—Jesse Rutherford, Zach Abels, Jeremy Freedman, Mikey Margott, and Brandon Fried—has remained mostly unchanged, another triumph over ego rarely seen in the modern music industry. With the release of Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones in September, the band’s initial contract with Columbia is up. What was at times a dream has become a choice: Will the band be better off going it alone?

“It's not totally over,” Jesse is quick to clarify over the phone. “In a way, it's this weird moment where it's actually going the best that it went the whole time. So of course it's like, ‘Now we're going to leave? Hmm.’"

If they’d only release a dud—it might make the decision easier. But the band keeps elaborating on their original concept. This time, frontman Jesse has been supplanted with the silvery Chip Chrome, an ambiguously alien presence with a reflective outer layer. 

The nod to Bowie aside, it’s a response to the artist’s fractured relationship with his digital persona. Jesse stopped posting for most of the past year, but at the time of our conversation, “I'm high on it again,” he says. “I got hooked...but that's part of why Chip exists at all, because I feel like I need to be there and I want to be seen so bad that I'm going to make myself into this thing, so you'll have to fucking look.”

California is having a bad air day when we get on the phone. It’s been this way for a few days—smoke and smog wafting into unmasked nostrils miles away. We’re both in Los Angeles, but it’s my first fire season. Jesse grew up in neighboring Newbury Park. He echoes something that’s become a refrain: the intensity, frequency, and extent of these fires keeps climbing.

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