The Nextdoor Neighbors are a new, fun, lovely little band from Olympia that first made a name for itself when it finished second in the EMP’s Sound Off! competition earlier this year. Made up of two friends, Kathy Cote and Jessie Hill (the former provides the melodies and the latter the lyrics and harmonies), The Nextdoor Neighbors sound like a band that should, in a just world, find a home on K Records.
Saturday night was the duo’s CD release party for their debut album Magic Vs. the Machine (Bicycle Records) at the Vera Project, with the most opportune word in this sentence being “party.” The band was perfectly lovely, striking a balance between being ready for their big night and being overwhelmed by it. The room at Vera was packed with teenagers, and you could guess most were friends. Between songs, Kathy and Jessie tried to thank everyone who showed up and it felt like an Academy Awards acceptance speech during every break: rushed for time and afraid that someone would be left out and not thanked (but they did control when the music started). I think Cote wanted to delay the start of the set (from 8:45) by a few minutes so that her brother could make it, who was driving up from Vancouver, WA to be there. He eventually showed up about 10 minutes into the set.
There was a nervous energy throughout, even marred by technical problems at times, including Cote breaking a friend’s drum from hitting it too hard. If you didn’t know where The Nextdoor Neighbors were from, Olympia would be a good (and correct) first guess. They sound like what a younger, teenage version of The Blow might sound and perform like (if gender was a non-issue, I presume – and with apologies to Jona Bechtolt). Hill sings lightly over Cote’s lo-fi beats. It is a perfect sound for dancing in your bedroom – and that was how everyone in the crowd (and on stage) treated the evening. Vera was about 3/4s full and for a lot of songs (especially their ode to Olympia, “Town Full of Mannequins”) got the very young crowd to move. Thematically, The Nextdoor Neighbors and The Blow’s Khaela Maricich seem to take inspiration from themes beyond similar subjects. One Nextdoor Neighbors song, they said, was based on the sci-fi classic The Forbidden Planet and other-worldly themes run through Maricich’s songs like “The Big U” and “The Moon is There, I am Here.”
Throughout the night The Nextdoor Neighbors grew more confident – you could tell by the high-five Hill and Cote gave each other about 45 minutes into their set. They didn’t want to cede the stage and kept going for another 20. Then, after their set was over, they premiered the video to the title track off their record in the lobby of Vera.
The band who won Sound Off! this year was New Faces – a very polished pop/rock band from Port Townsend. New Faces are overtly derivative of their influences (The Strokes, Interpol, Franz Ferdinand) but overcome that by having a commanding stage presence that masks it. The Nextdoor Neighbors are the antithesis of that and guess which is more fun to watch. They bring to mind the loveliest ladies of K Records (Mirah and Khaela Maricich) not because they are cribbing the bedroom, electronic folk-pop sound that those women are famous for but because they’re not that dissimilar overall. The Nextdoor Neighbors are crafting a sound for themselves and finding their comfort zone on stage. We’re just fortunate they’re sharing what they come up with.