I spend a lot of time in this column talking about what’s wrong with Humboldt County. I write about what’s wrong with Humboldt County, because that’s where we should focus our attention, but today I want to tell you about something really cool going on around here that you ought to know about: Neighbors. Not my neighbors, or your neighbors, or even The Neighbors, as I have been informed, but Neighbors.
Neighbors are a really tight little band in Arcata playing some remarkably original music. They’ve been playing together since they were teenagers, and have incubated their own unique sound over almost two decades. Classically trained piano and organ player Peter Lisle dreams up these delightfully witty, complex, sophisticated, unpretentious psuedo-pop songs, which he also sings. The rhythm section of Dan Boburg on drums and Sierra Martin on bass bring this extremely challenging material to life and makes it dance.
Neighbors don’t rely on any of the latest high-tech gadgets to make their high-energy pop music — instead they turn strong composition, intelligent lyrics and old fashioned musicianship into something new and different that you really should check out. Musically, they remind me of Frank Zappa’s Orchestral Favorites-Studio Tan phase. Peter’s vocals reminds me of They Might Be Giants, only more so. Neighbors are not a bar band, and they don’t make background music. Their music demands to be listened to and deserves your full attention. I’m afraid I don’t hear this kind of creativity in music nearly often enough, and I think people should listen to Neighbors, just to be reminded of what human beings are capable of when they work together.
Peter writes charmingly accessible lyrics, often about literary themes. “Enkidu Must Die” is Peter’s musical interpretation of the Epic of Gilgamesh. The “Winded Mare” recounts a famous scene in Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and “Earth Abides” is based on a science fiction book of the same name. Peter has also written some more personal songs. “Helicopter” tells the story of Peter’s challenging love affair with the aircraft of his dreams, and “Mountain Road” tells the true story of a camping trip too harrowing to remember, with consequences too severe to forget.
I heard Neighbors play live at the Bird Ally X appreciation benefit last December, and they blew me away, so I arranged to interview them for my occasional KMUD radio series, The Adventurous Ear. During the interview, Peter told me the story of what happened on that fateful camping trip in the Trinity Alps, and what he told me made my jaw drop. I’d tell about it, but you really should hear it in Peter’s own words, and you should hear the song he wrote about it. You’ll have a chance to do that, this Thursday, March 23 at 5 p.m. when KMUD will air a brand new edition of The Adventurous Ear featuring: Neighbors. You can listen live at 5pm on Thursday, or anytime thereafter on the archive, at www.kmud.org
The show also features most of the music from Neighbors eponymous 10” red vinyl record, which you can find at People’s Records in Arcata. It’s the best new record I’ve heard in quite a while, and I recommend it to everyone. I know that not everyone will like it, but I recommend it to those people even more. Take the time to appreciate what these young men have done. It’ll make you feel better about being human.