On the morning of Jan. 31, a group of guys in grey beanies gathered around a computer screen from the comfort of their own homes, drinking coffee, adjusting their headphones, and cheerily chatting away. Meet The Neighbourhood Watch, a Toronto-based band consisting of pianist Tyler Moretti, drummer Wyeth Robertson, and brothers guitarist Ethan and vocalist Tristan Surman, U3 Arts. Their excitement was palpable. On Feb. 4, their latest album Lost in Bloom—a two-year writing endeavour—was released.
The band, which has now amassed 75,000 monthly listeners on Spotify and is featured on the “Indie All Stars” playlist alongside the likes of Tame Impala and Glass Animals, started as an accident in a basement. All of the band members attended the same Toronto high school, and, through a set of mutual connections, formed The Neighbourhood Watch. Luckily, attending the same arts school exposed them to an assortment of different musical styles.
“We [were] surrounded by a bunch of musicians all the time [and] there was just a unique style that funneled through that school,” Moretti said. “We were always surrounded by a very […] diverse set of music tastes [that were] very simple but artistic in a lyrical sense.”
In their creative classrooms, the future musicians were equipped with the artistic storytelling tools they needed to compose engaging musical pieces.
“Wyeth, Ethan, and I, we were all studying film there and Tyler studied drama [….] We were [all] coming from backgrounds where we were [essentially studying] how to tell stories. [And] I think that that’s always been one of the things that I like most about our music, is that you could kind of say that it’s cinematic […] and I think that our studying of film [was] kind of an impetus for that,” Tristan Surman said.
Since forming in 2017, one of their greatest challenges has been developing an authentic sound. On their debut album, Community Protected, the quartet classified their music as predominantly folksy, taking inspiration from The Lumineers and The Head and The Heart. Experimenting more in their sophomore record, the group joked that they threw the kitchen sink in their four-month production time, ultimately feeling that this produced a less cohesive set of tracks in Goodbye Childhood (2019).
In their newest album, Lost in Bloom, it seems that the band has finally bloomed into its sound. Taking musical cues from The Beatles, Kodaline, Alabama Shakes, Arcade Fire, and Cage the Elephant, Lost in Bloom is a beautiful amalgamation of tender folk, lively rock, and kitchen-dancing, head-bopping indie. Particularly outstanding is the Great-Caesar-esque tour-de-force of “20 Year Dream,” the melancholic delicacy of “Hailey,” and the tenderhearted wisdom of “Focus Up.”
Written over the span of two years, the band admitted that working on Bloom during COVID-19 has proved to be difficult, but the pandemic also encouraged them to explore their central theme of emotional and interpersonal maturity. Describing the album as being both a break-up and a coming-of-age record, main songwriter of the band Tristan Surman said that the heart of the album revolves around the idea of growing up.
“If you were to put all of our albums in sequence, every single one is […] about a different aspect of growing up,” Tristan Surman said. “So, one of the core themes I think for this record is asking, ‘As we grow up, as we become more mature and responsible people, what is our responsibility to the people that we love? [….] How do we create enough space for those people to just be themselves and never let our emotions or our personalities stop them from fully flourishing? [….] I think a lot of what this album is about is a moment of realization that growing up should be less about ambition, and more about kindness.”