Toronto, ON alt indie-rock band, The Neighbourhood Watch, are a young and exciting four-piece prospect that have been busily honing their craft within the Canadian music scene. From their self-proclaimed riding of beginners’ luck during their 2017 debut release, “Community Protected,” through to grappling with the production process when recording their 2019 follow up, “Goodbye Childhood,” you can hear a sound gradually unfolding, developing, and expanding. It is apt, therefore, that the latest step in their musical evolution, with this latest single, “Focus Up,” tackles the notion and complexity of growth itself. “The song’s about how it can be hard to keep friendships intact as you grow up and need to make selfish decisions more often,” explains Tristan Surman (vocals/rhythm guitars). “We make music about growing up. With Focus Up, we learned that age can make someone ruthless.”
Recognising and writing about the struggle of following your own path, with the associated harshness of letting people go, whilst simultaneously desperately wanting (in least in part) to hold on strikes me as an inspired angle from which to put pen to paper. I find the concept emancipating, but there’s also an inherent pervading underlying sadness, a duality that in itself is surely indicative of a burgeoning song-writing maturity: “And I know that it’s hard for you darling / So focus up, oh darling focus up / And I know that it’s scary / But dear that’s growing up, oh that’s just growing up / And you’re so helpless and I’m just focused.”
Sonically, the introduction of horns towards the end of the track might also indicate future loftier ambitions of creating within ever more diverse wider expansive soundscapes. Yet today, what is striking is how Tristan, together with fellow band-mates Ethan Surman (lead guitar/vocals), Tyler Moretti (piano), Thom Elgie (bass), and Wyeth Robertson (drums/guitar) have moulded and solidified themselves into a tight musical unit. It’s also collective testimony that they don’t sound derivative or appear to replicate their influences, but stand within their own identity, producing music that mirrors where they find themselves as people at this given point. In short, it sounds remarkably grounded, devoid of ego, and above all else, honest.
The band seek to assure us all that “Focus Up” is a great listen whilst walking and biking through Montreal on a grey day. This may well be the case, but the track is capable of inhabiting almost any moods or settings. The trajectory is assuredly upwards and onwards, but there’s also enough here right now to make you want to stop, listen, sit up, and take notice. Luckily for us, that’s not a struggle we have to grapple with, but rather an experience to be savoured not only today, but hopefully tomorrow and beyond as well. I am here, in the moment, and I’m staying tuned in.
This track provides a taste of new music from their forthcoming album, “Lost in Bloom,” one that promises to explore similar themes surrounding the transitions between youth and early adulthood. I cannot wait for more of these right-of-passage sentiments, which, per the band, shall, “abandon arrogance, resenting the people we loved, being scared of growing up.”