Q&A: Real Estate On Growing Up Together, Moving Away From Each Other, & Superpowers
Over the last few years, Real Estate have solidified their position as the beloved jangle-rockers once from New Jersey, now several albums deep into a career of well-crafted music full of chiming guitars and daydream melodies. On Friday, they’ll return with their fourth album, In Mind — it follows 2014’s Atlas and the subsequent departure of founding member Matt Mondanile, so this is our first glimpse of the new lineup featuring frontman/guitarist Martin Courtney, bassist Alex Bleeker, guitarist Julian Lynch, drummer Jackson Pollis, and keyboardist Matt Kallman. While they were in Austin for SXSW, the band played one of Stereogum’s official showcases at the Mazda Studio at Empire Garage, and we caught up with them to talk new music and the changes within the band over the years.
STEREOGUM: Though your other records had gotten their fair share of acclaim, Atlas seemed to be a bigger deal for you guys. Was there any pressure to follow that up?
BLEEKER: It felt more like that to me after Days, honestly. The difference in what the band felt like with the first record and Days was pretty significant. We weren’t doing this kind of thing on the first record at all, interviews…on Days, we played festivals and stuff. It felt like Days was a very well-received album and then it was like, “Oh, what’s going to happen with Atlas?” Now, four albums deep…I’m thankfully not thinking very hard about that thing. It’s natural and human to wonder if people are going to like it, but it was more intense on the last record.
STEREOGUM: Julian, Alex, and Martin — you guys all grew up together. Having that background and now being four albums deep, is it weird to look back and think about where this all wound up?
BLEEKER: I think it’s cool!
COURTNEY: Nah, it sucks! [laughs]
BLEEKER: It’s the only thing I’ve ever known.
COURTNEY: It’s really hard to wrap your head around. It’s crazy enough that we’ve been doing this and Julian’s had his solo career which was awesome. It’s crazy to think that like, Titus Andronicus are people we grew up with, people I played in bands with in high school. There’s this whole scene of people that are still doing shit. That, to me, is really exciting and harder to explain than us being tight friends and still doing stuff together.
LYNCH: It’s remarkable to me that some of these cities, like Austin — the last time I was in Austin was on tour was with Bleeker like, 10 years ago.
COURTNEY: We were playing Julian’s music.
LYNCH: That was my last time in Austin.
STEREOGUM: And this is your grand return, SXSW 2017, playing some Interactive showcases.
LYNCH: The city welcomes me back.
STEREOGUM: Now that you guys all live in different places, do you still feel those ties to that Jersey scene?
COURTNEY: Not in the sense of…I don’t feel part of a scene or anything.
BLEEKER: We’re bound to those bands by shared experience. We had very formative musical experiences with a lot of those other people, as Jackson and Matt did in their respective cities. We were teenagers putting on shows in our parents’ basements and backyards. We met Julian at a show in Martin’s backyard. That common music scene at a young age…that’s what binds us to those bands. We see them around, walking around festivals, and we’ve known them a long time.
STEREOGUM: Tell me where the name of the new album came from.
COURTNEY: Jackson came up with it. We have a group text, as I’m sure every band does these days. We had probably fifty album names, getting progressively dumber, but we did have a lot of really good ideas getting thrown around. I really liked In Time. It sounded like time travel. [laughs] There’s some time elements in the lyrics. And then Jackson said In Mind and we thought that sounded cool, like a classic album name: Real Estate In Mind.
BLEEKER: I like to think of it as a complete sentence: I’ve got “Real Estate in mind.”
COURTNEY: We thought it sounded like a nice name for an album.
BLEEKER: That’s a classic Real Estate answer there. [laughs]
COURTNEY: “It sounded good to us!”
STEREOGUM: This was the first album without Matt Mondanile.
COURTNEY: I had been writing songs but it was before we got together as a group to start working on this.
STEREOGUM: Was there much of an adjustment there?
BLEEKER: It was good. We decided to part ways because we found it difficult to work together. We were really psyched about bringing Julian in. It was nice to have somebody else and have things flow really smoothly. It solved a lot of problems, frankly.
COURTNEY: It didn’t feel like that much of an adjustment, because it was Julian.
BLEEKER: Martin and Julian and I were all in a band together in high school.
COURTNEY: Julian played on Atlas, too. It didn’t feel like a thing, really.
STEREOGUM: You guys live in various places around the country. Does that affect how you guys work now?
COURTNEY: I send demos around, and then we got together for a few weeks in the town that I live and basically worked the record out.
BLEEKER: It was cool, we had this concentrated period. When we were all living in New York, it was obviously awesome, but it was piecemeal or whatever. But this way, we rented a place down the street from Martin’s, woke up every morning and got coffee, and basically took eight-hour days getting together and working out songs. We made some pretty hi-fi demos before we even went into the studio.
STEREOGUM: Were there different themes or anything you guys were thinking about with this one?
POLLIS: When we were in the studio, the one thing we all kept saying was keep it…childlike. We wanted it to sound like music when you were a kid. I wanted to play childishly.
COURTNEY: In my memory, that came from Cole, the producer. He was like, “When I think of your band, I think of you guys jamming together in your parents’ basement. Like a kid. Be kids.” We were joking around about it but…the album really does feel playful and looser than, at least, Atlas, which felt like we were trying to make this gem.
BLEEKER: I was thinking about why he kept saying that, and maybe what he sees is the core relatable, interesting thing about this band — kind of like your leading questions in this interview — like, “What’s the story here? You guys have known each other for a long time.” I think that’s what he saw as appealing about this band, the way we play together in this raw garage show kind of way even though we were in this fancy studio in LA.
COURTNEY: It came through in a lot of weird ideas or sounds we wouldn’t have used on previous records, especially with Matt’s keys. If anyone had an idea, it pretty much made the record, and I feel like all our ideas just worked really well together.
STEREOGUM: So I had one other random question –
COURTNEY: Superpower? This guy’s got an answer. [gesturing at Bleeker]
BLEEKER: Is that one of them?
STEREOGUM: Sure –
STEREOGUM: Why tele — wait, what? Telekinesis is the right answer, man.
BLEEKER: But if I could go home and sleep in my bed after this show tonight, that’s what I’m talking about.
LYNCH: That’s so trivial.
STEREOGUM: Yeah man your superpower choice is to go home and go to bed.
BLEEKER: I don’t want to control other people! That’s fucked up and morally questionable. I don’t know what to do with that. Whenever I was having a relationship or friendship with someone I’d be wondering if it was the telekinesis at play.
LYNCH: I’d go straight for the godlike power.
BLEEKER: Was that your last question? Superpowers?
BLEEKER: [laughs] Well, you got an answer anyway. You’re welcome.