Real Estate came together in the shadow of New York City at the tail end of the Aughts. Like many of their Generation Y peers, the four musicians—Martin Courtney (vocals/guitar), Matthew Mondanile (drums), Etienne Pierre Duguay (guitar) and Alex Bleeker (bass guitar)—came of age in the digital iPod era where genre lines blurred both on and off the stage. So it makes sense that when the four musicians organized as Real Estate in 2008, the twenty-somethings looked to both the indie noise rock underground and the jamband scene for inspiration. Thanks to the slightly fuzzy indie pop songs on the band’s self-titled debut and an open ended residency at underground New York promoter Todd P’s various venues, the group has attracted a national following in under two years. Below, Courtney and Bleeker discuss their roots in suburban New Jersey, future recording projects and how Mondanile went from listening to Phish’s Farmhouse to living in Todd P’s Market Hotel in just a few short years.
Though Real Estate has only been around for two years, your roots as a band go much deeper. When did you first start playing together?
MC: Well, me Matthew Mondanile and Alex Bleeker all went to high school together so we’ve known each other forever. We’ve listened to all the same people since we were 15 or something. Then we all went to different colleges and played in different bands. Real Estate started in the summer of 2008 after we all graduated from college. We all moved back to the same area. I was living on the West Coast and Alex and Matt were living up in New England. We all moved back to the same area and started a band because that’s what we’ve always done. I had a bunch of songs that I had written.
At the time, we were listening to a lot of Grateful Dead, and a lot of soft rock like Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac. That was part of the whole idea originally—to be influenced by cheesier ‘70s music and sort of bring it up to date. I dunno if we really achieved that, but it was definitely one of the original things we were thinking about.
AB: Yeah, we’ve been playing in bands together basically for ten years. We all went to these hippie schools that were really similar. I went to Bennington and Matt went to Hampshire. Martin went to Evergreen out on the West Coast. They all have this sort of variation on a theme of super small, really liberal arts colleges. So we had that weird connect going on when we were apart.
The tracks on your self-titled debut album were written over an extended period of time and many were actually released in other forms. How many of the songs off Real Estate had previously been released?
MC:: Almost all of it. We released three singles leading up to the album, and pretty much everything that was on those singles was on the album. Then we did an EP, which was self-released. We made like a hundred of those. So for people that already knew about us, when our album came out, they were like, “Alright, we’ve already heard this stuff.” But the idea was for more people to hear it.
Really those were the songs that we had and that we had been playing. We didn’t really omit that much. But I spent a lot of time making sure the sequencing of the album, was right. A lot of the songs are in the same key, and the entire “A side” of the album is all in the key of D. Every single song—that was definitely on purpose.
We ended up using different recordings that we recorded over the course of the year at different places. If we had recorded it all at one time, the second half of the album would have ended up being something like the second half of Abbey Road. I had this idea one day to bring it as close to that as I could and to make the songs fade out and flow together. There were a lot of things I tried to do to make them flow together. For me, all I could hear was a ramshackle assortment of songs we had recorded over the year. For other people they obviously hear it differently because they’re hearing it for the first time. But for me, all I could hear was something that didn’t sound right, it sounded forced. I tried really hard to make sure it went together well.