Real Estate’s Alex Bleeker chronicles the band’s wavy ride to its sophomore effort
In the music video for “It’s Real”—the dreamy synth and bass-driven tune off of Real Estate’s October 2011 release, Days—lead singer/guitarist and songwriter, Martin Courtney, is in the kitchen playing cards with guitarist Matt Mondanile. Meanwhile, in the living room, bassist Alex Bleeker pieces together a puzzle and Jonah Maurer (keyboard/guitar) reads a magazine. This laid-back opening scene is narrated by anxiety-filled lyrics: “I don’t know who’s behind the wheel/ Sometimes, I feel like I don’t know the deal.”
Though this unsure sentiment is expressed in a comic and endearing manner—as the band (minus drummer Jackson Pollis), continues to spend the sunny afternoon lounging around the house and jamming alongside adorable dogs—it also defines the early days of Real Estate.
“We were at home and didn’t know what to do with our lives,” Bleeker says, remembering the feeling of uncertainty that followed college graduation. “Martin’s parents own a real estate agency,” Bleeker explains. “He was getting his realtor’s license as a fallback plan.”
Both Bleeker and Mondanile, who grew up with Courtney in Ridgewood, N. J., before relocating to Brooklyn, N.Y., considered jumping on the real estate bandwagon, too. However, “This is better,” Bleeker says, referring to the music career he and his friends eventually chose.
Real Estate’s self-titled debut, released in November 2009, was the band’s first fruitful venture. It was on that record that the band defined it’s signature sound: ethereal, instrumental rock songs—situated in the suburbs, the beach, or Atlantic City—tinged with uneasiness, at least whenever vocals come into play.
Real Estate’s subsequent 10-track album, Days, is of the same melodious and pensive nature, evident from the start with “Easy,” and on “Wonder Years,” which was sung and written by Bleeker. Inspired by bassists John McVie (Fleetwood Mac), Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads), Mike Gordon (Phish), and The Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh, Bleeker came up with the contagious bassline during a soundcheck, but his interest in writing dates back to his college days.
“I wrote a lot of experimental fiction in college … somewhere between fiction and poetry,” says Bleeker. Keep an eye out for an original piece written by Bleeker as well as an unreleased Real Estate song, called “In My Car,” which will be featured in Smugglers Way, a rare FlexiDisc zine available on Record Store Day (April 21).
Unlike their first album, Days can be pensive to the point of being demoralizing—in recent years, the band has spent a large chunk of time on the road, and as a result, touring woes have made their way into Real Estate’s lyrics.
“You play along to songs written for you/ but you’re all out of tune,” Courtney sings on track five, “Out of Tune.” It’s as if the instruments themselves are venting too, considering the buoyant and hopeful tone emitted from the skilful strumming of electric guitars and bass. Then on the more dismal track “Younger Than Yesterday,” Bleeker’s bluesy bass lines pair with the drone of synth, as Courtney mourns: “If it takes all summer long/ just to write one simple song/ there’s too much to focus on/ clearly there is something wrong.”
When it came to selecting the title for Real Estate’s sophomore effort, the band members experienced a much more light-hearted struggle. Mondanile had been reading “Marquee Moon” by Bryan Waterman, part of the 33 1/3 book series about music albums. Bleeker paraphrases the quotation from the book: “If you listen to the song ‘Days’ on Television’s second album, you’ll hear the blueprint for modern indie rock.”
One listen to Television’s “Days,” and the influence on Real Estate is obvious. The lyrics, especially “days, be more than all we have,” echo an unavoidable truth, as Real Estate makes its way from Coachella to Santa Cruz for one night only.
Real Estate plays at 8:30 p.m. Monday, April 23, at The Catalyst Atrium, 1011 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz. Tickets are $12/adv, $15/door. For more information, call 423-1338.