Real Estate’s Wonder Years
As you mentioned before, in addition to Real Estate there are a number of projects in your extended family like Ducktails and Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. Do you write for a specific project at this point?
Martin: I think that’s a better question for Matt and Alex because Real Estate is my outlet. It is hard for me to write for a specific genre. Sometimes I will write a three-minute punk song and I’ll think it might make for a cool side-project that is nothing like Real Estate. But I don’t really have the ability to write a different style. This is my style and the new album reflects that. Even Bleeker’s song on the new album [“Wonder Years”] is a Bleeker-Real Estate song.
Matt: I do not write for a specific project. It is really hard to be like, “Ok I am going to write a song for this band now.” Sometimes I try to do this but it is almost impossible. Everything happens a little bit more naturally, for example “Art Vandelay” was a song I wrote and recorded. We played the song in Real Estate a lot on tour and then I used the recording on the last Ducktails album. Things like this happen all the time. “Atlantic City” first appeared on a tape I released called Parasailing in demo form and then I brought it to Real Estate and we recorded it.
Do you feel like you each have a defined role in the band?
Martin: I don’t feel like we really play roles to be honest besides the actual obvious roles like I write songs, and we play them and Matt plays guitar, and writes his parts and all that shit. At least in the beginning, we all helped out with everything. Matt helped us get shows and was the whole manager promoter guy. And Bleeker always been helpful. But honestly it’s not as cut and dry as that. We all do our own thing. Matt put together our Facebook page and is pretty big in the internet world.
Alex: That’s the thing that bands struggle with—people make it seem like the lead singer is the band, and we’re like, “Well, am I just your hired gun?” I definitely don’t feel just like Martin’s bass player. There are definitely better bass players than me in the world he could have in the band but we are a band. We’d definitely have a more straight Indie-pop sort of sound, like the Shins—stuff like that, which is great, but I think that’s definitely his main influence—like Yo La Tengo, and the Feelies. And I think Matt brings this sort of wafty, psychedelic, warm, relaxed, low-fi guitar sound. And I bring my own influences to it, too, so it is collaboration. It’s like taking Martin’s songs most of the time as the show and then fusing them with all of our personalities.
Martin: Somebody was asking about our guitar interplay, and I just feel like we understand each other’s styles pretty well and it is because we’ve known each other. Even if we played in bands together and all that stuff and we’ve also grown up listening to the same music, everything ever since it started to count—ever since I was a freshman in high school and started listening to music that I would actually still listen to, we were all sharing that, you know. Me and Matt and Alex always listened to kind of the same music so we have a lot of reference points that go back a really long ways. So yeah I mean I think that definitely helped for it to feel really comfortable right off the bat.
Alex, in addition to playing with Real Estate, you also perform as Alex Bleeker & the Freaks. That project’s lineup has changed a bit over the years but has included all the members of Real Estate at different points. How do you feel like that project relates to Real Estate?
Alex: I had this whole batch of songs sitting around. A bunch of the songs on the first Freaks record I’d written in college, but I never had a full band to play them with. It was always more of a side pursuit for me—I was really into theater and acting in college. The original Freaks band was Martin and Matt and our friend Julian on lead guitar. And I was like, “Hey, would you guys help me play these songs?” And it just turned into this really raucous, Crazy Horse thing—the songs finally took on the life that I had imagined them taking. That was about six months after Real Estate formed and we decided to make a record and sort of took it from there. I’m hoping to get a Freaks album out this year. I have a bunch of songs written and demoed out for a new album, but the Real Estate album was the focus until it was done.
Martin: The Freaks are a little jammier or a little more Jackson Browne ‘70s style, which sometimes we play into that a little bit like on “Out of Tune.” But the first song Alex wrote for Real Estate was “Wonder Years” off our new album. He came up with the bass line during a Real Estate sound check jam. We were like, “That was sick, let’s turn that into a song one day.” So that’s kind of how that song started. It really did start as a Real Estate thing. And with Matt, for whatever reason, all the songs he’s written that have ended up on a Real Estate album have been instrumental. He wrote “Kinder Blumenr” on our new album. He’s especially had added to our songs’ arrangements. When we started the band he said, “Let’s do your songs but make them sound like Pink Floyd or something and really spacey” and I was like, “Yeah that sounds awesome.” so I came back and started playing with him and Etienne. They moved in together in Bushwick and like I would go to their apartment a lot and like practice in Matt’s bedroom with practice amps and like a little kid drum set.
Alex: We’re trying hard not to make definitions, even though we do know that it will sort of be. I think Matt could definitely continue to be more of a creative force to whatever degree he wants in the future.
Woods has also become something of a brother band to Real Estate. They put out your first album on Woodsist, you have toured together and collaborated both on stage and in the studio. How has that relationship developed?
Matt: I met Jeremy Earl and Woods in Brattleboro, VT when they were on tour with Religious Knives. At least that’s when I first talked to them. I knew about Woodsist and was a fan of Woods in college. I think Jeremy became interested in my band Predator Vision… at the time I just started recording with Real Estate and thought it would be really cool to put that out with him. He became interested soon after that and we started putting out records through him. I put out a shit load of music as Ducktails before Real Estate began. I put my first tape out on my imaginary tape label “Future Sound Recordings” you can find some of those releases on the Tomentosa distribution website. I also released my first 7” on Breaking World Records, many tapes, cassettes, and vinyl followed.
Martin: Matt was the one who really pushed that since I didn’t know Jeremy personally and it was almost like he was this big label guy. We at first we were like, “does he even like us or does he just want to work with us because we got a Pitchfork review.” We thought about stupid shit like that. But it evolved into something much more personal and really great. I always loved bands on his label like Woods and Kurt Vile but I didn’t really see Real Estate fitting the Woods’ aesthetic. In a way I think we kind of represented a departure for him, and I was really glad that he was okay with working with us. We got along really well and played some shows together in New York and then we toured together in early 2010. We got along really well and became good friends.
Jeremy records like a lot of bands at his house—he recorded “Beach Comber” on our first album. So we worked with him pretty soon after Jeremy “signed” us. There was no contract. There was eventually but so he worked with us and he was the first person I kind of became friends with, so yeah, it’s kind of like we’re just happy to play with each other because I do think our audiences sort of overlap but also we bring different people to the table for each band. We just don’t ever want to lose that connection now that we are on Domino. I always wanna play their festival not only because it’s fun but because it’s cool to be able to be associated with that and all those bands are so awesome.
Given your close friendship, was it hard to leave Woodsist?
Martin: It was scary and weird. We all thought, “This is like a pretty different and big step for us, but at the same time it was like we’re not gonna say no to this.” As long as they’re not ripping us off, which they’re not. They’re fair, they’re an indie label, they’re not out there to fuck people over. Of course we want some more exposure, that’s what anybody wants. It is cool to think that this could be our career label. When we made the first record we were just hoping someone would hear it and it was a complete surprise that it got good reviews.
Do you plan to record again in the near future?
Martin: We are trying to write and record an EP post-album and have that be the first shit that Jackson plays on as a drummer. I can’t wait for the new stuff and have him on there and have him be- ause right now- I mean he’s definitely a permanent band member or whatever, like he’s full on in the band, but it’s not gonna feel real until we start putting some stuff out, you know, with him on it.