‘WE LOVE making records... I’m just happy to be able to play music and do what we do. It’s an accomplishment in itself,’ says Real Estate co-founder and bass player Alex Bleeker (2nd from right), seen here with the rest of the band..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
In this day and age of downloads, samples and pop hits entirely created with computer wizardry, has the idea of a rock band playing real instruments with real emotion become obsolete? The answer is not as long as bands like young American buzz band Real Estate keep sprouting to carry on the rock tradition.
What sets Real Estate apart from scores of other bearded, cerebral indie bands dotting the US is their heart. It’s easy to fall in love with their earnest, jangly guitar sound that derives from the 1980s heyday of college radio driven by the likes of early REM and The Feelies.
Formed in 2009 by a group of Ridgewood, New Jersey high school friends after they had all spent a few years in college and with other bands, Real Estate’s three albums, especially their latest – 2014’s Atlas – encompass both a driving postpunk musical ethos and a sunnier, psychedelic ‘60s vibe. In fact, the band just covered The Grateful Dead’s “Here Comes Sunshine” for the Day of the Dead, a humongous charity compilation featuring current top artists performing the tunes of the venerable hippie heroes.
The classic rock of the past is an important element of the band’s outlook, but the idea of rock ‘n’ roll stardom is becoming extinct, Real Estate’s co-founder, bass player Alex Bleeker, told The Jerusalem Post in a recent phone interview ahead of the band’s debut show in Israel tonight at the Barby Club in Tel Aviv.
Bemoaning the recent losses of David Bowie and Prince, the 29-year-old Bleeker acknowledged that iconic figures like them may not arise again, but surmised that it might not be a negative development.
“Some might argue that my generation already has produced visionaries like them, and others might argue that you can’t really tell – those guys withstood the tests of time so we see them as visionaries now,” said Bleeker, who attended Bennington College in Vermont. “But when you see them in a contemporary moment, it’s hard to identify what’s going on.It’s easier to look back at them with an historical eye.”
“Our generation is totally different – there’s a whole different structure and way of producing music.
Almost anyone can do it and put it out in the world and make it available for people to listen to. We’re not subject to the same sort of idolatry that’s created by putting forth these massive radio hit artists. That may be why you don’t see the same kind of huge rock star worship.
“Obviously, these guys are great musicians, but in a way, I think it’s overwhelmingly positive that we don’t have those types of figures anymore. Now, it’s more of an open conversation.”
Bleeker’s conversation with his bandmates – Martin Courtney, IV (vocals, guitar), Matt Mondanile (guitar), Jackson Pollis (drums) and Matt Kallman (keyboards) – began out of mutual love of the music their parents turned them on to – like The Beatles and Pink Floyd.
But the idea of seriously forming a band and dedicating their careers to music was one that was acquired gradually.
“We had all finished college, and were living at home with our parents, so there was no immediate pressure to get out there and find traditional jobs,” said Bleeker. “Not knowing what to do with our lives, we figured ‘let’s start a band.’” “We had all started countless bands over the years, but this time, because we were searching for something to do with our lives, we all had a little more ambition and drive to make something out of it. Our lead singer [Courtney] was writing songs that really resonated with us and we thought we could get behind.”
They discovered that other people could also get behind their songs, with Atlas reaching #34 on Billboard’s Album Charts and the band appearing on David Letterman and other late night venues. However, reflecting another change in the music industry landscape from the era they emulate, the lack of revenue from recorded music meant that Real Estate has focused on the bread and butter of their live show throughout their career.
“We love making records, but today represents a different reality selling music,” said Bleeker.
“That doesn’t really bother me though, because I’m from a different generation that never made money selling records. It’s not like I’m missing the glory days of selling millions of albums.
I’m just happy to be able to play music and do what we do. It’s an accomplishment in itself.”