There are few bands that capture the woozy, hazy transendence of those late summer nights, stretched beyond consideration and tinted with the good vibes of which Brian Wilson would approve. Since 2009, Martin Courtney alongside his fellow band members of Real Estate have been providing us with records encapsulating those mid-summer flourescents of hazy wishful thoughts.
However while a plethora of other low-fi bands similarly capture these nebulous nuggets of escapism, the New Jersey trio have stood at the forefront for many years now. And it’s apparent from speaking to Courtney that this leading inclination has been at the heart of the band since their inception in the suburbs of Ridgewood, New Jersey; “There wasn’t much of a scene that we were aware of as we were growing up” he says “We would see back yard shows and stuff and at a certain point that kind of inspired us to start our own bands. But once we did that I feel like a scene kind of sprouted up around us by virtue of the fact that we all wanted to start our own bands.
With a plethora of bands forming among Courtney’s friends an emerging music scene soon became apparent. ‘We discovered this town next to us where there were kids making music and we kind of merged our scenes together. So there was actually a pretty good vibrant scene just based around ourselves and our friends making music.”
Those early days, while providing a “good learning experience” to the budding musicians, allowed for the creation of Real Estate’s self-titled debut and planted the seed for their musical trajectory of success thus far. However as the years have passed, while the softened vocals and American Apparel attire have survived, these suburban youngsters have matured and stepped into the emotions of the here and now.
While Courtney admits each record has been an accurate reflection of their lives at that time, it’s obvious that this year’s Atlas looks at life from a new perspective “On the first record it was definitely nostalgia, but it was also reflecting on the fact I was living in the town I grew up in after I had gone away for a couple of years. The feeling of reflecting on your surroundings. I feel like there’s a lot of detached, ironic view-points; talking about the suburbs on the first record and then the second record romanticized it a little. And now on this third one I feel older” he considers “Definitely life changes and also just the fact this band has become a bigger part of my life and touring and everything, I’ve had a lot of experiences since the first record came out. Life changes and it shapes the art that you make.”
Reflecting on the band’s inception, Courtney cites the internet as being a powerful tool, without which their story may have been very different; “It’s definitely a good thing. It’s funny like we think about that a lot; if we were a band in the 90’s at the level that we are today, like in 1995 we would probably be making a lot more money but also I don’t think we would have gotten to this point because the internet definitely helped us get attention but at the same time, like the whole music industry really, it’s cut into the profit margin. We have never known anything else so it’s no problem for us!”
Three years stood between their second and third records, a dangerous length of time for a band to decide to disappear for. Something which obviously played upon Courtney’s mind during that time; “By the time the record was done I was itching to get it out because I felt every passing day was another day that people were forgetting about us” he admits. “Especially because I could see tastes changing and Pitchfork or whatever websites were covering different styles of music. I’m generally quite paranoid about things like that. I think that being in a band is definitely an exercise in worrying that you’re constantly going to lose your audience and people’s tastes are going to move on and people aren’t going to care about you the next time you make a record; so yeah I was definitely thinking about that a lot.”
Yet unsurprisingly, the transient nature of ‘Atlas’ reignited the unbound love Real Estate fans have for their favourite indie veterans. The intricacies of the album are vivid at points and at others they sway and swell in a meshwork of enriched waves of perfectly entwined guitar and vocal. These deceptively unobtrusive sounds stir a cauldron of memories and emotions in the listener. Yet, while the finished piece breezes through with sickening nonchalance it’s clear Courtney struggled at times during the creative process;
“Lyrics are definitely important, you know I want them to be good and something I can be proud of. But music comes more naturally and it’s easier, at least personally” he confides. “I’m constantly writing music and then I’m like ‘Oh God, I have to finish all of these lyrics!’ It’s hard for me, I fret about it because I want them to be good. It takes a lot to sit down and be alone and focused and in the right mental state to come up with something that I can be happy with. So, yeah they’re important but just harder.”
It may not be the case that Courtney is a perfectionist but his measured tones and thoughtful pauses throughout his conversation with Otwo make it clear Real Estate are the band who create and deliver at their own relaxed pace. “As much as we have a great time playing shows every night, at this point we’re looking forward to the end of this touring cycle so we can get started on the next thing. I have something I want to finish and I want to start writing the next Real Estate record. It’s not like we’re going to stop, we’ll just go away for a little bit.”
Real Estate play Dublin’s Academy on October 22nd