The music created by Real Estate is infectious company. Like an old friend who can disarm with a succinct, yet brilliant observation; it is both charmingly restrained and fiendishly astute. We spoke to Martin Courtney – the bands singer and guitarist – ahead of Real Estate’s performance at San Miguel Primavera Sound.
Martin Courtney, the singer and guitarist of Real Estate, grew up in Ridgewood; a wealthy New Jersey town about half an hour from Manhattan. He now makes glorious guitar-driven pop, alongside four of his childhood friends. These admittedly elementary details are in fact fundamental to the band, perhaps even its defining feature. Their friendship rings through the perfectly-poised melodic lines, weaving in and out of sync. Meanwhile, the carefree ease of childhood in suburbia is absorbed into their warm textures and rolling rhythms – as they loop, sigh, and exhale. Courtney recognises the significance of their friendship within the group, citing not only the importance of mutual reference points but also a kind of inherent understanding: “in terms of writing songs, they can understand the feel that I want for a song before I have to even really understand it myself”.
The music created by Real Estate is infectious company. Like an old friend who can disarm with a succinct, yet brilliant observation; it is both charmingly restrained and fiendishly astute. We spoke to Martin Courtney, ahead of Real Estate’s performance at Primavera Sound. His words are buoyed by laughs and pauses, his speech is peppered with “you knows” and he often seems to decide on his answer half way through making it. Yet, behind the laid-back lilt he is perceptive and intelligent. Much like his music, he is engaging company.
You received a lot of praise for your first LP and I assume because of that a lot of label interest. What led you to go with Domino? Do they hold a particular appeal to you?
Yeah, for us we were just really excited to even have that be a possibility that we would be on Domino. It’s a much bigger label – I guess – from our previous label, but also they’ve put out so much good music that we are all really big fans of: the older stuff that they put out in the 90s and then all the records that they are doing now. It was an honour to possibly be counted among all those other bands that we are big fans of.
Is there anyone specific that you can cite within their roster?
Yeah. Currently Cass McCombs, Animal Collective, Dirty Projectors … and then in the 90s they put out so much stuff. In the UK they put out a lot of stuff that was released by other labels in the US. Like Pavement and all the stuff that is put out on Drag City over here, all this music that we are big fans of.
all the same
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I understand some of the band has been playing together for over 10 years; how do you believe that affects the dynamic of the work that you produce?
I think just the fact that we have known each other for so long helps us. I think we understand each other’s styles and it helps them to understand the way that I write. In terms of writing songs, they can understand the feel that I want for a song before I have to even really understand it myself. It becomes much more natural I think for us because we have known each other for so long. We share all the same influences, we all grew up listening to the same music, we all have the same reference points.
What kind of stuff did you grew up listening to?
Pretty typical indie-rock. When we were in High School we were all really big fans of Built To Spill, Pavement, The Microphones, bands like that. I was really in to Elliott Smith too. All sorts of different things. Even the nerdier stuff; we all became friends because of our liking of the band Weezer – we all really like Weezer – and we all really liked The Stokes when they first came out. I think that kind of thing helps us to remain friends and understand each other’s musical styles.
Do you find it means you have a short-hand within the group?
Yeah. I wouldn’t even know if I’d call it that. It’s unspoken. It’s like a musical language, I guess, that we all understand. But I think anyone of a similar age to us can understand where we are coming from.
Are there any perceivable cons of you being such close friends? Do you bicker on tour for example?
Yeah! [Laughs]. We Definitely do. The easiest thing would be to compare it to being like brothers. We are like a family. So we definitely fight, almost as much as we get along. We get on each other’s nerves because we have known each other for so long we feel like we could say anything. But that’s because we are such good friends that we are able to be that way.
And how did having new members join effect the dynamic?
Really, not that much. We’ve known Jonah, who plays keys and guitar, and Jackson, who plays drums, for years. They are both a couple of years younger than us. Matt went to High School with Alex and I. Then he went to a different boarding school; that’s where he met Jonah. So we have all basically known Jonah since we were High School age. Jackson we met during college … but we still feel like we are old friends with them as well. The same kind of thing where we all have the same taste in music … and they are both really easy going guys!
Good job! You all grew up in New Jersey. Do you feel that has affected your output in anyway? Do you feel part of a particular trajectory?
I don’t think particularly. But there are a lot of good bands from New Jersey. The Feelies for example have had an influence on us. We allowed ourselves to be influenced by them because we really liked their music. I guess the same thing goes for Yo La Tengo. I am a huge fan of them and I definitely take things from both those bands. But I don’t think we are trying to sound like a Jersey band. It’s more … I mean, I am proud that we are associated with that because I want people to know that that’s where we are from. I am proud to be from there. And also, I think it’s really neat that at this point – in a way – we’ve sort of inserted ourselves into that lineage. I mean just in the fact that we are a band and we are from New Jersey. So, that’s kind of exciting to me … that’s pretty cool.
Videos Real Estate - Green Aisles
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