THE BAND REAL ESTATE isn’t named after anything particular, certainly not after the type of job that guitarist/singer/primary songwriter Martin Courtney has. Or maybe it is.
“I work in a real estate office actually,” says Courtney. “I have a real estate license.”
That’s not really where the band name came from,” continues Courtney. “It’s kind of a phrase that didn’t really mean that much.”
If that sounds cryptic, it’s because Courtney and his band thrive on the duplicity exemplified here—and it doesn’t stop there.
Courtney was also never in fellow New Jersey band Titus Andronicus. Or maybe he was.
“I was in band with the lead singer of Titus and [former Titus Andronicus member] Andrew Cedermark in high school,” he explains. “Yes and no. I was never in Titus.”
What Courtney means to say, but is a bit unclear about, is that he was in a band that would become an early form of that band, but, for whatever reason, he left before it all came together.The hesitant way in which he describes his formative years and how his band got its name is a reflection on the musical direction of the band we can definitely say he is in—Real Estate.
The Bergen County by way of Bushwick (Real Estate’s drummer lives at Market Hotel and even hosts a yoga night there) band is at once a few different things, never truly committing completely to one type of aesthetic—and that’s what makes it so great.
Real Estate’s self-titled debut album (out Nov. 17) has that lo-fi, nugaze sound that indie rock fans expect, but the garage rock sound is almost completely absent.The songs are about the beach and the summer, but the band has rarely, if ever, been to the New Jersey shore.
“‘Lets Rock the Beach’…I think of that as tongue in cheek,” Courtney reveals. “We didn’t grow up near the beach or spend a lot of time on the beach.We’re just playing up a certain vibe.”
Whether or not Real Estate’s version of fuzzy beach rock comes from personal experience or not isn’t important—what’s important is that the band does it well and that it doesn’t sound forced.
In fact, the summery aura that Real Estate espouses has little to do with the actual beach and more to do with the time of year in which the band formed.
“Pretty much every song was written last summer,” delineates Courtney. “It’s mostly the feeling of the way the band came together and how we kind of like starting playing in the summer.” One of the best examples of this is a standout instrumental track from the upcoming record, titled “Atlantic City.”The band has also never really been there and is a kind of—maybe, though probably not really— homage to Bruce Springsteen and his song of the same name.
“Yeah I guess [it’s homage.] It’s mostly an instrumental song that sounds really happy and ecstatic,” says Courtney. “I thought it was a cool name for a song. It’s almost tongue in cheek because it’s such a ridiculous place.”
The feeling—a correct one, by the way— that a listener might get from listening to Real Estate is that the band doesn’t necessarily feel tied to all of these specific New Jersey destinations, but does love New Jersey as a whole.
“We’re all pretty proud of being from New Jersey.We like to let that be known,” states Courtney. “If it’s instrumental song [like “Atlantic City”], you might as well give it a name that reflects who you are.”
Who Real Estate is, to be reductive, is three childhood friends from New Jersey— Courtney, Matthew Mondanile and Alex Bleeker—and a new friend, Etienne Duguay, from Massachusetts that love to play together and share their common experiences with the indie rock music world.
“Three of us grew up together,” explains Courtney. “That plays into the positive feeling.The summery and the positive are interchangeable.We hadn’t seen each other in a while and we were psyched [to play again].
If that’s all there is to writing this kind of uplifting, feel-good music, then what is left when their new record stops spinning?
“Positive vibes,” expounds Courtney. That’s good enough for me.
> Real Estate
Nov. 6, Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. (betw. Bowery & Chrystie St.), 212-533-2111; 8, $15