Martin Courtney alongside longtime Ridgewood, New Jersey friends Alex Bleeker and Matthew Mondanile took the indie world by the balls with their 2009, self-titled release, Real Estate. With minor adjustments from the original line-up, the three gentlemen are now accompanied by Jackson Pollis (drums) and Jonah Mauer (keyboards/guitar). This entourage hit the recording studio after extensively touring their first effort with San Francisco-based Girls and Bradford Cox-led Deerhunter.
Their second campaign stayed true to their sound and continued celebration of summer. I had the opportunity to pick at singer, songwriter and guitarist, Martin Courtney’s brain about the band’s second round of state-side touring to promote their 2011 sophomore release of Days.
BYT: Your US Spring tour is primarily with Melbourne-natives, Twerps. Just last week, you guys wrapped up show #2 with them in their hometown. They must have gotten the crowd adequately prepared for your set. How was the energy at the venue?
RE: It was good. That was a cool show. They’re really good. Yeah I mean, I was surprised because I think it was like a Tuesday or something so the crowd was kind of mellow. It was really good…big crowd. People weren’t freaking out or anything and I wasn’t expecting them to – especially not to our music. That was a good couple of days. We had the day off the day before Melbourne so we got to hang out at the Twerps’ house. We had a barbeque and they made us all of this delicious food – great hosts.
BYT: Twerps and Real Estate seem to run in the same circle of ridiculously successful and promising indie-acts. They recently played with your close friends and former tourmates, Girls. Is there a big brother feeling to any of this?
RE: Not really. We have been both around for the same amount of time. I don’t feel like it’s anything like that. When we started Real Estate, or maybe a year into it, they had this EP that we all sort of passed around and we all really liked them. And then I am not really sure how we got in touch with them originally but we ended up hearing that they liked our music too and that was really exciting. We were like “oh, there’s a band in Australia that we really like and they really like us” and their lead singer’s name is Marty, which is kind of funny. It’s more like a kinship, this brotherhood, with them – it’s pretty cool. We’ve been coming up together and they are our good friends. I wanted to play with them. I saw them play a show in New York last year. And at the time, I remember watching them and being really bummed that we weren’t going to go on tour with them. You know? I was like, “why are they here in the states and NOT playing with us?”. So I am really glad that this is finally happening.
BYT: New Jersey is pumping out talent at an incredible rate over the past few years. What is contributing to this recent influx? Jersey Shore, right?
RE: Don’t think so. I don’t know. We went to high school where there were a lot of kids that were into playing music for whatever reason. Our high school was more like like a football, lacrosse type stuff and people played in the orchestra, the jazz band. Our friends were all into music and it kind of just became this thing where you would just start a band. If you wrote a couple of songs, you would start a band. Everybody played an instrument. I played bass in a bunch of bands. I feel like people just stuck with it throughout college. And somehow, luckily, people started getting successful. I guess Vivian Girls were kind of first and then Titus Andronicus too. I used to be in a band back in high school with Patrick from Titus Andronicus. I don’t really know why or how it happened but it’s pretty cool that friends of ours from high school are doing well and putting out albums. I don’t really know why…
BYT: It seems that you are all around the same age so you are experiencing this all at more or less the same time.
RE: Yeah – it’s a group of friends. The bands I am referring to, we are all friends. We’ve all known each of other for a really long time. It’s like a small scene that we’ve made for ourselves and somehow now it’s being appreciated. I used to think when I was in high school, it would be really cool if one day people recognized that all of my friends are actually really talented and it’s pretty cool that that actually happened.
BYT: It is rumored that Real Estate formerly had an open invitation to its Myspace followers to contact them to play at house parties. I imagine that this got out of hand as you began to grow in popularity. What was the craziest thing that happened at these Myspace house shows?
RE: So this was our first tour, which was mostly house parties anyways, because we booked it ourselves. We toured after SXSW – we did a two-week tour of house shows, which was amazing and really fun. One of the only actual venue shows that we did was in Pensacola, FL. We went there and played the show and it kind of sucked. There were like 5 people there and it was a really bad show. Earlier in the day these kids had contacted us and were like “we’re having a party, you should come play”. They couldn’t go to that venue because it was 21 and up and they were seniors in high school. Okay, well the exact same people in this town want to see us but none of them were at the show and there were five people at the show. We should probably just go and play this party. We ended up just rolling up and it was just high school kids. It was a Monday night or Tuesday night or something and these young kids were partying with a keg. It was at this kid’s mom’s house and she was out of town – it was nuts. So there were maybe 30 kids and they were really drunk and it was a Tuesday. We put a broomstick in a bucket and taped a microphone to it and plugged to a shitty guitar amp and played this makeshift show. It was really fun – definitely one of the more memorable shows that we’ve done.
BYT: It sounds like you made their summer for these kids.
RE: It wasn’t even summer – they had school the next day.
BYT: I told my mom about this interview and she asked what band I was interviewing. She was wondering if you guys are having a similar Google problem to Rick Santorum.
RE: We definitely don’t have that particular problem. Obviously real estate is extremely…if you search the words “real estate” most of the shit that’s going to come up is related to houses. It’s not too hard to add the words “music” or “band” after that. Actually, I am going to search for just “real estate” just now and see what happens. If you search “real estate”, in Google the third thing they suggest is Real Estate the band. So dude, the sixth thing is our Wiki page – that’s pretty awesome. Dude, we’re killing it. So I guess it’s not an issue.
BYT: Cool, I will pass that along to my mother. I’ve read that you and the others were in a Weezer cover band in high school. If you were in high school now, who would Weezer be replaced by?
RE: I don’t know. The cover band was a one-off. Our friends threw a party and we covered the Blue Album. We were into Weezer because that was one of the first bands that we all really liked. I was in the third grade and the Blue Album came out and I was really into it or maybe second grade or something. If I was born in like, how old are kids now?
BYT: I am not sure – I still can’t go over the fact that people born in the 90s can legally drink now.
RE: Right, yeah. If I was in high school now, I guess I would have born in like ’95 or something. I guess the equivalent is maybe The Strokes or something? The White Stripes maybe? But Weezer wasn’t really indie so it’s kind of hard to find a correlation.
BYT: If you were to catapult anything against a brick wall, what would it be?
RE: I don’t know, gosh. It’s sad but the first thing that popped in my head was Angry Birds because my mind is infected. Yeah, iPhone games. That or my car because it’s costing me a shitload of money right now.
BYT: I’d go with Scott Stapp.
RE: But he’s been gone for so long; who cares? He’s old news.
BYT: Yeah, you’re right. I feel like I came across his name recently and remembered how much he sucks.What new bands should Real Estate fans be on the lookout for?
RE: I would say the Twerps but we’ve already talked about them. Okay, well there is this band I’ve been listening to Panel of Judges, a bit of a spin-off of the Twerps. I am going to plug them right now. They are also from Melbourne. Actually some of the members from Twerps are in that band. So yeah, plugging them again – Panel of Judges.