By RACHEL ELLICOTT
Their self-titled debut was a Pitchfork “Best New Music” album, their 2014 sophomore album, Atlas was listed as one of the 100 best albums of the decade by the same and now the Jersey-suburbia-born, Brooklyn-bred indie rock up-and-comers are making a stop at Ithaca’s The Haunt on Sept. 30. The Cornell Daily Sun’s Rachel Ellicott ’15, blogs editor, sat down with vocalist and guitarist Martin Courtney to talk about touring, musical inspiration and boring band names.
The Sun: So you’ll be in Ithaca on September 30. Have you ever been here before or played here before?
Martin Courtney: We have. I think it may have only been one time though. I can’t remember. It was a house party.
Sun: Awesome, well we’re excited to have you back then at a bigger venue than a house. How did you get that gig?
M.C.: I think we just booked ourselves. We were on tour with the band, Girls. It was like our first tour ever. And I think we had a night off so we booked a show to make some money on the night off. That was the idea, and we happened to do it between Boston and Montreal, if that makes sense.
Sun: So where are you right now on your tour?
M.C.: I’m on a beach in New Jersey.
Sun: So what are some of your fondest musical memories with your band? Favorite performances, weirdest performances?
M.C.: Well, every time somebody asks me a question like that I feel like I blank. We’ve had a lot of really cool opportunities opening for other bands that we really love, like we got to do one of the Yo La Tengo Hanukkah shows two years ago. It ended up being the last year they ever did them, and I guess singing a song with them on stage … that was really special and cool. Another time we did a show with Glen Mercer from The Feelies, the lead singer of the band … and we actually covered some Feelies songs with him and he came up on stage and sang with us which was really cool. We’ve been lucky enough to play some really neat festivals around the world in some different places … We have a friend who books shows in Portugal, in Lisbon, and I think every time we’ve gotten to go there it’s been really cool and really special. We really wanted to go back on this record and it just didn’t work out. It’s kind of hard to round yourself into Portugal randomly, but we’re hoping to go back at some point. I think maybe my favorite thing ever or one of them was that we got to go to Japan with our best friend band, this band Woods. We did a tour there with them and we got to travel around, and my girlfriend, now wife, came out; we had an extra week off after the shows. And that was just a really amazing trip going to Japan. It was really cool to know this band that we started as friends has brought us to really cool places around the world like New Zealand. We’ve been really lucky.
Sun: How did you pick your band name ?
M.C.: So we’ve played in bands probably since we were like 14 or something, young kids, like that’s kind of when we met. But I played in a couple bands with Alex in high school and then me, Alex and Matt were in a band together that really was just a one-off recording project where we were figuring out how to record songs by ourselves, and that was called Hey There Sexy. But Real Estate is kind of the first real band that we started together as old friends. That name came with this project. We couldn’t think of a band name for probably the first two months of being a band. I think at the time that we were starting the band, this was right after college and my parents both run a real estate company in New Jersey, I was taking classes to get my license so I could work for them and have a job in the kind of like post-college-not-knowing-what-I-wanted-to-do thing. We were all practicing at my parents’ house and we had dinner with my parents that night and my mom was joking around that everybody in the band should get their real estate license and then we could all work for the company and then we’d all have jobs. And then we were are like, “yeah” and we could call the band Real Estate and then we could be real estate agents by day and then have this band called Real Estate at night. That was our stupid joke and somehow it stuck and became our band name. I always thought it was a really boring band name, but somehow it stuck.
Sun: Where do you think you draw your musical influences from the most? What’s the creative process of writing a song for you?
M.C.: The process of coming up with just a chord progression or you know, the basic building blocks of a song, that usually just kind of comes straight out of me or whoever’s writing the song. I don’t think you’re really thinking about the influences until… well maybe you are in a way, I think it depends on the song. Like maybe you hear a specific song and you think, “Oh I like that chord progression; maybe I can write something that’s similar to that.” I think that happens a lot. In terms of really bringing it together as a band and coming up with the arrangement of, you know, “the bass is going to play this and the guitar’s going to do this,” I think that’s when you’re really thinking about influences and sort of trying to draw ideas from other places. I think we get influences from all over the place; we’re definitely part of this lineage of indie rock bands from the ’80s and ’90s.
Real Estate will play at the Haunt on September 30 at 9:00 p.m. Tickets are available through Dan Smalls Presents.