Real Estate Jams


How interesting do you need to be to be good?

As if to cut off any criticism at the knees, Alex Bleeker says, “We’re a Brooklyn band now, how boring is that?” Before that, Real Estate was arguably duller: a suburban Jersey band. Bleeker, Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney all hail from Ridgewood, a suburb a little less than an hour outside of New York City, and, until recently, Courtney was still holding on to his Garden State roots, living in Jersey City with his girlfriend. Finally he caved and moved to Williamsburg. But they’re still close enough to escape, and on one of the last hot days of summer, Real Estate is back in Ridgewood to take a dip. Courtney’s parents’ homey house has a small pool that they added when he was in high school. It would have been bigger, he explains, were it not for zoning laws. Both Mondanile and Bleeker are soaking chest-deep in their boxer shorts. Courtney, in jeans and a long sleeve button-down, paces, talking on the phone. He just dunks his head in.

This is largely the life they enjoyed in high school. Mondanile and Courtney grew up just a few streets apart, so even before driver’s licenses they hung out constantly. Bleeker had to beg his parents for a ride. Ridgewood has generated considerable indie rock attention the past few years, the hometown of a surprising number of very good bands like Vivian Girls and Big Troubles. High school friends, Titus Andronicus, are from nearby Glen Rock. “We have tons of hometown New Jersey pride, which most people from New Jersey do because you get shit on constantly,” says Bleeker. “You go to college or wherever you’re going to go, and everyone’s like, Jersey, I’m sorry. I was like, Wait a minute! I love all my friends from high school. We have a deep crew, and we’re like, Fuck this bad reputation of New Jersey, let’s rep it super hard. It’s that Bruce Springsteen bravado where it’s actually the best even though it’s really the worst. And so we obviously took that opportunity when we could have any public mouthpiece to be like, Jersey Jersey Jersey, we’re from New Jersey.” Mondanile puts it even simpler. “Me, Bleeker and Martin used to drive around aimlessly all the time. Definitely just smoke weed, listen to records, drive around, complain that it was boring in New Jersey and there was nothing to do.” They still do and there still isn’t.

With the van loaded with the last of Courtney’s guitars and furniture from his parent’s place, they tool around Ridgewood before heading back to the city, pointing out their elementary and middle schools, the abandoned house where they took their promo photographs, the weird Starbucks that looks like a small Dutch castle. Driving past the boulder the town of Glen Rock is named for, Courtney says as a kid he used to think it was hollow and the plaque on its side was a window.

Like Ridgewood, Real Estate is not particularly dynamic. They’re a rock and roll band generally, an indie rock band specifically, and what could be more vanilla? Yet somehow, particularly with their new album, Days, they’ve managed to perfectly encapsulate the straightforward malaise and uncertainty of young adulthood. Real Estate straddles a line between the world of jam bands and indie rock, lazy drums and flowery guitar crafting a consistently light footpath. “It’s like easygoing-type music,” Courtney says. “Everybody’s parents like it. Everyone can dig it.” Even his mom really loves the band; Real Estate has revived her interest in music. She’s got a subscription to Sirius Radio, listens to its alternative station XMU constantly and reads Pitchfork and Brooklyn Vegan regularly.

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POSTED October 12, 2011 10:00AM IN FEATURES Comments (5) TAGS: , ,