Many a band has taken a few albums to find their feet and really come into their own as a group, and truer words could not be said of US rock outfit Real Estate. After their debut self-titled album in 2009 and its follow-up two years later perked our interest, the indie five-piece truly broke through with their 2014 LP Atlas.
On that last record, we finally heard the maturity and the potential of understated intensity that Real Estate had teased since they emerged on the scene all those years ago, and now they’ve surfaced once again, ready to take on the world of dreamy, psychedelic-referencing jangle rock with a new album titled In Mind.
This new album is bolder and feels like it was crafted by artists who are more at peace with their place in the world. That’s no coincidence, with Real Estate undergoing several personnel changes over the past few years, first bringing in new keyboard player Matt Kallman a couple of years back, and, more recently, Julian Lynch taking the place of founding member and guitarist Matt Mondanile.
We caught up with chief songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Martin Courtney to chat about how their new album reflects the changes the members of the band have undergone, looking back critically at their past records and the chance of an Australian tour soon.
Music Feeds: The Real Estate that created this album has undergone some changes from the band we’ve come to know. Was there a fairly smooth transition from Matt Mondanile to Julian Lynch creatively?
Martin Courtney: Yeah, it was pretty smooth. The four of us, minus a lead guitarist, we’d been a band for some time. The newest member before Julian joined the band was Matt Kallman but at the point when we were recording these songs he’d already been in for three or four years. So we were a pretty solid unit, and we’d toured all over the world together. We were definitely comfortable playing with each other, so we started working on these songs before Julian joined. It was a nice transition where the four of us were able to just hunker down together and work on the new music and get really excited about the songs and about being in the same room as each other after a long break. Then once Julian came into the mix we already had the songs completed up to a certain point so it’s not like we jumped into a brand new record with a new member also. I think it helped everybody and helped Julian that he didn’t have to be there from the very beginning. The process as a whole felt very natural.
MF: Obviously Julian and Matt are two different guitarists who each bring their own sensibilities, and you can hear subtle differences across the record. Do you think the addition of Julian helped to give this record, I guess almost a bold new quality?
MC: Definitely, he’s definitely a very different musician from all of us and it was nice having his perspective. So I wouldn’t doubt the extent of his contribution at all, I think he was a major part of this record. But I think that no matter what, before he came into the mix we were already interested in making something that sounded as different as we could from the previous record without being too overt about it or changing things arbitrarily for the sake of changing them. It all felt very natural. Definitely the fact that we had a new guitar player, in general, helped us to make a record that sounded different. Then obviously working with Cole (producer Cole M.G.N.), he brought a lot of different ideas into the mix as well. I think the underlying theme for all of us while making this record was to not making another Atlas.
MF: In Mind seems to be almost accepting of moving forward as a band. Tell us about how changes in the life of the band and your own life are reflected in the record?
MC: For me, I wrote most of the lyrics on the record and most of the songs both on this record and the last. So obviously this one was different because when I wrote Atlas I wasn’t a father and now I have two kids, which for sure changes your perspective. Also the fact that Alex (Bleeker) moved to Northern California. I think he’s changed in a lot of ways; he just has a whole new perspective on life. Some of the other members of the band were more involved in the writing process this time, and then obviously the addition of a new member. A lot of the changes for us as a band and within our personal lives definitely affected the vibe in the room as well as the lyrics and thematic content. I think that literally us being older and having the process feel a little more familiar – this is our fourth record. I think it felt a little more comfortable and at-ease and able to just focus on being creative. That’s more of a vibe thing that was definitely different for us this time.
MF: Atlas was easily been your most successful record to date. Did you feel any pressure to create a follow up that was as good, or conversely did its success give you confidence to keep exploring what Real Estate could create?
MC: It was more of the latter. For me, I’m glad that Atlas was well received and I’m glad people consider it as a success – I’m not really sure what that means. I don’t think we were sitting there thinking ‘we’ve got to do something better than Atlas’. When I think of that record I think of the things we could have done better and the things that in hindsight I would change, so it’s hard for me to think back about it and how great it is. If anything, it feels flawed looking back at it, in my eyes. We weren’t even really thinking about that. It’s more that just having had that experience of making Atlas which was the most classic type of record making experience, and the most classic album-making process to date because our previous record had been recorded more disjointedly over the course of several months. It gave us more experience as an album-making band unit for sure.
MF: You guys have a set at Coachella coming up. Does a playing big festival like that still bring nerves?
MC: I think less so. Not because we’re cocky about it, but it’s just become more routine. I remember the first big festival we played; Pitchfork Festival back in 2010 and I remember being really nervous. Now I don’t feel as nervous, I think I’ve realised that the crowd might be larger than your average show and it might be live streaming. That whole concept of live streaming and you have no idea how many people might be watching. It’s impossible to even process that, and it doesn’t even come into the picture for me because I can’t really comprehend that amount of people. You also just realise that only a certain percentage of the crowd is even paying attention and that it’s not going to be the end of the world if it’s not a great set, nor is it going to make or break you if it’s an amazing set. Your career isn’t going to take off because you play an amazing set at Coachella, so we just approach it as best as we can.
MF: Before I let you go, I’ve got to ask; can we expect Aussie shows anytime in the next year or so?
CM: Yes, yes you can. We’ll be there for sure; I think it’s definitely in the cards. It’s being talked about for sure.
‘In Mind’ is out this Friday, March 17th. Grab a copy here.