Real Estate interview: “this record is about finding out what maturity really is”

Real Estate band by Sinna Nasseri

Real Estate are made from humble beginnings in New Jersey. Picture growing up, passing through the white picket fences as you plug your walkman in to blast some Weezer into your ears as you step onto the yellow school bus. It’s simple. Unadulterated indie rock that’s warm to the touch as it hums across your skin.

The same remains true for their sixth studio album, Daniel, proving that – although the band are now spread out across the states, starting families, and perhaps having more important priorities – the wholesome beating heart of their band still thrives.

Sitting in front of his phone, Real Estate bassist Alex Bleeker joins our call, his beard peppered with grey as he approaches forty. He’s wearing a matching blue beanie and sweater combo as he and two other members make themselves at home in an Airbnb during rehearsals. “We had a very, like, classic American teen movie cookie cutter suburb that we grew up in, if you can imagine the red solo cups and the yellow school bus and Mean Girls”, he laughs. “All different cliques of kids in high school; the stoners, the jocks, the cool girls, the nerds.” Bleeker speaks in a way that almost implies embarrassment of the unimpressive, by all accounts, regular youth that he and his friends experienced, but he has a nostalgic smile on his face.

“Everybody in the band has been sort of getting older, it happens to everybody, we’re realising,” He continues. “Balancing life as a person in my late 30s, and still maintaining a band that we started in our early 20s, and just realising that doing this thing is a total labour of love, there’s nothing else to it.” After six albums and twenty years in the trenches of the music business, the project would have to be something conducted out of love.

Real Estate decided to give their new album a name, one that doesn’t let on too much; a moniker that leaves things to the imagination. “We just wanted to give the album a proper name, a name of a person almost like you would name a child, or a pet. To us, it’s like, Daniel is the name of the album, Daniel was the spirit of the record, it is really just a name. It’s for all the Daniel’s, any listener, any Daniel in your life, it’s for you.”

The first Real Estate record [the eponymous Real Estate] has that spirit of the all American yellow school bus and aforementioned red solo cups, anyone looking in from the outside might view it as the nostalgic coming of age movie, living vicariously through that and romanticising something that they never got to experience. “We had just finished our college education, and we’re looking back at high school and stuff with this ‘oh, this was so long ago’ gaze, when really it was just a couple years ago, which gives us that kind of innocent youth quality. In band years, Real Estate is geriatric now”, he laughs in self deprecation. Bleeker continues by saying that we live in a young band’s game. “You talk a lot about reaching maturity as a band, and I think this record is about finding out what maturity really is.”

Even in your twenties, as you enter the working world, trying to wrestle with what a career is to you and what do you want out of life, there’s a sense of the goal being to escape your own mortality, that if you find the perfect thing for you; the finite resource of life can feel all the more endless. But what if you found that, and another twenty years later the same thing doesn’t necessarily serve you in the same way? “It’s sort of impossible not to consider, are we still popular? Do people still care? I think it’s sort of the lifecycle of any musician,” Bleeker deliberates. “We were lucky enough to have attention with our first record, you go from zero, not even imagining that anybody will care about who you are, to this kind of steady rise in terms of popularity and public consciousness. I’m grateful that you even want to talk to me about this record and people are coming to the shows or like the music.”

As established, Real Estate are in the business of conjuring warm and fuzzy feelings inside, whether you’re a listener or in the band itself, but is the wholesome aura just a veneer? Has it always felt this way? “We’re human, just the same as anybody else. You know, we’ve had trials, interpersonal drama, we’ve had life just happen, I think the fact that there’s love there that remains, is true,” he says. “So there’s a wholesomeness to that. And there’s an earnestness to our desire to make good, earnest, truthful music. That remains true to this day, even with lineup changes and stuff, five good friends who like playing music together down the road, you know, I think that’s what makes it feel relatable.”

As a group, Real Estate have had gold dust in their hands for twenty years, and how rare that is. You’ve got to be in the right place at the right time and, despite being grateful for it, Real Estate doesn’t seem to have ever been the number one priority for them. It’s why they’ve been able to release consistently good music, over their course. There hasn’t been an off album. So what’s the lifespan of something like that? Bleeker ponders for a second. “We’re always broken up until our next show. Let me just say that. The truth of the matter is the way we relate to the band, and the way we like to do business is always changing. And I can imagine it changing in the future somewhat substantially as we get older and you know, different priorities tap into our lives.”

He finishes with an idea, tinged by sandy sunsets and retirement homes. “I have this vision of all of us being, like, 75 years old and playing some kind of cocktail bar in Key West. And this is just like the vacation that we like to go on”. There couldn’t be a more natural progression for the never ending band, pensioners sipping on tequila sunrises and piña colada, in the cheesiest of Hawaiian shirts and cargo shorts. Real Estate can’t be summed up much better than that; a group of friends that will always click back into place together, due to a binding love, not just for music, but for each other.

featured image: Sinna Nasseri

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