Suburban Chill

Real Estate might be mellow, but the New Jersey indie band is making a big noise

January 18, 2012
Real Estate’s Alex Bleeker, Matthew Mondanile and Martin Courtney are putting New Jersey’s indie-rock sound on the map.

The new video for New Jersey band Real Estate’s song “Easy” is what you might call attention-grabbing: It follows the group’s “street team,” a trio of fans (played by comedians Gabe Delahaye, Chris Gethard and Leah Giblin) so rabid that they threaten to kill a radio DJ who won’t play the band’s songs.

The members of Real Estate have yet to encounter that level of admiration in real life, but the trio do have their share of devotees. “Nobody is that crazy,” bassist Alex Bleeker assures. “In Texas, somebody made us a stuffed dog, after the ‘It’s Real’ video.” That, like “Easy,” is a track from their latest album, 2011’s “Days.” The video features the band gently jamming amid images of adorable dogs. “[That] kind of extreme fandom is really nice,” he says.

The idea that Real Estate’s sound could ever drive fans into a violent frenzy is fairly silly; the band is as mellow as indie rock comes. Take “Easy,” for example, in which chime-like guitars bounce around a steady beat as Martin Courtney’s voice floats above the resulting jangle. Like most of “Days,” the song feels like a lazy summer afternoon on the Jersey Shore — minus any screechy reality stars.

The band’s songwriting process is pretty relaxed, too: “Out of Tune,” also from “Days,” was born out of a sound check goof-off session. “I’m always pulling for something like that,” Bleeker says. “It can get weird.”

Real Estate’s laid-back sound can be attributed to the friendship among Bleeker, Courtney and guitarist Matthew Mondanile, which dates back to middle school. “I think our music sounds the way it does now because we’re concentric circles on a Venn diagram,” he says. “The music we loved together at a younger age” manifests itself in Real Estate.

“The fact that we had a band was inevitable,” Bleeker says, “because it’s just what we always did together.”

Competitive Spirit: New Jersey is home to more than “Real Housewives,” G-T-L and Bruce. The members of Real Estate hail from the suburb of Ridgewood — not far from Glen Rock, home of fellow buzz-building indie band Titus Andronicus. Cassie Ramone, of garage-pop trio Vivian Girls, graduated from high school alongside two Real Estate members. So, when Titus Andronicus and Vivian Girls started getting big outside Jersey, it inspired Real Estate to get serious. “We were, like, ‘If they can do this, there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do this,’” bassist Alex Bleeker says. “That made it seem attainable.”

Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW; Sun., 8 p.m., sold out; 877-725-8849. (U Street)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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Rudi Greenberg · January 17, 2012