Real Estate on “The Main Thing” | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

Real Estate on “The Main Thing”

Before and After

Feb 28, 2020 Photography by Jake Michaels Web Exclusive
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"It's gonna be hard to go back."

Martin Courtney laughs as he describes the line crossed by Real Estate in the writing and recording of their latest album, The Main Thing. For nearly a decade, the New Jersey-based band have developed their niche of relaxing rock, but an "existential crisis," as Courtney has termed it, pushed the band toward a more thoughtful ethic concerning their craft this time around. Working with producer Kevin McMahon, Real Estate also invited outside collaborators into the creative process for the first time.

"Even going into this record, we knew even saying this one was special was really funny, because they're all really special," says Courtney. "They're all really important. But this one, we've been around for 10 years now. Just from my own perspective, I didn't want to keep doing the same thing or go through the motions of making a record. I think in the past, if I put myself in my own shoes, I'm sure it didn't feel that way either, but this one included a conscious choice to keep one foot outside of the process the whole time."

Specifically, Courtney says band was tasked with questioning everything. Instead of following a creative instinct or impulse on a whim, each flourish added or new musical idea was challenged in order to provide some sort of filter for excellence and meaning into the creative process.

"We tried to think about every single decision we were making—the aesthetic choices, the parts we were playing, the lyrics on the record," he says. "We wanted some thought and purpose put into each small decision that we made. That's something our producer kept reiterating. You'd be playing a part on the guitar and he'd say, 'Why are you playing that? What are you hoping to achieve?' As long as you have an answer to that question, go for it."

If that sounds like an exhausting way to make an album, Courtney would agree with you. Along with the rest of the band—Alex Bleeker, Matthew Kallman, Jackson Pollis, Julian Lynch—Courtney is very proud of the end result. He should be. The Main Thing is more angular, more muscular, more interesting than previous efforts—a true achievement given just how hypnotic and lovely past albums have been. 

"I've thought about the idea of making another record this way and it's really daunting," admits Courtney. "It was really drawn out and involved and difficult to make this album but it was really rewarding. We won't make the next record the same way, but we have to maintain this sense of trying to push ourselves. For me, that's going to be what this band is about in the future.

"This record feels so different for me," he continues. "I'm sure this record feels more like a break to me than it does to the outside listener, but I'm hoping some of it comes through. This is my career, my art, my life's work at this point. I think we've spent almost a decade doing things a certain way. With increasing results, each record has been better and better, but this last record it was like, 'Okay, let's do this shift in a slightly different direction.' Just in order for all of this to feel exciting, it's going to have to keep changing for sure."

www.realestatetheband.com

 

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