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Real Estate

Off The Home Front

Apr 07, 2014 Issue #49 - February/March 2014 - Portlandia Bookmark and Share

Pensive, languid melodies are the name of the game on Real Estate‘s third LP, Atlas. The band largely jettisons the influences of its New Jersey brethren Yo La Tengo and The Feelies throughout this soft-hewn album, instead nodding heavily to ‘80s Brit cult icons Felt. Frontman Martin Courtney concurs.

“Wow, we’re big-time fans of Felt,” he says. “We’ve covered their song ‘Sunlight Bathed the Golden Glow.’ With Yo La Tengo and The Feelies, they’re bands we think about a lot, but they’re more of a spiritual influence, like our uncles in New Jersey that we look up to. Felt is just the band that we all agree on. We love that band.”

Felt’s signature sound is all over Atlas. From the vertiginous jangling weave of “Talking Backwards” to the brisk, lithe surge of “The Bend,” it’s obvious that the band members are enthralled with the Birmingham, England icons, but they still retain much of their own signature sound. Their innate knack for writing a killer hook is thankfully intact, and the record has a more cohesive sound than their past albums, thanks in part to relentless touring since 2011’s Days.

Courtney, bassist Alex Bleeker, guitarist Matt Mondanile, drummer Jackson Pollis, and keyboardist Matt Kallman have achieved a certain chemistry that finds them operating at the peak of their formidable powers throughout the outstanding Atlas.

Real Estate recorded the album at Wilco’s studio The Loft, with Tom Schick acting as the primary engineer. “It was really great, just amazing guitars and keyboards to work with, and just spending time at such a beautiful space. We were there for two weeks straight, which was a different process for us. We couldn’t really take breaks as we had in the past. But just being there with Tom, we felt like we captured something really special.”

The title Atlas could well be viewed as something of a travelogue for a band that’s spent much of the past few years on the road, but Courtney insists that it’s something altogether different, essentially a tool to facilitate navigating uncharted emotional terrain.

“I think of the album as a guide to the future, you know?” he says. “It’s not a concept, but it’s definitely a theme I noticed in the songs that I wrote. And I think of the album as a physical object that you hold. It’s an impressionistic thing, I guess.”

What constitutes a success for a band in 2014 is certainly an ambiguous, slippery concept, but for Real Estate, Mondanile would like to continue the brick-by-brick approach to building a fanbase that they’ve followed since the band’s inception in the late ‘00s. “We used to home-record and now we use a studio,” he says. “With album sales, we can’t worry about that. We feel like we wrote great songs, and we just want people to like our album, and satisfy the people who like our band, and maybe make some new fans.” There’s a pregnant pause in the conversation, and he adds rather dryly with a laugh, “And I don’t have a day job.”

[Note: This article first appeared in the February/March print issue (Issue 49).]


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