Real Estate Lets Good Music Speak for Itself

Avoiding all drama, the band continues to churn out great tunes.

Real Estate, a five-piece band that has perfected the art of making languid, melodious jangle pop records, will never make salacious headlines. Reflective of the group’s hushed harmonies, the quintet is comprised of polite, respectable fellows who all project an air of collegial professionalism.

During an eight-year career that has yielded four albums with increasingly rewarding returns, the group has always been a positive presence on the indie-rock circuit. Their lack of bombast is probably why they remain perpetually underrated, floating below the headlines of their more demonstrative peers.

“We are a band without a huge narrative,” says bassist Alex Bleeker. “Our music is just a pretty organic response to who we are. We are without a shtick, so to say.”

The closest the group has ever come to generating controversy came in 2016, when founding member Matt Mondanile announced that he was leaving to focus on his solo project, Ducktails. Shrugging off breakup rumors, the group quickly added guitarist Julian Lynch, a longtime friend of Bleeker and Martin Courtney, Real Estate’s primary songwriter. Lynch brought a new element of exploratory guitar play without disrupting the proven chemistry of the group.

To the casual listener, Real Estate albums differ little in their DNA. Each release is filled with somnambulant, sea-stained tracks that flow seamlessly in dreamlike reveries. Yet, their fourth album, this year’s In Mind, infused slight but noticeable wrinkles that added depth to their well-oiled dynamic.

Album opener “Darling” is a pristine, atmospheric number that belies the group’s lo-fi roots. “Stained Glass” contains tinges of paisley psychedelia, and “Two Arrows” is a seven-minute slow-burner, ending in a trippy, lengthy space jam.

“If you directly compare In Mind with our first album, you’re obviously listening to a very different record,” says Bleeker, whose band will make a return visit to the Bay Area on Oct. 27, when they play the Fox Theater in Oakland. “But I think for the person who only understands the bullet points of our band, you listen and you’re like “OK, it’s still Real Estate.’ It’s a slower change for some, but for us, it feels a little more drastic, because we are inside of it.”

Along with ditching their devotion to lo-fi attachments, the group has also grown out of their reverential statements on New Jersey, the childhood home of the band’s founding members. Real Estate’s prior albums were laden with tributes to the Garden State, but with the quintet now spread out across the country, those allusions lacked the genuineness the group strives for, Bleeker said.

“We’re proud of being from New Jersey, and that will always be inside of us, but we sort of felt like mining the Jersey thing was wearing a little thin,” Bleeker says. “It kind of goes back to writing what feels contemporary and organic to us right now.”

Bleeker lives in Marin County now, having fallen in love with the Bay Area after visiting San Francisco while on tour. He said the region inspires him musically, which may explain the group’s slow drift to the pastoral psychedelia of the Grateful Dead. The bass player has always been a longtime fan of the group and he noted that, increasingly, more indie-rock bands are declaring their love for the Dead, previously a taboo subject for a genre grounded in the ethos of punk rock.

Bleeker said that once all the cultural touchstones are stripped from the Grateful Dead — the flower-power movement, hippies-turned-Baby Boomers — people can appreciate the band simply for its tunes. Ultimately, he would like the same thing for Real Estate.

“After a certain amount of time,” says Bleeker. “Good music speaks for itself.”

For a band that prefers to keep the noise limited to their albums, that motto works out just fine.

Real Estate plays Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at the Sutro Stage.

Check out more coverage from our Outside Lands issue here:

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Future Islands: Perfecting the Imperfect
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Solar Imperialism Conquers All
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Belle and Sebastian in Peacetime
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The Original Noname
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The She’s Take Control
The local surf-rock favorites are determined to build their own future.

There Will Never Be Another You, Lee Fields
The 65-year-old owns the stage with soulful love songs.

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