Brooklyn-based by way of the Jersey ‘burbs, the jangly-melodic indie band Real Estate continues its decade-plus, steady, solid ride, making a tour stop at SOhO.
When: 9 p.m., Wednesday
Where: SOhO, 1221 State St. (upstairs)
Cost: $22 in advance, $25 at the door
Information: 962-7776, www.sohosb.com
Real estate, the market, has long been a hot topic on the lips and minds of Santa Barbarans. Real Estate, the friendly and jangly indie band, is a more occasional affair, which has slid into the hearts and ears of Indie rock-loving Santa Barbarans on an every-few-years basis. For a new update, proceed to Soho on Wednesday night.
The band, now based in Brooklyn by way of the New Jersey ‘burbs, has known highs, lows and mediums on a journey beginning in 2008, from small clubs to Coachella and “Late Night with David Letterman.” For a bit of local history, the band first played here in 2010, at the idealistic but now defunct Jensen’s Mainstage space on De la Vina Street.
At the time, in the first phase of what would be a band career of some longevity (by rock ‘n’ roll standards), lead singer Martin Courtenay said in an interview with the News-Press that he would “like to keep making records for as long as possible. Seems like the natural thing to do. I’m definitely ‘present moment’-oriented, but I’ve got high hopes for the future. I don’t see us blowing up super big any time soon, and I wouldn’t want that to happen really. I see this band as a slow burn type thing.”
In retrospect, since that moment nine years ago, the band’s progress has been somewhere between a slow burn and a meteoric upswing. Three years after their 2010 Santa Barbara debut, following its second album “Days,” the band played at SOhO. That date sandwiched between gigs in two archetypally small but mightily legendary California venues—the Henry Miller Library in Big Sur and Pappy and Harriett’s in Pioneer Town, by Joshua Tree. Clearly, Real Estate’s hipness cred was in order.
It was soon after that 2013 show that their next and popular, game-changing album “Atlas” bumped them up a level or two. 2017’s “In Mind,” likewise, fueled further upward mobility, with its hit “Darling” chalking up 36 million Spotify clicks–and counting. Other fan favorites include the sweetly hypnotic “Talking Backwards,” from “In Mind,” and “Beach Comber,” from its 2009 debut.
Now, in a “between albums” state, Real Estate continues to evolve a musical story which was always at least partly rooted in a personal journey through retro influences. They mix up dreamy instrumental elements with understated lead vocals from Martin Courtney, in a style once dubbed “psychedelic surf pop.” Twangy jangly guitar parts and washes of reverb grace the tracks, then and now, with gently propulsive drum grooves keeping things somehow both grounded and floaty.
Mr. Courtney “this group is a product of the NJ suburbs in that 3/4 of us grew up in the same town (Ridgewood). Most of the songs on the first record were written right after moving back to my parents’ house after graduating college, so I guess there are a few observations regarding suburban life. It’s the surreal feeling of being back where you were four years earlier, hanging out with the same people and not having much of a plan.”
“Matt (Mondanile, who left the band in 2016), Alex (Bleeker) and I basically grew up together. We met when we were like 14, 15. We played a lot of music in high school with each other–in a band called Hey There Sexy–and in different bands, then went off to different places for college.
“Then we all graduated college at the same time and Matt, Alex and I moved back home, while Etienne moved to Brooklyn. We started playing music together again because I had some songs and we were bored and we had talked all throughout college about how we were going to start a sick band when we all met up again. That’s basically how it happened.”
Real Estate is one of those indie bands with an appeal ranging from its own thirtysomething generational demographic to fans of older historic pop-rock models. Among other references points, we hear echoes of gauzy later surf rock and “Summer of Love” aesthetics of the ‘60s and the ‘70s pop ideals of versions of Fleetwood Mac before the Nicks/Buckingham commercial bonanza period.
But there was no crafty game plan at work here. “The sound of the band happened quite naturally,” Mr. Courtney insists. “We definitely didn’t sit down and plan out what kind of band we were going to start, or what genre of music we were going to play. We knew we didn’t want to use too much–or really any–distortion, but I’m not sure if even that was ever really articulated. We just have a similar taste in music, so we ended up going with what we wanted to hear.”
Post-surf pop allusions aside, Mr. Courtney denies being obsessed with surf rock in the New Jersey suburbs where the band was born. “Actually,” he said, “I remember Matt and I talking about how we wanted to sound like Pink Floyd. We also were all really into late ‘70s soft rock when we started Real Estate. Player’s ‘Baby Come Back’ probably had the biggest influence on us.”
Tongue is at least halfway in cheek as he makes this confession. Light dustings of humor and irony are part of the band’s signature, attitudinal approach, or… well, real estate.