Woods and Real Estate : A Scene of Their Own
Real Estate’s Courtney (guitar/vocals), Alex Bleeker (bass) and Matthew Mondanile (lead guitar) grew up in the shadow of New York City, in the comfortable confines of Ridgewood, N.J. Like most teenagers, their early jam sessions took place in basements and at school-sponsored talent shows, though, occasionally, someone’s parents would let them throw a backyard party.
“Our friendship was very much based on music—we’re definitely responsible for each other’s tastes and styles,” says Bleeker, a burly, bearded, onetime theater student who gives off an affable ‘dude vibe.’ It’s June and he’s nursing a draft beer near the New Paltz, N.Y. studio where Real Estate is finishing Days. “Matt taught me how to play guitar as much as anybody else.”
Throughout high school, the three musicians followed each other’s tastes as they drifted between various alternative, punk and ska fads. One project focused on Strokes covers while another found Bleeker and Courtney playing Weezer’s “Blue Album” front-to-back. They also have roots in the jamband scene.
“We were all into it, but I really pushed the jamband stuff—we covered [Phish’s] ‘First Tube’ and jammed out ‘Dirt,’” says Bleeker as he rattles off his stats for bands like Phish, the Disco Biscuits, the Flecktones and various Grateful Dead spinoffs. “When I found Nugs.net, I felt like I had found this secret corner of the Internet.”
In certain ways, Northern New Jersey in the late ‘90s and early aughts was a blueprint for Brooklyn’s current D.I.Y. scene. The country’s most densely populated state—and a stone’s throw from New York—Jersey provided a natural network of all-ages shows that took shape at American Legion lodges and liberal suburban homes. School music programs taught kids how to play and the Garden State’s curious reputation gave aspiring rockers something of a unified, outsider edge.
“We played in [Veterans of Foreign War] VFW halls and churches, but at the same time, we were also going to shows every weekend in the best city in the world,” reasons Mondanile, the band’s most technically proficient musician and most avid record collector.
Courtney, Bleeker and Mondanile separated temporarily during college but got an early taste of life on the road when they recorded and toured as the backing band for another childhood friend, psych rock guitarist Julian Lynch.
Though Courtney eventually left the Lynch gig, fans got an early peek at Real Estate’s future lineup when Mondanile brought in Etienne Pierre Duguay, a drummer from his collegiate hometown, with whom he had collaborated in a band called Predator Vision. “I hid a recorder in the rafters, we took acid and started playing,” Mondanile says of his side project’s creative process with Duguay. “We were excited about the possibility of coming up on acid while jamming. Afterward, when we were coming down, we listened to the cassette while watching [the movie] Predator.”
After college, Courtney, Mondanile and Bleeker drifted toward home without much of a plan. Bleeker defected to Philadelphia, Courtney worked at a New Jersey greeting card company and Duguay became something of a man about Brooklyn. Mondanile, for his part, continued recording experimental, loop-heavy sounds in his parents’ basement under the moniker Ducktails.
While sharing some vodka by Courtney’s family pool in the summer of 2008, the four friends started toying around with a batch of songs the singer had quietly been working on.
“I was living at my parents’ house and experiencing all the weird shit that goes along with being in the suburbs again,” says Courtney. “That formed the aesthetic of the band for a while but we never had a specific style or genre. We incorporated all this music we loved.”
Those sounds included spacey loops, psychedelic flourishes, jamband grooves, ‘70s Yacht Rock cheese, melodic surf pop and an overall, reverb-drenched, chill vibe. “We wanted it to sound old, timeless,” Courtney continues. “I like invoking a mood and hoping people can put their own meaning on it. These [stories] are personal to me but I like to keep them vague.”
“When we started the band, Etienne and I would say, ‘How can we secretly make Real Estate a jamband?’ Bleeker says bashfully. “Without Matt or me, Martin’s songs would sound like The Shins.”
Figuring that they could all work at the Courtneys’ family real estate agency if the music thing didn’t work out, they decided to name Real Estate. “It was right when the recession hit—when the whole housing thing fell apart,” Bleeker recalls. “Even kids in finance weren’t getting jobs. It seemed justified that we were going play music while everything blew over.”
Inspired by successful Jersey garage bands such as Vivian Girls and Titus Andronicus, Real Estate started gigging and—thanks to a network of all-ages venues chaperoned by independent promoters like [New York-based] Todd P—solidified as a band in front of a live audience.
“It was tangible,” says Bleeker. “[Those bands] were able to blaze a trail for us and there was a sense of friendly competition.”
Beth Hart shares the opening track from her latest album, Bang Bang Boom Boom, live at Relix.
Jamie Lidell sets up in the Relix boiler room and delivers a tune from his 2005 album Multiply
Duane Trucks is happy to announce his new project, King Lincoln. Watch them perform “Coffee” live and acoustic at Relix’s Online-Video Coordinator’s loft in Williamsburg.
Here’s another song from Crystal Bowersox’s new record All That For This, live at Relix.
WYATT share a song in the famed Relix boiler room.
Goodnight, Texas share a song from their latest studio album, A Long Life of Living, live at Relix.
Warren Haynes performs a solo, acoustic version of “Railroad Boy” and explains how he adapted the traditional Celtic song for Gov’t Mule, backstage at the Hangout Music Festival.
Australia’s Alpine recently made their NYC debut at the Relix office with this song from their new album A is for Alpine.
In honor of Umphrey’s McGee’s return to Summer Camp this weekend, we present the group’s Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger performing this version of “The Pequod” from UM’s Anchor Drops.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
- Daft Punk: Random Access Memories
- Visions of Bonnaroo Thursday (ALO, Jack Johnson, Polyphonic Spree, Allen Stone…)
- Deer Tick Share "The Rock"
- Win a pair of passes to The NINES Festival
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Mumford & Sons’ Ted Dwane Shares Photo, Update
- Jack Johnson: Bonnaroo Song, Mumford Cover, "Mudfootball" with Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- The Making of Pretty Lights’ A Color Map of the Sun
- Interlocken Confirms Daily Lineups, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Punch Brothers, Keller & The Keels and More Added
- Mumford and Sons Cancel Bonnaroo Show, Summer Tour
- Ed Helms: Bonnaroo, Banjos and a Bit of Phish
- Robert Hunter Will Return to the Stage for Eight Shows
- Tedeschi Trucks Band Share New Song
- Warren Haynes to Play Jerry Garcia’s Wolf on Symphony Tour
- Patty Griffin in Boston
- Jack Is Back: Jack Johnson Talks Bonnaroo, ALO and New Album
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll