Real Estate Officially No Longer Writing Songs About the Beach 

Referring to the sound of local band Real Estate as "summery" is beating a dead horse, but in anticipation of what we predict will be one of the most serene, stylish releases of 2011—call it a coping mechanism for the frigid winter months—we talked with frontman Martin Courtney about their forthcoming album and recording in a barn during the coldest time of the year. You heard it here first: no songs about the beach this time.

The L: So there have been a few tidbits on Twitter that you guys are starting to record a new album. How's it going so far?

Martin Courtney: Well, basically, we've recorded a song. We went into the studio and recorded a song there to see if we would want to use that studio. I think we're going to end up doing it there. It's called Marcata, in New Paltz.

The L: Oh, with [engineer] Kevin McMahon. He did Titus' records, yeah? And The Walkmen's early stuff. Why the change of scenery?

MC: Right, he did the Titus record. Our last record was done at home. We did most of it at our friend's house. He had a 16-track tape machine, so we recorded the whole thing with him, then we ended up using some other versions of the songs, like we used some 4-track stuff and 8-track stuff, and the first song was recorded by our friend Jarvis [Taveniere, of Woods] at Rear House. But we just kind of wanted to see what it was like in a studio. Last Wednesday when we went up, that was our first time ever recording in a studio.

The L: Was it a comfortable experience or sort of nerve-wracking for you guys?

MC: It was totally comfortable. We know Kevin—back in high school, I was in a band with Patrick from Titus Andronicus and Andrew Cedermark, who used to be in Titus, and our friend Dave—we didn't actually all go to the same high school, but we all kind of grew up together. So we were in a band and were like, "Let's make an album!" and were looking up studios in the city. I heard about this place called Marcata because we were all big fans of The Walkmen and were like, "Oh, it'd be so cool to record at The Walkmen's studio up in Harlem." We figured if we pooled all our money together, we could probably pull it off. We did it, and that's when we met Kevin. When The Walkmen had to vacate because the building got re-bought or whatever, Kevin moved it all up to New Paltz, and we just stayed in touch. And then, you know, [Titus] recorded their album up there, and I always thought their stuff sounded really, really good. It's totally different from ours, but I like the vibe of the studio, and I think Kevin does a really good job.

The L: My roommates' band recorded their album up there too. They have sort of a love-hate relationship with Kevin—they call him a "father figure"—in that he can be sort of strict, like, "Get your act together, kids."

MC: Yeah, yeah, definitely. We all have ideas about things, and if you don't necessarily agree with him, he'll still be like, "Well, we're going to just try it this way..." And, you know, most of the time, he ends up being right.

The L: I know Titus lived there for a month while they recorded almost the whole album in one big chunk. Are you guys looking to do something that intensive?

MC: I don't think it's going to be as intense as that, but, you know, it is a two-hour drive and you end up staying there until midnight or later recording stuff, so I'm sure there are going to be times where we'll stay up there for a couple days in a row. Another thing too, I think it was different for Titus because they were up there in the summertime, and it's basically just a giant barn. Inside the barn, they've built another building where they have the control room and a big live room. That part is heated. So if you're up there in the summer, you can hang out in the whole barn area, but for us, it's going to be a little bit more claustrophobic. It gets real cold up there.

The L: Are you planning for it to come out on Woodsist?

MC: That's the one thing we're waiting to make a final decision on—which label to choose. We're talking to a couple people; it's cool. Then we'll have enough money to proceed with the record, 'cause we don't really have any more right now. That, and the record is probably about 75 percent written, so in the next couple weeks I have a bunch of song ideas and stuff we just have to practice and work out the rest.

The L: Are all the new songs you've been playing live going to make it onto the album?

MC: I think most of the new stuff we've played live is going to be on it. We put out a 7-inch a few months ago on True Panther, and I think the A-side of that, "Out of Tune," will probably end up on the record, but we'll try to keep the B-side exclusive to that, so that's one new song that probably won't end up the album.

The L: Are you trying to get away from the onslaught of "summery," "nostalgic" adjectives that everyone tends to heap on your music? The whole scene is starting to become overrun by it.

MC: It's true. I don't know, I wouldn't say "darker" or anything, but I am making a conscious decision to not write songs about, like, the beach or anything like that—I guess try to change things up a little bit lyrically, and musically too. At least for me, it's kind of hard to decide to write a certain kind of song, you know? Whatever comes out comes out, and then over the course of a couple months, if you write five songs, they might end up being similar or different from the stuff you've written before. It's just kind of always evolving, so I can't really tell what the vibe of the album will be until we're done recording it, but I'm sure it's going to be different.

The L: So it's that time of the year, I've gotta ask, favorite albums of 2010?

MC: I haven't really been listening to that much new music, but I would say Julian's [Lynch] record I listened to a lot—Mare. But I've also been listening to his new album that's not out yet—Terra. For me, that came out in 2010, though I don't think it's coming out until next year—a little preview for you, it's really good. And, you know, I really like the Titus Andronicus record. I can't think of other things that came out this year...

The L: Well, Deerhunter, that was a big one. I know you just finished touring with them.

MC: Actually, yeah, I do really like that record. And the Woods record. The Deerhunter record I wasn't really familiar with before the tour. I had listened to some of their older stuff in college, but that record is really, really good—and it's even better live. When I listen to it now, I kind of just think about how it would sound live.

The L: Any New Year's resolutions?

MC: Try to make a really good record. That's the first one that popped into my mind.


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