Wednesday 21 February 2018

Better than the Real thing

We Irish have always been extremely partial to real estate -- and look where that got us! We wouldn't be in this mess if instead we had ploughed all our energies into obsessing about Real Estate -- the splendid indie-guitar princelings whose sophomore album Days was one of 2011's brightest and best.

Originally formed in Ridgewood, New Jersey, but now based in Brooklyn, New York, the unprepossessing trio are heading our way as one of the must-see bands of the Forbidden Fruit festival in Kilmainham.

The three-day Gaol jamboree, which takes place over the June bank holiday weekend, assumes an even greater importance on the Irish cultural calendar in the absence of Oxegen this year.

Real Estate follow in the footsteps of The Feelies and Yo La Tengo (the latter played Forbidden Fruit last year) as a New Jersey band who are building up a cult following on this side of the Atlantic.

"I've been a big fan of Yo La Tengo since high school, when I was 15 or 16," says Real Estate singer/guitarist Martin Courtney, musing on his Garden State peers.

"I heard The Feelies's first album, Crazy Rhythms, a long time ago and really liked it. But I didn't know for years that they were from New Jersey -- I found out that they were from one town over from where I grew up. We got to play with them a couple of times; they're really great people."

So what kind of place did Martin live in as a kid?

"Ridgewood is a pretty typical, upper middle class American town," he answers. "If you've ever seen any of those John Hughes 1980s movies, that's basically where we grew up.

"Have I ever seen the Zach Braff film Garden State? I haven't seen that movie since it came out. I must admit I didn't like it, but maybe that's because I was a young kid. I think I was upset because it was about people from New Jersey and it hit a bit too close to home."

With their 2009 self-titled debut album and last October's follow-up Days, Martin's band have drawn comparisons with great guitar bands through the ages such as The Smiths and, closer to home, The Stars Of Heaven and Hey Paulette.

"I actually never got into The Smiths," says Martin. "Now when I hear their music, Morrissey's voice kind of annoys me. I find it kind of grating. We were more into bands like Pavement and Built To Spill -- we really liked them in high school. And Elliott Smith: I was really into his music. It was more the next wave of indie music after The Smiths that we were into."

The band's most recent album came on what is arguably the most respected indie label in the UK, Domino Records. How did they come to ink a deal with Laurence Bell's iconic imprint?

"When we first played in London we met this friend, Jack, who ran a small label and ended up getting hired by Domino in A&R," says Martin.

"That was very lucky. A couple of labels were interested in signing us when it came to us releasing our second record and the fact that Domino was one of them was exciting. It was an easy choice. To be on the same label that put out all those amazing records by the likes of Smog, Palace Brothers, Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors was really cool."

Finally, Real Estate have been a darling of the critics, scoring a head-spinning 8.7 on the Pitchfork website. How does Martin feel about the press he receives?

"I don't think it will kill your career if Pitchfork give you a bad review, but I think it definitely helps if they give you a good review," he says. "I still remember seeing the first piece appear online about us -- it was a blog post just a few weeks after we played our first gig. I remember getting really excited that someone would take the trouble to write about us!"

Thinking of investing in Real Estate? It's time to get on the ladder.

Real Estate play Forbidden Fruit, Kilmainham, Dublin, on Monday, June 4. www.forbiddenfruit.ie

nkelly@independent.ie

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