The last year has seen the underground become fertile ground for fresh-faced bands drowning everything in tape hiss, fuzz and reverb, but Ridgewood, NJ's Real Estate never got the memo. Unlike their Woodsist label-mates, these four Garden Statesmen like their guitar licks polished and crystal clear, so we can actually hear what notes they're playing. Perhaps it's a throwback to professionalism, but their self-titled debut LP is a breath of fresh air. Oddly enough, as their MySpace points out, their ideal setting for "rocking out" is the beach. This comes out in both the relaxed disposition of their songwriting and the song titles, half of which reference water in some way. Because of this, some journalists have been linking Real Estate to the recent tropical and beach pop trends, but the band sound out of those elements. With their leisurely tempos and clean, ringing tones, they're much more in touch with the feel-good vibe of the Grateful Dead or the diffident buzz of New Zealandic indie pop. With this attitude, they name a song "Let's Rock the Beach," but fill the instrumental with calming guitar strokes that steer clear of its title's implications. Real Estate may seem like they're restraining an urge to explode, but it's this control that is their strongpoint, resulting in fluidity and a shimmering essence that today's music needs more of.
Real Estate gained a buzz quite quickly. Did that put any pressure on you to get the album out sooner?
Guitarist/vocalist Martin Courtney: We've been playing music together for years in different bands, so we were already comfortable as a band well before we ever got any press. There was definitely the temptation to rush finishing the album to have it out in the summer, but we took our time and made an album we could be psyched about.
It seems like everyone's obsessed with hiss and fuzz these days. What made you choose such a clean guitar tone?
We just feel like we can get more versatility and emotion out of cleaner guitar sounds, rather than distorted ones. We also really like more intricate, melodic guitar parts, like the Grateful Dead or Television.
Do you find people get the wrong impression when they namedrop you as a lo-fi band?
Yes. We record at home because that's what is feasible to us. We try to make the best out of what is available. The goal is for everything to sound clear but to still maintain the warmth of analog recording. I don't think tape hiss constitutes "lo-fi," it seems like that term is getting confused with DIY. (Woodsist)