Martin Courtney, singer and guitarist for Real Estate, is apologetic about the background noise.
“We’re on our way to Cinncinati,” he says from the back of a car. “I’m not sure where we are right now.”
En route to Midpoint Festival in Ohio, the band have been touring extensively in support of critically acclaimed third album ‘Atlas’.
“It’s safe to say we all prefer playing smaller venues”, he says when asked about the band’s live performances. “You can play a longer set, and everyone that’s there knows your music … You connect better with the audience.”
“But festivals are fun too,” he says, having also played Pitchfork Music Festival earlier in the year. “You can gain a couple of new fans from festivals. At least, that’s the idea.”. Courtney is full of praise for the Irish crowd, after their most recent slot in Whelans at the start of the year.“I love playing in Ireland. The audiences seem like they’re great people.”
“I think the club was a little too small the last time. People got turned away, and that’s unfortunate. The place we’re playing next [The Academy] is almost a little too big. Hopefully, it sells out. But if not, it doesn’t really matter, as long as everybody gets in.”. Courtney has found that playing in bigger cities over the past few years has meant playing to more reserved crowds. However, Dublin seems to be the exception.
“Dublin people are more willing to get excited,” he says. How excited are people expected to get, when ‘Atlas’ is so drastically different, not to mention poignant, than their last efforts? “I wouldn’t describe ‘Atlas’ as sad,” Courtney says, when asked about the mood of the album. “Maybe reflective. It’s a little more personal than the previous two.”.
“When we went in to record this record, we were more prepared. We felt more confident because we worked for eight months on it, between lyrics and arrangements. Lyrically, the only conscious choice I made going in to the album was to not rely so heavily on the past. Hopefully, people can connect to it.”
Courtney’s anxiety and the challenges that come with touring life are recurring themes on Atlas, “Song-writing is always a useful way of getting in touch with feelings that you might not necessarily be aware of. Being away from home, it’s not very fun. I’m just an anxious person in general. I can write pretty freely, but once the record’s finished and there’s nothing we can do about it, that’s when I start to freak out. That’s the anxiety I was talking about,” he laughs.
With three albums under their belt, each one fawned over by critics, one wonders if Real Estate are feeling a certain pressure to deliver. Courtney isn’t phased. “We try not to address that. We’re very lucky, we work hard and it’s good that what we do is appreciated. But it’s impossible to wrap your head around the expectation. If it was possible, it would be paralysing. We wouldn’t be able to work.”.
The album artwork for ‘Atlas’ features a portion of Alexander’s Mural created by Stefan Knapp. The mural was erected on department store, Alexander’s, in New Jersey, where the band are from. The mural is believed to be the largest in the world, measuring 200 by 50 feet, and weighing over 250 tons.
“After ‘Days’ came out, I remembered the mural and showed it to all of the guys, and we decided to use it for the record. It was really hard designing it to look god because of the huge dimensions. We spent a month trying to figure out how to use the image. We had to chop it up – it was hard to make it look good. But now, I think it looks great.
It’s a cool image, and it has the added benefit of having meaning to us, because we grew up near it. The hope was that some one who had never heard of our band would see the record cover and go, ‘oh wow, there’s that mural I haven’t seen in 25 years!’”
The mural was diassembled in 1996 following the closure of Alexander’s, and is currently in storage in the Bergen County Museum of Art and Science. However, the piece has been given new hope thanks to a Facebook petition.
“This guy got in touch with me on Facebook,” Courtney says, “He’s trying to start a petition to have it put back together for a local community college. He was asking me to help publicise his petition.”
“It would be awesome to see it put back together again. It’s huge – really abstract wit a lot of primary colours. People thought it was an eye sore when it first went up. It’s so modernist and weird, and I can’t believe it was shoved in people’s faces like that.”
Real Estate play The Academy tomorrow Wednesday 22nd October. Tickets are still available from Ticketmaster.ie. To support the petition, find out more at the following link ->Https://www.facebook.com/bccmural/timeline?filter=2