Every time I tweet about the band Real Estate, I invariably get two or three follow requests from real estate agencies. This is probably the work of a Twitter search bot designed by realtors to scan the Internet for potential clients, but sometimes I fantasize that it's actual realtors. Even realtors could like the band Real Estate. Especially realtors.
Lead singer Martin Courtney's parents are both real estate agents, in fact. I'm not positive their line of work has influenced his sonic interests, but I'm pretty sure they're proud of him. Real Estate makes music that parents would readily put on their iPhones. Grandparents, too.
It used to be rare to hear this kind of broad accessibility in indie rock. But these days Real Estate isn't the only band practicing some restraint. For the past year or two, an interesting sub-genre of indie rock has been slowly waving in from the coasts, a sort of easy listening indie rock. This isn't music from a localized scene as much as it is from the edges of the country; I’m talking about San Francisco's Morning Benders, West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood, Austin's Pure X, Brooklyn's Caveman. At the jammiest end of this laid-back spectrum is Real Estate, from the less-represented shores of New Jersey.
Alex Bleeker, the band's bearded bassist, didn't hesitate to represent his homeland when I saw them play at the Echoplex on Saturday. "I think New Jersey is a lot like Los Angeles," he said, "Everyone owns cars, it's sprawling…people in other parts of the country make fun of it." But not Bleeker. He and the rest of Real Estate arrived at its sold-out L.A. concert ready to party, to hell with those who think their music is subdued. During "Kinder Blumen," an instrumental track that could easily serve as the intro music to "Local on the 8s" on The Weather Channel, Bleeker's bass was cocked upright, his arms outstretched, a powerful stance for a slow-tempo, soft rock tune.
And it all worked, somehow. Early on in the show, Martin Courtney apologized for a shot voice, but as the songs wore on, he settled down, stopped over-enunciating his words, let the reverb handle some of the work, and found his voice again. Real Estate succeeds as a band because they make earnest music without trying too hard. Even the Echoplex's bouncer took notice, walking up to the barricade three times to listen and snap the band's picture with his smartphone, something I've never seen in all of the years I’ve been reviewing shows.
It's not like the bouncer was neglecting his duties. The crowd before him was orderly and polite, nodding their heads in time to the chilled riffs coming from the stage, happy to occupy some very valuable property of their own: Standing room at a sold-out venue in full view of indie rock’s most pleasant band.