Real Estate finds market at Hampshire College

By Sam Butterfield

The New Jersey-raised, Brooklyn-based surf rock band Real Estate paid a visit to rhythm guitarist and backup singer Matthew Mondanile’s alma mater, Hampshire College on Monday, putting the finishing touches on Hampshire’s freshmen orientation in a more than rocking fashion.

Channeling 1960s psychedelia while ripping through their eponymous debut album and some covers, the four-piece group, composed of front man Martin Courtney, Mondanile, Alex Bleeker on bass and Etienne Duguay on drums gave Hampshire a roaring performance. They took their brand of swooning, nostalgic rock even further than on their album, turning four-minute songs into epic eight-minute jams replete with long, frantic breakdowns and swift transitions from frenetic and unleashed to tight and controlled.

The group opened with what has been their biggest hit to date, “Beach Comber,” the first track on their debut album. With a mellow initial guitar line which evokes a bygone era in music, calling to memory the Beach Boys or lo-fi music you’ve heard on a soundtrack but can’t quite place, “Beach Comber” transitions into a ballad about detaching from the mundane nature of day-to-day life and letting time slip away by the sea.

Real Estate gave Hampshire more than just what earned them 2009’s Best New Music label from indie establishment Pitchfork, as they turned their reverbed, faded, waving tunes into garage rock anthems, and “Beach Comber” set a rousing tone.

After their opening jam had green-faced students swaying, they transitioned to the second song on their album, “Pool Swimmers,” which slowly coos over a light, hazy guitar line with a faint, light drum beat.

From there, the group brought the tempo back up, cutting into the middle of their album with the track “Green River.” With another light, airy opening, “Green River” kicked into a throbbing jam, as Real Estate drew out their breakdowns into minute-long rock-outs, as students bounced elatedly to the Garden State blend of nostalgic surf rock.

Between songs, Mondanile gave students light-hearted advice about Hampshire and the Valley, encouraging freshmen to make their own music and take advantage of the rich arts and culture scene Amherst provides.

As they progressed through their collection, the band worked in a few covers, paying homage to formative lo-fi band The Clean with a rousing, manic cover of “Point That Thing Somewhere Else,” as well as going back a ways in their own artistic progression, playing several tunes from Courtney and Mondanile’s earlier band, Ducktails.

Other standout songs included “Suburban Beverage,” which swooned over a reverbed, twangy guitar line with a fast-paced steady drum beat and long, extended breakdowns which had students jiving.

It certainly took the banality of growing up in sleepy Ridgewood, N.J. to breed a band with Real Estate’s cynicism and understatement. This band, however, is not just another indie phenomenon with an ironic name. They have a limitless ceiling and will certainly continue to refine their fuzzy, beach rock aesthetic modeled on the likes of Pavement and Weezer. While Real Estate’s opening album evokes summery days spent letting time bleed by the sea and cool nights of drinking and leisure, their finished product is much richer and more complex. Real Estate will continue to sell.

Sam Butterfield can be reached at [email protected]