You can always spot a band a mile away. It's something about those haircuts and the stylishly disheveled clothing. When the members of indie rock act Real Estate pile out of a van at a rest stop or a gas station while on tour, bassist Alex Bleeker says the stares are plentiful.
"First of all, you don’t see packs of 30-somethings," he says. "At this point, you're supposed to have settled down."
Bleeker also says he likes to do jumping jacks on the lawn to get the blood flowing.
The guys have all gotten together from their corners of the country (New York, Wisconsin and Northern California) for their spring tour, and last week, they're stuffed into a van in the middle of Illinois when Bleeker takes our call. Boisterous yells run in the background from bandmates, but Bleeker is up to talk. He says that tour is still thrilling right now as it's only day three. Plus, they're playing and perfecting new tunes every night.
"The new stuff — that's the marker of a good show, doing this," Bleeker says. "When we do new stuff, we're looking at how do people react to it? How does it feel? Then, we're also looking at new ways to play old songs — more periods of improvisation or working on older songs we haven’t played in a while to keep things fresh."
The band is rolling through much of the Midwest before ending up in Cleveland on Wednesday to play the Beachland Ballroom at 8:30 p.m. And Bleeker says he's excited to get back the Collinwood club. The sound is warm there, and the room allows for the right kind of energy, he says.
"Truthfully, when we were booking this tour, I had our agent put Cleveland on the list," he says.
Since forming in 2009, the band hasn't had a Top 40 radio single per se, but its 2014 album Atlas
not only garnered much critical acclaim, but it also landed at No. 34 on the Billboard charts, cementing the five-piece as an indie act to be reckoned with. This is a band of guys who've known each other, many of them, since elementary school. They've moved from upstate New Jersey to Brooklyn together. They've watched one another grow up, become fathers and partners, and then move away. Through the ups and the downs of a band's existence, it's how they've dealt with the tough stuff that proves their mettle.
Last October, the band released a statement that lead guitarist Matt Mondanile had been fired back in 2016 due to sexual assault allegations. It took nearly a year for the real reason behind the split, all coming to light around the same time of the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
But it's clear Real Estate wants to put the whole thing behind it. When asked how the band's handling things now, Bleeker only says: "We’re happy with Julian in the band."
The new guitarist Julian Lynch has been with the group now since 2016 and helped in the writing of the act's most recent album In Mind
, which came out last year. Though frontman Martin Courtney comes up with the framework for most of the band's songs, the rest of the crew help work out the lines and rhythms together.
The album, while still very much in the same middle-of-the-road, swaying and summery vibe as the group's previous efforts, offers up one of its catchiest tunes yet: "Darling." Looping guitars hover over a misty synthesizer as Courtney croons about waiting for his love. This is the springing-off point for the fresh songs the band is currently perfecting on the road. Bleeker says they're working on on a new album right now. But after more than a decade of making music for a living, Bleeker says he doesn't have any illusions.
"Music is a young person's game," he says. "It’s hard to stick around too long as a rock band. That our music is still important to us. It makes us want to continue. But I think of it as one record and one day at a time."
Regarding the upcoming stop in Cleveland, Bleeker says the show's energy will mostly depend on the audience.
"Public service announcement: At any show, be a good audience member," he says with a laugh. "The band always reacts to a good crowd; it's a togetherness thing. I don’t want to tell anyone how to experience music, but often that means loud cheering, and not looking at your phone too much. There’s this intangible thing, I don’t know what creates it, but it's why I'm here."
Real Estate, Habibi, 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 13, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $22 ADV, $25 DOS, beachlandballroom.com