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Real Estate


New Jersey is clearly a vibrant hotspot for music and sugar-coated pop band, Real Estate, do their part to add to the legacy. CHRIS HAVERCROFT speaks with guitarist, Matt Mondanile, about the outfit’s third and most collaborative album to date, Atlas. 

In the calm before the storm of releasing a new album, Real Estate guitarist, Matt Mondanile was recently in Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival with his solo outfit Ducktails as the support act for Julia Holter. 

Whilst not quite a holiday, there was some time to be able to take in the atmosphere and enjoy an afternoon at the Brisbane Hotel.

Perth Festival was lovely, I had a really good time in the city when I was there,” offers Mondanile of his time in our fair state. “The record label rep gave me a Go-Betweens CD and we had some great conversation. There is a lot of stuff that has influenced Real Estate a whole bunch and I think that we are really big fans of a lot of Australian and New Zealand bands.”

Mondanile was in town around the same time as Bruce Springsteen who was spoken to of Australian bands and it was suggested to him that the Triffids Wide Open Road would be the perfect song to cover. Mondaline eagerly offered that Real Estate would love to have a crack at it, which is another thing that has set them apart from their fellow New Jersey native.

“I think that we are more in the line of Yo La Tengo or The Feelies or some of those bands,” says Mondanile of his birthplace. “Jersey is a really interesting place because there isn’t really a spot where people can convene. There used to be a spot called Maxwell’s in Hoboken but it closed so now it is just a really empty place. There are people from there but they end up living in other places. All of the members of Real Estate live in New York except for me. I live in Los Angeles.”

The distance between the band members works in Mondanile’s favour as he says it allows the band to work to very confined periods of time. He will fly in for a week at a time to rehearse before tours or to work on new songs. It is also this sense of distance that has allowed the band to look outside of New York when recording Atlas.

“We recorded in Chicago because it is cheaper to do than in New York and there is a studio there (Wilco’s loft) that has all this great equipment and we got to use it. Domino (record label) wanted us to work with Tom Schick, who is Wilco’s producer and engineer and he suggested we do the record in Chicago as it was cheaper with a lot more equipment to use. Jeff Tweedy did drop in and he was really nice and said that the band like Real Estate so they were totally into us using the studio.”

The record is called Atlas because Real Estate approached the album with the thought of the songs as their own little story. To them it is a map of songs full of eclectic ideas. The cover art is striking and shows sections of a mural by a Polish artist named Stefan Knapp that hung for more than 30 years outside a department store in North Jersey.

“The cover art was of a mural from a department store in New Jersey called Alexander’s. There was a big mural there which was the biggest mural on the east coast for quite some time. The store was in our town just off the highway. It is a mall and was a landmark when we were growing up. It was torn down about 20 years ago but we decided to take it and alter it into squares to use it as the record cover.”

Real Estate are the best know outfit that Mondanile is associated with, but over the years his solo project Ducktails has now released more records than his main squeeze. Despite this, Mondanile is loyal to both outlets.

“I like to think of both bands as equal to me. It is easy to decide which songs go where. I like to keep the songs that I write for myself usually, but if I have a song that I think would suit Real Estate then I will present it to the guys and I’ll see what they think. Real Estate is more like a very consistent group. There will always be people at the shows. Real Estate is all friends of mine that I have known for a long time, so it is different to Ducktales, but is very important to me.”


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