While the pandemic kept his band from getting out on the road, Real Estate bassist/vocalist Alex Bleeker says the stoppage in shows ultimately brought him some much-needed perspective.
“You found out what was really important,” Bleeker says. “For me personally, I had to sit with [the fact that] I’ve been playing shows and touring for 12 years at this point. So I had to really consider who I am and what my identity is outside of a guy who gets on stage and plays shows. I think that was a really important thing to confront for all of us.”
Now back on the road for the first time in two years, Real Estate headlines the Hi-Fi in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Nov. 10, with opening support from Kate Bollinger. Our Seth Johnson caught up with Bleeker for a phone interview before the band’s visit, discussing the 10-year anniversary of Real Estate’s album Days and much more. Read their conversation below.
SETH JOHNSON: With it being the 10th anniversary of Days, can you take me back to where you were as a band when that album came out and how things have changed over the years?
ALEX BLEEKER: I mean, things are definitely really different now than they were then. It was a decade ago, and it was a pretty eventful decade at that. The band is really different as far as personnel, and the music that we’re making has changed pretty drastically too. So yeah, totally in a different place.
All that said, we recognize the importance of that record. For a lot of people, it was the first one of ours they heard. It holds a really nostalgic place in the hearts of all the fans, and for that reason, it holds a really nostalgic place and special time in our hearts too. We were lucky to experience some success with the first record as well, but Days really brought things to another level and I think we really felt that at the time. It was really, really exciting to feel that we were progressing. It kind of catapulted me into this moment now, which is 10 years on and I’m still playing shows and making a go of it as a professional musician. Days definitely had a huge hand in all that, so that’s why we’re honoring it and taking a moment to recognize it.
JOHNSON: I know the album title Days was inspired by a Television song with the same name. What stands out to you about “Days,” the song by Television?
BLEEKER: It’s just so melodic and has this unfathomably sparkling guitar lead. If we can conjure one-eighth of the feeling that guitar lead conjures in the hearts and minds of Television fans with our tunes, then we consider ourselves successful. It just comes together as one of those perfect pop songs. It’s got a good, relaxed groove. That lead guitar part, as I mentioned, is amazing — it’s super melodic.
The reason we named the album that is because a writer named Bryan Waterman said in his intro to Marquee Moon [the book] that “Days,” even though it’s on the second record, Adventure, sort of created the blueprint for decades of indie rock to follow. I think at the time we put Days out, the context of the “indie rock landscape” at that time (and I say this as a fan) was Animal Collective-heavy with a lot of samplers and fewer guitars. Ya know, Animal Collective had stopped using their guitars. A lot of young bands weren’t playing guitar any more. We saw ourselves as a return to the interlocking, guitar-based, melodic music. So we used that sentence about the particular Television song as a shining example of what we were after.
JOHNSON: Have you ever met any of the guys from Television in passing before?
BLEEKER: I’ve never met them, but it’s crazy you should mention that because I’m in Cleveland now at the Beachland Ballroom, and one of the road techs here is friends with them and actually played with members of the band in certain projects. We just found that out moments ago because we were practicing our cover version of “Days.” [laughs]
JOHNSON: Have you been up to anything with Alex Bleeker and the Freaks as of late?
BLEEKER: It wasn’t technically with the Freaks because the Freaks became a very specific band. But I put out a solo record in the pandemic year that I’m really proud of. It’s called Heaven on the Faultline. I played some solo shows with a band, but not the Freaks because I have too much respect for who the Freaks actually are.
The Freaks will ride again. I love those guys, and we still have a very active text chain going. [laughs] I’m definitely not done making music outside of Real Estate. I’ve got a couple other projects on the back-burner, and one of them will certainly be the Freaks again for sure.
JOHNSON: Are there any specific things you missed about life out on the road?
BLEEKER: I missed traveling. I missed running into friends all over the country. It’s really nice to be back. We are back in a different way because we’re a lot more cautious. I mean, one of my favorite things to do on tour is eat in restaurants. We’re not eating inside too much just because we have this extra layer of caution. Because if one of us were to test positive, then we’d have to not tour anymore, which would suck. [laughs] So there are things that are different about touring now in this era. But that said, I’m just so grateful to be back. It feels so good to be back on stage and connecting with fans of the music in that way.
JOHNSON: What have you been listening to lately?
BLEEKER: There was this reissue of an Ethiopian band called Admas that came out last year that I’m super, super into. In terms of newer bands that are in my sphere, I really like John Andrews’ record that came out within the last year. This guy John Carroll Kirby has put out a couple of really amazing instrumental records. That’s just some stuff that comes to mind off the top of my head.
Photo by Jake Michaels