Before moving on, Real Estate looks back at career-defining 'Days'
On the heels of 'Half a Human' EP, the New Jersey indie-rock act celebrates the 10th anniversary of 'Days,' performing the record in full at Skully's on Saturday
Several years ago, Real Estate bassist and vocalist Alex Bleeker was playing his guitar in bed and began drifting off asleep. “Then something shook me awake, and I was like, ‘Wait, this is pretty cool. I'm going to record this,’” Bleeker said recently by phone.
The guitar riff demo sat around for a while as a GarageBand file labeled “D+” (named after the key of the tune), not finding a lyrical home until Jan. 20, 2017. “I wrote all the lyrics to it on the day of Donald Trump's inauguration, which I wasn't super psyched about,” Bleeker said. “I was in this grim, anxiety-ridden state of mind, quietly watching that terrible inauguration on my computer, and those lyrics all poured out.”
“It's a red letter day, let the orchestra play/Before they cart you away, the ship is sinking,” Bleeker sings on the foreboding track, which retained the title “D+” as a fitting double entendre.
The song is featured on Real Estate’s recent release Half a Human, an EP of material that originated during sessions for 2020 album The Main Thing. Initially, Bleeker and his bandmates planned to hold on to the songs for a future full-length, but after the pandemic hit, all the material from the Before Times felt too far removed to fold into a new album. “We decided that the paradigm of life had just shifted way too dramatically to do that,” Bleeker said. “We wanted to be starting fresh. … Too much has changed.”
But before Real Estate moves on to the next record, the long-running New Jersey indie-rock act is pausing to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Days, arguably its most beloved album. During a recent run of shows, including a stop at Skully’s on Saturday, Nov. 13, the band will perform Days’ hazy, chill track list from front to back.
“I haven't forgotten the songs because I play them live all the time, but I am sort of separate from the record. Putting it back on again was deeply nostalgic, and I was like, ‘Oh, it sounds good. It holds up,’” Bleeker said, noting that the album evokes a certain time in his life, much like favorite albums often do for listeners. “It reminds me of specific life experiences: where I was, who I was dating, what I was doing, how it changed my life.”
In many ways, the success of Days made Real Estate the band it is today, separating the group from flash-in-the-pan blog bands of the era. “When you put out a record and it's being well-received, it's kind of an incredible feeling," Bleeker said. "I can tie the album cycle of that record to why I'm still talking to you on the phone right now, so it will always be meaningful for me in that way."
And while Bleeker and his bandmates are proud of their more recent releases, and grateful to the fans who have stuck with them over the past 10-plus years, Bleeker knows there’s something different about Days. “This is a special one to a lot of people, and I think that's cool, actually. … I feel lucky that we even have a record like this worth celebrating 10 years on, and that people care to celebrate it.”
The anniversary also comes at a time when, until this most recent tour, Real Estate hadn’t performed for fans since a series of sidewalk shows outside the addresses of former New York City record stores in March of 2020, just days before lockdown orders went out. Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, with masked concert-goers and the calculated risks for rock show performers and attendees, Bleeker said the onstage experience has felt amazing. “It's really cathartic to be in the room with people,” he said. “I'm more jazzed and excited about it than I have been in a while.”