Artist On Artist: Twerps Vs Real Estate
News posted Thursday, March 8 2012 at 06:00 AM.
Related: Real Estate, Twerps, Artist On Artist.
Ahead of an east-coast tour, MARTY FRAWLEY from Melbourne’s Twerps gets on the blower with MARTIN COURTNEY from Underwater Peoples labelmates Real Estate, discussing lyrics, writing on the road and on-stage nerves.
Marty Frawley: Are you in Jersey or New York?
Martin Courtney: No, I’m in Brooklyn. I just moved here a couple of months ago.
MF: I’m in the car now [in Melbourne] cause it’s freezing cold. I’ve got a few questions here. [Guitarist] Jules [MacFarlane] and I wrote them down.. They might be a bit lame so I won’t be offended if you just say, “Next.” [Laughs] So what are you most psyched about to see while you’re over in the Australia? Is there anything in particular?
MC: I’m psyched for the shows. And I’m psyched in general to go over to Australia cause we’ve never been there before, obviously. I’m psyched to see you guys. I’ve only seen you guys play once before ever.
MF: I guess I was trying to think of question that I would want to be asked, because you get so sick of getting asked questions all the time. So this one is more about the interpretation and meaning of lyrics. So much of the time I get asked, “What’s this song about?” And you know there’s always interpretations between the actual song and what it’s about.
MC: Yeah, definitely.
MF: Have you got any of those secrets you’d like to share with me?
MC: [Laughs] The hardest part for me usually is writing the words. A lot of times I don’t really have an idea in mind of what the song is going to be about or what it’s supposed to mean. And the lyrics are kind of – I don’t know, it’s like a series of ideas or something. When the song is done, when I’m done writing the lyrics, it starts to make sense to me. For me, it’s kind of like a mysterious process … For example that song, ‘Out Of Tune’, people sometimes think it’s about our old drummer, who’s not in the band anymore.
MF: That’s the song I was gonna ask about. Because I didn’t think that. I thought it was about you, and how night after night you’re singing and you’re out of tune; it’s kind of like you’re upset with yourself.
MC: Yeah, that’s true. A lot of people think it’s about someone else, but it’s about me. And being on tour, it’s kind of like the songs start loosing meaning almost cause you’re just playing them all the time over and over again. It’s kind of about how shitty a tour could be. [Laughs]
MF: Music has changed so much with the internet and blogs and all that stuff. Certainly that’s helped us. I don’t really know the details of how you guys started [but] did you find that all a bit overwhelming and even a bit scary?
MC: Definitely. It was the same thing for us. It was all blog and internet stuff at first. I remember the first time a blog wrote about us, and just being so excited that someone would even take the time to write something about our music and what we were playing … It gets scary, because at a certain point you start to realise it’s buzz … There’s a lot of bands that don’t withstand that, or don’t make it through that first wave of attention. If there’s too much attention being put on a band, it can overwhelm them, and it can also overwhelm the people who read about them. They sort of get sick of it really fast. That’s still a fear, obviously.
MF: You still have that? Your second record Days couldn’t have been better and everyone’s still hyped.
MC: But it’s still like, “What about the next record?”, you know.
MF: But I guess you can’t really let that get to you, can you?
MC: No, that’s the real thing. Even with the album that we just put out – before it got released, and when we were recording it – it’s too easy to just think about what people are going to think about it, you know, when it comes out.
MF: And forgetting what it means to you.
MC: It doesn’t really matter: as long as we like it and we’re happy with it.
MF: Well, yeah, then you’re doing it for the right reason. That’s awesome. So what would you being doing if you’d just finished college and moved back to Jersey, if the music hadn’t taken off? If you weren’t touring and stuff?
MC: I don’t know, I was thinking about that they other day, and it was scary because I couldn’t think of something immediately. I don’t know what I would do. But I feel like I would just get a job and hopefully find something that I liked…
MF: What’d you study at college?
MC: I went to a weird liberal school and studied all sorts of different stuff. I didn’t really have specific major, I read a lot of books and said I was studying literature. I feel like I’d probably be a writer of some sort. That would be my dream. I think if I couldn’t do music, I’d somehow get into writing. I always had a knack for that, I guess.
MF: [Bassist] Alex [Bleeker] said you did a lot of design and what not. Graphic design?
MC: Yeah, yeah that too. I used to do all the Real Estate 7” covers. I did a couple for friends and other people. I used to do posters and stuff all the time. But I’m not good at drawing. It’s more like a collage type thing. Cut and paste … I can do that, but I’m definitely not super good at it.
MF: [Laughs] You don’t have to be good at it. If people like what you do, that’s cool. I did a picture and Jules put it up on the fridge. It’s like a crab zapping some fish and I thought it was the worst thing ever, but Jules likes it so that makes me happy. [Laughter] So do you find writing while on tour difficult, or have you managed a way of keeping track of writing your songs while you’re on tour?
MC: Well, it’s really hard actually. I feel like I come up with a million ideas when we’re on tour, but then I forget them all … When I’m on tour I really want to write new material because you’re playing the same songs all the time. I always play a lot of stuff that I really love during soundcheck and I always try to remember it, or even maybe record it a little bit on my phone. But it’s hard when you get home to try and keep track of everything that you’ve thought of, form it into songs.
MF: When we were in America [last year], we were lucky enough to play with a lot of bands that we really enjoyed. After every show I’d be like, “Shit, I want to make a song.” I was inspired every night. But by the time I got home I didn’t know how to translate that. And I was also saying, “Hang on. These aren’t sounding like my songs, these are sounding like Royal Baths or Big Troubles’ [songs].” It’s a tricky thing.
MC: It’s definitely the case with playing with [other] bands, and for me it’s even just the music that we listen to in the band. I end up listening to a lot of stuff that I don’t normally listen to. Jackson [Pollis], our drummer, will play some stuff, and different people will put their iPod on and I’ll hear all this different music that I’ve never hear before. It’s the same thing. We’re all listening to these songs and we’re like, “Oh man, I want to write a song that’s like this” … It’s hard to discipline yourself to actually stick with what you’re doing.
MF: I know we’re a lot like that. [Bassist] Rick [Milovanovic] will love a lot of hip-hop for while, and [drummer] Pat [O’Neil] and I have been going through a reggae stage. I think it’s really important to be around lots of different music. It’s awesome if all you guys are still listening to different stuff. It probably wouldn’t work as well if you were all listening to the same five records.
MC: Yeah definitely. That’s one of my favourite things about being on tours, is getting to listen to other music.
MF: We have this thing where we have specific times that we ideally like to play at, you know, if we’re playing on a big bill with lots of bands. And Rick always likes playing first ‘cause he feels like you get up, get the nerves out and then you can enjoy the day … What would be your ideal time [at a festival]?
MC: I think ideally I’d like to play not last, but if it’s outdoors, at about 6.30pm when the sun’s going down. I don’t like to play first – I mean, sometimes I do – but I like to play just right in the middle. Playing last, everyone’s always really tired or they want to go home, and sometimes a lot of people have already left. Playing first maybe not everybody’s there. So I feel like right in the middle is the sweet spot.
MF: Do you get nervous before shows? You guys have played some big shows like that one with Girls in New York [in January]. That sounded massive.
MC: Yeah, it really depends on the show. It’s weird cause the circumstances surrounding the show don’t even matter, it’s just really whatever my mood happens to be like that day. But, yeah, I get really nervous sometimes and I’ll go out on stage shaking, you know. But then one or two songs in its always fine, you get confident … Sometimes it’s what bands we’re playing with: if I really respect them, and I’m nervous about what they’re going to think of us. Actually that Girls show, there were about 3000 people. That was a big show but I wasn’t nervous at all. I don’t know why. That show happened to go really well and I felt really good about it.
REAL ESTATE/TWERPS TOUR:
Fri, Mar 9 – The Standard, Sydney, NSW (w/Sures)
Sat, Mar 10 – Golden Plains, Meredith, VIC (Real Estate only)
Mon, Mar 12 – Corner Hotel, Melbourne, VIC (w/SURES)
Tues, Mar 13 – The Zoo, Brisbane, QLD (w/Tight Slip, Feathers)