In early November Alex Bleeker stood on the stage at Maxwell’s in Hoboken, New Jersey with his band, Real Estate. The four-piece was sound checking in front of an eager crowd, which can sometimes be a nerve-wracking experience. Everyone wants the show to start, the band wants to make the show sound good. Luckily, Alex Bleeker is the type of person that makes situations comfortable.
As his bandmates checked guitar levels and microphones, Bleeker, who plays bass in the band and is 23, cracked jokes and talked with the crowd. That’s just the kind of guy he is.
His joke had something to do with the state of New Jersey, which is apt. The show was in Jersey and Bleeker and his band mates all, with the exception of drummer Etienne Duguay, grew up there and still live there. The show at Maxwell’s was also the first stop on a tour opening for Girls, the most hyped indie act this year.
Bleeker, as his friends call him, just released his debut LP on Friday. So while he is still on tour with Real Estate, (they conclude the tour this Friday with a show at Market Hotel), he is also putting out his own work. This release is a first for many– the record is also the first ever LP put out by Underwater Peoples, which is a collaborative effort and a cooperatively run label started by Bleeker’s childhood friends.
Alex Bleeker and the Freaks is a loving collection of classic rock and roll tunes. Over Budweiser’s in the Maxwell’s dining room before the show Bleeker mentioned he wants his band to sound like Neil Young and Crazy Horse. You can definitely feel that desire coming though on the record and in live settings. The music has a rough edge to it, a kind of electric haze that makes pretty sounds feel more desperate.
“His music really speaks to me,” he said.
Bleeker leads the Freaks in a kind-of rag tag way- the group is not as clean and focused, perhaps, as Real Estate, even though the groups share members.
Bleeker as well as his Real Estate band mates, Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney and another friend and musician Julian Lynch, recorded and mixed this record on July 11, 2009. The thrown together yet dedicated vibe fits this group. The songs feel immediate and have an almost playful vibe to them, which is just what Bleeker was going for.
“At the time this album was recorded, I was reading Neil Young’s biography, Shakey. That had a big influence on the recording process, the idea of getting good cuts, live, raw in the room. If you listen carefully to the record you can hear some missed notes or mistakes, and that’s how I like it. It’s like capturing the way that the songs were recorded at one particular moment in time,” he said.
One track that has been downloaded all over the internet over the past few months is “Never Goin’ Back,” a nostalgic paean to college daze. Bleeker attended Bennington College, a tiny liberal arts school in the Berkshires of Southern Vermont, (the same school as Mountain Man, and yes, they were friends and he brought their songs to Underwater Peoples, which is releasing a 10″ from Mountain Man this winter.)
Bleeker studied theater at Bennington, but he says playing in a band onstage is a similar experience to playing a character.
“In both scenarios you’re conveying a version of yourself, somewhat enhanced, to communicate or forge some kind of recognizable emotional connection,” he said.
Bleeker graduated in Spring, 2008, which is when he wrote “Never Goin’ Back.” Bleeker writes songs that wrap around you and pull you in– even with subjects that listeners can’t easily relate to, like just graduating from school, perhaps.
“All of these songs are specific to my own personal experience,” Bleeker said. “But I hope they are ultimately relatable to many people on a more grand human scale.”
Alex Bleeker is playing solo acoustic with Mountain Man, Liam the Younger and No Demons Here on December 11 at the Lutheran Church of the Messiah in Greenpoint.
Animal Tracks: Alex Bleeker and the Freaks (Mountain Man Cover)