Indie-rock quintet Real Estate have announced their first new album since 2017’s In Mind, previewing their fifth LP The Main Thing (Feb. 28, Domino) with “Paper Cup,” a danceable, strings-accented search for purpose that features background vocals from Sylvan Esso’s Amelia Meath—the 13-track album, first teased a year ago, is Real Estate’s first time recruiting outside instrumentalists and special guests like Meath.
“Paper Cup” arrives alongside a Nick Roney-directed video in which the song is performed by Chipper, a Chuck E. Cheese-esque animatronic chipmunk who has most definitely seen better days. The one-eyed robot looks back on his golden years as he plays, at one point glitching out (“Sorry kids, looks like Chipper’s in a jam!” says a cheery voice we’re 95% sure is Topher Grace’s) only to be jogged back into functionality by a well-placed skee ball by Real Estate frontman Martin Courtney. A run-down Chipper goes out with a bang, rocking out the “Paper Cup” guitar solo until “party time” ends for good—he may not have died doing what he loved, but he definitely died doing what he did.
Courtney says of the band’s new song and album:
“Paper Cup” is a song about getting older and realizing that this thing that I fell into doing over 10 years ago—being a musician, writing songs, being a guy in a band—this may end up being my life’s work. Watching the people around me change and evolve, take on new challenges, and feeling sort of stuck in a rut, in a way. Feeling uncertain of the validity of being an artist in an age of climate change and general political and social unrest around the world.
It’s a song about questioning your chosen path in life and searching for meaning in what you do.
Those questions don’t really get resolved in this song, but ironically, the process of making this record—really diving deep and trying to make it the best thing we’ve ever made—reaffirmed in me, and I think in all of us in this band, why we are doing this.
“Even before we decided where to record [The Main Thing] or who to record it with, I knew it needed to sound that good,” the band’s Alex Bleeker explains. “We discovered through the care and attention that we brought to this record that making music to resonate with other people is our catharsis. The ‘main thing’ is following your path of inspiration and hoping to inspire that in people around you.”
Real Estate—that is, Bleeker (bass), Courtney (vocals, guitar), Matthew Kallman (keyboards), Julian Lynch (guitar, vocals), and Jackson Pollis (drums and drum programming)—will support their new record on a 24-stop U.S. tour, starting in Detroit on April 9 and concluding in Portland on May 22. You can get your tickets here.
Watch the “Paper Cup” video and a 2009 Real Estate performance from the Paste archives below. You’ll find the details of The Main Thing and Real Estate’s tour dates further down.
The Main Thing Album Art:
The Main Thing Tracklist:
02. Paper Cup (feat. Sylvan Esso)
06. Falling Down
07. Also A But
08. The Main Thing
09. Shallow Sun
11. Silent World
Real Estate Tour Dates:
09 – Detroit, Mich. @ El Club*
10 – Chicago, Ill. @ Thalia Hall*
11 – Minneapolis, Minn. @ First Avenue*
13 – Omaha, Neb. @ Slowdown*
14 – Kansas City, Mo. @ The Truman*
15 – St. Louis, Mo. @ The Ready Room*
16 – Indianapolis, Ind. @ The Vogue*
17 – Nashville, Tenn. @ Brooklyn Bowl Nashville*
18 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Variety Playhouse*
20 – Chapel Hill, N.C. @ Cat’s Cradle*
21 – Washington, D.C. @ 9:30 Club*
22 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ Union Transfer*
23 – Boston, Mass. @ Royale*
07 – Oakland, Calif. @ Fox Theater†
08 – Los Angeles, Calif. @ The Fonda Theater†
09 – San Diego, Calif. @ Belly Up Tavern†
10 – Phoenix, Ariz. @ The Crescent Ballroom†
12 – Dallas, Texas @ The Granada Theater†
13 – Austin, Texas @ Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater†
14 – Houston, Texas @ White Oak Music Hall†
18 – Denver, Colo. @ Gothic Theatre#
19 – Salt Lake City, Utah @ Urban Lounge#
21 – Seattle, Wash. @ Neptune Theatre#
22 – Portland, Ore. @ Revolution Hal#
(* with Palm)
(† with Meg Baird)
(# with Itasca)