Only Real is a West London half-pint who’s scoffing Fruit Loops and existing digitally, as we young people just love doing. All the while, he’s making raw, under-produced stories about youth culture in West London suburbia. Note: he’s white, he raps, and he has a guitar. As a result, there have been lazy comparisons to Jamie T, but whilst we have the opportunity, and in his own words, we should dispel; “I’m not the next Jamie T. Jamie T is the next Jamie T.”
In person, Niall Galvin is a chilled guy, with one tongue placed firmly in his cheek, and a masterful wield of comic timing. He even describes his music as “Guinness-y”, a reference lost on us, unless each track is derived from roasted unmalted barley, which we believe to be untrue. On track, he’s an extremely versatile musician, and surfaced songs pay testament to this. ‘New Gold’ is a hypnotic grunge number, “pretty downbeat for me,” admits Niall, and it wouldn’t sound lost on a late-eighties Sub Pop release. ‘Cadillac Girl’ sees him thumbing guitar to slow drum beats, whilst rapping about a lost love with sharp colloquialism. In a similar vein to the playful youth discourse of ‘Cinammon Toast’, his latest single ‘Backseat Kisses’ finds him chirping falsetto above sun-kissed guitars and Four Tet-esque piano stabs. There’s a rough edge to every track, which adds a certain DIY charm, yet Niall admits this isn’t intentional: “To me, these are the best I could have got them,” he laughs.
There’s hip-hop influences here, and in the past he’s expressed a love for the ’90s output of Outkast and Cali crew Hieroglyphics, but essentially Only Real is an experiment in impulse. “Without sounding like a bell end… I think it, and then I make it rhyme.” He champions this approach - it’s known as “reppin’ real”, and when songs as bitterly sweet as ‘Cadillac Girl’ are fruits of this spontaneous labour, it’s hard to argue. Next for him? “I want to do another project that hasn’t really been done before by anyone in my position… it’s quite jokes.” We wait.
Words: Joe Zadeh
Photography: Sam Butt
Fashion: Chris Amfo
Where: West London
What: Guinness-y grunge-grime
Get 3 songs: ‘Cadillac Girl’, ‘Cinnamon Toast’, ‘Backseat Kisses’
Unique Fact: Niall hates camping. He just doesn’t get it.
Jacket by Clothsurgeon, T-shirt by Palace, Hat by Starter.