A few years back, Tom Watson, Kev Kharas and Pat King began creating music in the unholy hours of afterparties, with the memories and tunes of the night before fresh in their subconscious. Rather than disguising the environments that a lot of their songs were conceived in, they've used them as a vehicle to connect with like-minded people sharing exactly the same experiences. Aside from creating music as Real Lies, the trio (alongside others) have become known for their club nights: Eternal, which was held at the now closed People's Club and Luxury, which still takes place at different venues throughout the city.
Of course, with the release of any new music come the comparisons to other bands and other decades. In the case of Real Lies, these comparisons manifest themselves in music from the '80s, '90s and early 2000s, but something they're clear about is that this is music for now, not then. It's about their lives, their friends and about the present. It's music that's a reflection not just of them not as a band but as people. People that are part of a generation and a shared collective who, as they put it, "don't know what the fuck is going on".
'Real Life' (Clash review HERE) tells poetic tales of nocturnality, red wine stained carpets and dusty flats, friendship and relationships and exploring the city under of a milky dawn sky, the colour of which some wouldn't even recognise. Some on the other hand, know it all too well. If you happen come under that category, you're probably one of those getting wholeheartedly behind them.
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How was the show at Electrowerkz for you guys?
Tom Watson: It was brilliant to play in our our neighbourhood and on the same bill us our friends (The Rhythm Method and Real Ales). It was the first gig we've played in London in ages. The last one we played was at an unlicensed warehouse party in a timber yard which we called Luxury. We knew about the venue through some guy in the pub. He said there's this timber yard that's about to get knocked down and told us we could play party there the following Friday. So we spent the week clearing it out.
Kev Kharas: It was still a functioning timber yard so we literally had to clear everything.
Tom: Me and my friends had to carry a cutting lathe out of the middle of the warehouse and they're fucking heavy. So yeah, we played the gig and like 1,000 people turned up. Then the police turned up but we just bolted the front door and they went away. The real problem was with the family that owned the yard. We had a bit of a run in with them half way through the night. They took me and my friend in the back room and started on us. One of them accused me of making a porno in one of the back rooms like: "He's filming women!". Straight after that happened we realised we had to get ourselves and all of our stuff out of there so we ordered a convoy of ubers and got all of our musical equipment and basically just did a runner.
The venue was still pretty much full and it was like 5 in the morning, but we unplugged the mixer while the DJ was still playing and said "Thanks for coming everyone!" and then fucked off. We had to sneak bundles of cash out in our girlfriend's socks and packets of hula hoops. The bulldozers were coming on Monday morning to knock it down. There may still be some people may still be in there, buried under all the rubble - some girl with dreads doing loads of ket.
It sounds like one hell of a party.
Kev: It was definitely hell and a party.
How does playing in London compare to playing in other cities? The record gets described as being London-centric quite a bit.
Tom: Obviously it's good playing here because we live here and all of our friends are here - the record is as much about them as it is about us. But as we're getting a wider audience and people are getting to know the songs, it becomes clear that the themes the album covers, moving to a big city and getting out there is a universal thing, not just a London thing. It just happens that we live in London. We're getting kids from all over the UK experiencing the same gravitational pull of the nearest big city. So I don't think it is London-centric.
Kev: I don't think it is at all. Certainly on social media, we've got people in Peru, in France, Italy, Spain, and they can all relate to it. Recently I've looked on my Facebook and seen all my old friends from school and I think, what separates me from them? Why am I here and they're there? Our lives are so different. They've got babies, wives and massive chins but they're all smiling. They're happy, they're settled, they've got stuff. I think there are people that are geared towards that. Towards attainment and towards having stuff. Possessing things and building things. Something tangible.
Then there are other people who are motivated by the potential of things, to stay out all night, to move to different cities, to make new friends, and constantly believe that the next Friday night or the next Saturday night could be the most important night of your life. You could meet the love of your life in a club or have a life changing DJ set. There are certainly two different types of people and I think with the latter, if there's one thing that links us all, it's that we want to get out there and fucking explore.
You've spoken before about those "in between bits" of the night, before and after the main event and have said that this is when a lot of your music is created. What is it about that limbo period, the bit that some people dread, that sparks so much creativity?
Kev: I think that if you describe it as a place rather than a time, you'd have to be the kind of person that inhabits it frequently enough to know it. It's a landscape we all know. Our music isn't really the kind of thing you would listen to in a club. You'll listen to it when you're getting ready for the night or you'll listen to it at a house party after you've been out.
Tom: I remember me and Pat came up with what became 'Seven Sisters' in about 15 minutes before going out. We were waiting to go out somewhere and had 15 minutes spare and literally just did it - straight off - a first draft.
Kev: We've written songs at after parties at our house, 'Dab Housing' for example, I remember working on that tune in my bed with like 20 people. On one of the tracks if you turn it up you can hear one of our friends Pete going "What track's this again?".
Tom: It sounds like it's about those hours of the night/morning because it was made during them.
There's definitely a nostalgic feel to the album and something that makes you feel warm towards those parts of the night. It made me fall back in love with living in the city again a bit.
Kev: Thank you very much. I think it that's so important. If you can take it on the chin and laugh about it - it seems like a noble mission to me. Taking those bleak memories and romanticising them. Times like that are so important. Socialising with people is how you learn about who you are.
Tom: Some people have decried what we're doing as being quite laddy. I personally find being called "lad" very offensive. I'm a very sensitive person and the connotation of being called a lad is that you're a fucking idiot - a Dorito eating, Family Guy watching tosser.
Kev: Especially in London, when you hear the word lad, you automatically think of is a bloke who's playing pool in a shit pub near a train station and he's drinking a flat European lager with his friend, scowling because his team's lost the early kick off, belching and farting and doing nothing with his life. That's obviously not what we're about. It's about aspirations and achieving so much more than we have.
Tom: I've seen our music described in various quarters as "lad-rock" and I don't know if I'm listening to the same fucking record to be honest. I wouldn't even call it rock. Listen to 'Sidetripping', 'Blackmarket Blues', 'Naked Ambition'. All of the samples in those tunes aren't obvious samples. Pat finds those samples and so much meticulous love and attention has gone into that, so to decry it, to slag it off as being "lad-rock", I think you've gotta be pretty thick to think that. The only person that would describe it as that would be someone that had a personal agenda against us. Someone who got bullied at school.
Something else that really stands out about the record is the total honesty within the songwriting and it made me wonder why you don't hear that more from many other bands. Why do you think that is?
Kev: I think if you put yourself out there you put yourself on the line, you're there to get shot at.
Tom: The music and our personalities are exactly the same thing. With the songs, as much as I love them, you need to understand the personalities of the people writing them. You need to understand the personal culture behind the songs to really understand them.
Kev: I mean, I'm not really a musician...
Tom: No, none of us can play the right chords on guitar, none of us can play scales. We just know what's good music and what's bad music.
Kev: It's music that comes from a lifestyle that's shaped by our own tastes and I think that's very evident. If music doesn't come out of a lifestyle it doesn't interest me at all because it's not telling me anything.
Tom: There's no filter between us and our music. A lot of artists have to go through levels, I don't know whether that's management or label, but we do exactly what we want to do and it's completely unfettered and I can't imagine any other way working for us. It wouldn't work if you filtered down Real Lies. If it sounds and feels like an honest description of our personalities that's because it is.
Kev: I can't think of anything worse than being dishonest. It just seems like a massive waste of time, why bother? You're trying to connect with people, just fucking say what you think.
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I've always had total faith and confidence in what we're doing.
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I think part of the reason the honesty attracts people is realising there's other people in exactly the same situation are you are.
Tom: I've noticed that a lot this week as people have been getting into the record. A guy came up to me at the show last night, he was wearing a fluorescent hat and he said "Thank you so much for making the tunes, I feel like you guys are the only ones that understand me." I was like "Thank you that's very kind of you, what do you mean by that?", and he said "I've just got a full time job and I kind of just have to take ecstasy every day". I told him that was too much and maybe he should get some help.
Kev: Imagine The Wolf of Wall Street if he was taking pills every day instead of coke. Nothing would get done.
A totally different film. So you have a phone that you encourage fans to contact you on...
Tom: Yeah I carry it around everywhere. We're always getting messages saying thank you for the music, thank you for the parties. It's fucking endless.
Kev: Well it's not endless because it's got very limited memory, but we definitely get around 10 to 15 a day.
Tom: When we first started, the first song we put out was deeper. We did a video with and put the phone number on it because our music is quite social, it was a way of staying in touch with the fans.
Kev: People misread it at the time and thought it was us trying to be mysterious and enigmatic, but it wasn't. Then there was this whole thing about us only using our initials and people really thought we were trying to be anonymous but it wasn't, it was just the most direct way we could think of to communicate with people.
So you guys will be well aware that London night-life is seriously under attack at the moment. Do you think it will ever have it's heyday again?
Tom: Clubs are obviously closing at a ridiculous rate and we've had personal experience with it with People's Club. I mean I sat in court for 4 days over it. People's Club was very important to us. The record was recorded with the backdrop of going to People's every month. I've been living in London for 10 years now and the general state of clubs in London and night culture has never been worse.
Having said that, I've had the best nights out I've had in London in the past year but I think that's because when you push people to the edges they have to find their own ways of making fun. We used to get serious techno DJ's [at Eternal] coming down and they'd play things like Texas because people just felt that they could play whatever they wanted. With Eternal, you could turn up with 20 of your friends and do whatever you wanted when you were there and it was a real shared experience and that's what the record is. It's the same with anything, if you get pushed to the edges you'll find your own way of doing things.
Are there any venues in London that you still continue to go to?
Tom: Well People's Club is shut at moment, so Eternal is on pause, but we do another night called Luxury. I think people trust us to put on a good night now and our policy is that we always have an unbilled line up. We had Jamie xx play in a basement to about 150 people for like a fiver. It's the perfect little venue but we don't know what's gonna happen with that now so we're looking for other venues. I'd like to find a way of setting it up so we could play and then have an eternal vibe afterwards but in the same venue.
Do you have any advice for anyone that might be a bit disheartened with their city?
Kev: Well I think what it boils down to where ever you are is a loss of identity. That's what's being sacrificed and sold off, but London will never be a city with too much money and not enough culture. I know these are quite hyperbolic terms but I think as promoters, as a band and as a voice we want to engage with the cultural war against that loss of identity with our music. Our music seems to resonate with a certain type of person. It's real, social music with an identity and our enemy is the opposite of that. Whether that's a new block of luxury flats...
Tom: Graphic designers eating burritos...
Kev: You know sometimes you automatically wince at something? What you're actually wincing at is people trying to superimpose a new kind of reality where everything has the creases ironed out. Anyone that likes our music and stays up all night and has seen the edges will know that that's not reality. It's about taking the rough with the smooth.
Tom: I noticed it the other day in this fucking horrible studio space for like creative people and no one's doing any fucking work. They're all sat outside fixing their bikes or having a coffee with their dog and their child or reading some shit book. It was like some kind of hippie commune. beards, everyone smelling of oil, wearing baggy M&S clothes.
Kev: I swear some people, the only reason they're still employed at their jobs is because they write something that dick-heads think is funny on a board outside a coffee shop. "Adam is awful, he's always late he never does any work but oh my god he writes the funniest things on the boards man you should get my friends Adam in!" I mean, how did we get to this place? How do these people have sex with their girlfriends? How do they look their parents in the eyes?
On the subject of girlfriends, the album is obviously heavily based around friendship, night-life, and the days that follow, but also a lot of references to romance and relationships. Do you think that they're themes that go hand in hand?
Kev: Yeah, well, it's a dichotomy isn't it. It's a constant struggle between one and the other. I think it's impossible to enjoy both of them to their fullest potential. I hadn't actually noticed it before but all of the songs are about monogamous love. We don't write songs about going out and shagging loads of girls. If that nostalgia you mentioned earlier does it exist, then it's probably for the last weekend. I think that we live in a generation now where no one really knows what the fuck's going on but our shared collective memory is of the last weekend and that's about as far as our nostalgia goes.
You've had such a positive reaction so far, did you think that would be the case?
Tom: To be honest, I always knew people would get into it.
Kev: I've always had total faith and confidence in what we're doing. It's a lot about empathy, if you're feeling a certain way then there's probably someone else out there feeling exactly the same. We're not exceptional in our circumstances. We still exist in the same economic, political, social reality as a lot of other people in the country, so of course I would think that people would be on our level and would understand where we're coming from.
Tom: We slowly put out the tunes out over two or three years, and I think now that people have heard the record as 11 songs, they've joined the dots up. I listened to us on Spotify and realised that objectively you need to listen to the whole length to understand what we do. You need 45 minutes of us to understand Real Lies. A lot of people say that we're stylistically quite diverse. For example, 'North Circular', 'Dab Housing' and 'Side Tripping' are all very different genre-wise...
Hence the "Surely there's something better to call RL than electropop" comment on Twitter...
Tom: Exactly, but I think that says says more about everyone else than it does about us. It just shows that there's a lack of invention with other bands. I think we're the only band in London that have any imagination.
Kev: Yeah I'd agree with that. Us and The Rhythm Method. What Tom has touched upon is that we live our life in these grey areas and no one really knows what to call us. We get called lads or we get called retro but it's because people don't know what to do with us. The grey areas for us are really important for us. I mean we don't even really know what to call our music. Everything we're doing is completely a product of now. The way it sounds is because we recorded it in bedrooms because we can't afford a studio in London. The music is about our friends. The music sounds the way it does because of the music we listen to at house parties with our friends and is 100%, utterly, the sound of our lives right now.
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Words: Maya Rose Radcliffe
Real Lies have just come to the end of their UK headline tour, but you can catch them supporting Foals at a host of different venues around the country.