Alice Browne chats with the band exclusively for Lippy
Six years have passed since Real Lies released their debut album Real Life, and more still since they first signed the lease on the North London ‘lakehouse’: a strangely isolated five-bedroom property burrowed in the heart of the wetlands of Woodberry Down, where it all began. Home to house parties that sprawled beyond the confines of the weekend and hangovers that slumped through the remainder of the week, the house became host to a myriad of figures, all united through a basic primal desire to connect with one another. It was in these moments that the band was born. Beginning as a trio, Tom Watson, Kev Kharas and Pat King set out to sonically replicate the serendipitous encounters nights like this contained. Their music transforms those fleeting, often incomprehensible moments of urban intimacy into fully fledged musical entities- part warped basement-club track, part intricately realist narrative. Whilst the world they built within those walls has long since vanished materially, mentally the spirit of Real Lies remains very much the same.
Now a duo, following Watson’s amicable departure from the band, Real Lies embark on their latest venture. Combining a fragmented run of live shows in venues across the country with the release of new singles Boss Trick and Since I, from upcoming project Lad Ash, as well as the return of their Soundcloud show UNREAL Radio, it’s clear to see that Real Lies have realigned and refocused, seeming more self-assured than ever.
When deconstructing the title of upcoming album Lad Ash, Kharas is quick to reiterate the Real Lies ethos. He muses, ‘I wanted to meet the term [lad] head on in the title of the album because it was a word that was thrown at us a lot when we first came about and I never wanted to have this two dimensional character type, I wanted to do something that had a bit more nuance to it’. It’s a concept that’s continually misunderstood, for both those within and outside of the term and the culture surrounding it. To tackle it so obviously when it’s been used to attempt to define their career in the past feels like a bold, but fitting, move. It’s not that they’re shunning it entirely. Kharas makes no apology that he finds ‘no value in writing songs about gear and football’, but if music that follows the rhythm and routines of a blurred weekend forces you into this box- so be it. Lad culture is not dead, they admit themselves that the term is always going to be there, but by reclaiming it they’re putting masculine sensitivity back into the conversation.
In describing their return to playing live, King circles back to the house party ethos that sparked it all: ‘you forget how much of your social life is based around acquaintances that you meet at shows and events like that, aside from actually playing the gigs it's been nice to get out and meet people’. For Kharas, it’s about reforming those ‘real life connections’ that have been confined, or worst still lost, to the virtual ether over the last 18 months, returning to ‘a room full of people who are all happy to see you’ after you’ve travelled the lengths of the country to get there.
To say that these live shows have simply returned to their former glory post-pandemic, however, is to downplay the true graft that the pair have put into preparing it over the last year. ‘People used to come up to us after live shows when we had a full band and be like, “yeah it was good” but now when they say that I really believe them, you know? You can tell in their voice that they’re really excited and enthused by it’, Kev earnestly informs me. The band have switched from more conventional gigs to once again fabricating their own dizzying, rave-reminiscentworld, harking back to their nights in Woodberry Down or, closer still, monthly club night Eternal. The show now boasts lasers, dancers and flags, ‘we’re sort of like a bad circus act touring the country now’ Pat jokes.
Eternal itself, hosted at the now defunct Peoples Club on Holloway Road, is a night now lost to what Kharas describes as the ‘perennial romanticising and mythologising’ of his life, Subconsciously viewing everyday moments through a cinematic lens, the mythology of Real Lies is what makes them so remarkable. They’re lost somewhere in the void between cryptic surrealism and the hyper-specific familiarity that turns personal histories into odysseys. Hearing the band speak on the temporary monthly tradition, though, it’s hard to believe Kev’s claims of ‘sentimental tendencies’ getting the better of him- it truly did sound special. ‘You felt like you were being absorbed into something bigger than yourself’, Kev remarks. For Pat, the memories of Eternal itself are a lot more hazy, reminiscing over the cold mornings after: ‘it was on a Thursday, so I’d get up early on a Friday morning to make my porridge before work and there’d be a load of people still up in the living room laughing at me, hungover and in my dressing gown’. It’s in placing these introspective, dancefloor epiphanies alongside the mundane tragedy of the morning after that the band embody everything their music conveys. It’s constantly chasing these fleeting experiences of epicurean utopia whilst being ceaselessly confronted by reality.
‘A lot of my spiel these days is about hedonism and late nights out and stuff like that, people have this tendency to dismiss them as youthful folly but I sincerely believe that the most important people we meet in life are the people we meet on those nights’, Kharas goes on to describe the personal aftermath of Eternal. These live shows, then, are an extension of this legacy, reimagined for a new era. As the club night fell victim to the Tories incessant plight to purge the capital of its cultural identity, the gigs have become a way to transport these formative moments nationwide. With the Lad Ash tour, Real Lies aim not just to protect the sanctity of these spaces and the culture it nurtures, but to ‘keep the torch burning’. For a band that seeks to exist in the intricacies of these moments in everything they do, fighting to create more of them seems to be the only logical step forward.
Recent singles Boss Trick and Since I create space to fuel this fire. Though King insists his production always falls just short of the ‘club banger’ and instead ‘exists in that grey middle ground of not quite going out and not quite staying in’, their newest releases undoubtedly guide us more viscerally toward the dancefloor. Whilst Boss Trick lends itself more to piano driven anthems of raves gone by, Since I is a similar ode to these late night adventures. It continually contorts itself into hazy circles as it ebbs and flows between states of euphoric catharsis and moments to catch your breath. In true Real Lies style, neither track allows you into either state entirely, constantly moving you through liminal realms of joy and longing. If Pat’s claims that his tracks do naturally just refuse to become ‘club bangers’ are to be believed, perhaps it can be said that they feel more at home in the afterparty. And maybe that’s not such a bad place to be.
Real Lies play Headrow House on Wednesday 3rd November
Words by Alice Browne
Photo Credit: Will Grundy | https://i-d.vice.com/en_uk/article/papj8z/a-love-letter-to-my-favourite-club-night |