Deservedly a ‘no brainer’ for Zane Lowe’s Future 15 of 2015, Real Lies are exactly what a modern band should be: quietly epic tunes sounding how half the bands on Factory Records should have sounded. It’s music designed by likely lads in the back seat of a hatchback, as opposed to the prevailing committee pop. Despite the compulsory Shoreditch graffiti (real lies/realise), they’re boys who let the music do the talking, although not to the extent of a girl overheard tonight asking if they’re on yet, to an empty stage.
The warm up tape she mistook for the band cues them perfectly, including house classics Pacific State and Sun Rising by the unsung The Beloved. It's sobering, particularly for The Beloved, to think that Real Lies weren’t even born then. Not that there's much sobriety tonight; the band appear to have arrived directly from a ram-raid on an off-licence, and play instruments with the faltering confidence of Joy Division. The comparisons don’t end there, with main vocalist Kev Kharas sharing Ian Curtis’ private intensity on stage, and off, where he is similarly admirably distant.
As 5-piece live (bolstered by drums and bass), the joyous 9-song set, demonstrates their ability to be several bands at once, while drinking lager. Yet, so early in their existence, there’s no such thing as a typical Real Lies song. It’s hard not to think of Just Jack and The Streets’ Mike Skinner’s conversational observations, as Kharas sneers late night poetry into the mic, while Pat King lurks in the background, providing the loops they build songs around. Left-handed Tom Watson on guitar shares vocals, leaving no front man, and despite King’s insistence “It’s not fucking hard is it,” it’s impossible to ignore the discipline needed to be this good. The Happy Mondays were tight against all odds, as are Real Lies. It’s a long way from pool parties and LA; it’s hard shoulder grit of reality.
The crisp backbeat, niggling guitar and rave synth-waves announce last year’s lush single Deeper detailing comedown doubts, while the chilled dance-dub of Dab Housing is Oasis if Noel had let his ecstasy experiences inform more of his songwriting, or the Beloved if they were still going.
Pioneer Italian flirts with ska and the Smiths, elevated by Watson’s effortless Johnny Marr-strumming, while the pop cocktail of Gospel embraces the frustration of ‘Falling in love three times a day in this city’, with its spine-tingling 3am key drop and Chicago house breakdown, deserves to be number one for a month.
The downbeat North Circular has too many good lines to quote, (‘the men who drink in A-road pubs and rave fliers/All lost in the same sea/I hear them say it’s all yours maestro/ if you just give in to me.’). Its spoken word verse builds interlocking melodies, bolstered by additional bass, to a defiant close. Not mentioning Pet Shop Boys’ West End Girls would be disingenuous, not to mention its influence, TS Elliot’s poem, the Wasteland. And in common with the wry observations of that band, Real Lies equally fixate on London, as suburban dreamers (which sounds like a Real Lies song); the distant city glowing across the litter and dual carriageways of hinterlands and cul-de-sacs of urban sprawl.
There’s a charming shambolic moment, as King extends the Republic-era New Order piano loops of previous single World Peace, enabling the bass player to fetch water, which he promptly ignores for the romance of necking red wine from the bottle. The song’s plaintive ‘the sweetest thing I’ve known’ drifting over a subtle 303 acid squelch already an established earworm.
Like all good bands, Real Lies create their own universe, and the lack of an encore cover version is telling. Instead, the bassist puts the red wine down for long enough to sing Sidetripping, which struts with the unlikely confidence of Simple Minds’ Alive and Kicking. It seals the night.
There’s a dreamy lushness to their sound at odds with their image. It takes in the wistful pop of Driving Away From Home by It’s Immaterial, through A Certain Ratio and Arctic Monkeys, via the breaks and builds of classic house and all the bands mentioned above. There’s attention to detail and vulnerability they might deny; euphoria always head to shoulder with regret. It’s one thing to sound like a whole bunch of other bands, but making it all the good ones is something else entirely. Beneath their refreshing lack of ambition there shines a prevailing belief in the romance of the time, the place and the people you’re with.
Photos Naomi Hood