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Escape Velocity

Making Eyes At Suburban Boys: Talking Truths With Real Lies
Luke Turner , November 26th, 2013 05:10

New London group Real Lies make nocturnal, rave-tinged love songs to the fringes of London. Luke Turner spoke to them about youth, the romance of the suburbs, and why the pothead bros of East London are denying their own youth

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I've always been wary of #lads, both of the American and English stripe. I dislike their conservatism, their bad shirts, their tendency to misunderstand the difference between misogyny and #banter, their enthusiasm for appalling music... all of which compensating for their little willies and lack of imagination. Real Lies, though, are the kind of lads I can get behind. They're not #lads, but exploring life and evolving masculinity through pop songs made from seeing London through young eyes, dilated and shining at 5am. They even have lad names, Kev [Kharas], Tom [Watson] and Pat [King], three that have perhaps not been seen together since the draft of a never-commissioned 80s sitcom.

Watson and King met playing football together as teenagers in the environs of Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds. Kharas then met Watson "passing cans between each other in the queue for some shit club six or seven years ago", and they eventually moved into a house next to a reservoir in North London, a place that would become a venue for epic parties that would last for days. Watson was starting to write songs, and Kharas, whose room was next door, would come and make suggestions, as would King, who would turn up now and then to DJ at some of their 72-hour soirees. As Kharas says, "I wouldn't bother interfering. I have a busy enough life that I wouldn't go meddling in someone else's shit music, but I liked it enough to know that it could go somewhere, that it was fucking good basically."

Real Lies' music recalls all sorts of things (I've previously described them as "Pet Shop Geezers", which is the reductive elevator pitch), but they're no revivalists - the dominant theme of their debut 12" 'World Peace' is of kids who grew up listening to bands but then had an injection of chemical enthusiasm and nocturnal capering - think the tracks collated onto Pulp's Intro, The Happy Mondays, Pet Shop Boys' 'West End Girls' - allowing dance influences (in this case, London's pirate radio and club scene) to bleed into songs that celebrate the fringes of the sprawling chaos of the capital, from Uxbridge to Eltham, Enfield to Norwood Park. "The most exhilarating thing I've done recently is go to the peripheries," says Kharas. "I don't know why I get such a strong physical reaction, endorphins going off in my brain."

Full disclosure. I've known these young men for a few years now, and would occasionally end up at that reservoir house to watch the sun come up over the water and turn the tower blocks on the other side pink. But before this interview I realised that in these past five years I've never seen them in the daylight. And if you've not seen someone in the daylight, then are you really friends? That's London. That's dubiously-extended youth. That's Real Lies.

How did the music that got played in your reservoir house impact on Real Lies? Was it an influence on the narrative feel to the lyrics as much as the music?

Kev Kharas: We weren't dancing to 'The Birdie Song'. We'd started going out and listening to a lot more house music and techno at club nights, because the stuff that people were doing with guitars in bands was just fucking dire, so I'd spend a lot of time with that rattling around in my head. I'd been surrounded by that music for such a long time that writing the lyrics came quite naturally. I wasn't wandering around with a Moleskine jotting down short stories. You get a vibe from something.

Tom Watson: Bands like the Happy Mondays and Pet Shop Boys, you can be influenced by them but you can't rip them off. The way that we're influenced to write tunes is probably quite similar to those bands when they were doing the same thing. They're British songwriters who were interested in and and aren't afraid to use synths, and at the same time the club scene was so strong that they're going to clubs every weekend. New Order as well. They're hearing sounds when they go out that they want to use.

I like how you've a track called 'North Circular' - that's one of the most fascinating roads in London. How did that stretch of tarmac affect you?

KK: I feel like I'm more influenced by that road than any band that's existed in the last five years. The places you go past are places that don't declare themselves to be places, they're liminal. You go through the rich areas like Golder's Green, there's Hoo Hing, that massive Chinese food depot, the closed down Irish Times place, Wembley Stadium over here, A-Road pubs, the pub where the bikers congregate every Saturday and Sunday. There's a weird plastic surgery/dentist place on the Hanger Lane Gyratory, and you think if you rifled through their rubbish bins, what would you find? Jesus Christ! You'd find bits of humans. It's this weird corridor that takes you right from the Home Counties into the heart of London through every single zone of suburbia. It's not like these cunts in Stoke Newington, these space cheats who come to the centre of the city and create their own village and then import the countryside from outside. They deny suburbia. I just love that road.

It's always fascinating how you have these rows of 1930s semis where they've just taken a street out to put the road in - you come out of your front door and there you are on the North Circular. All the houses are slightly sooty with pollution, but you think, behind that house there are all these lives going on.

KK: That's the best thing about it. I always like to think that one day when I'm rich or bored enough I will work my way through every one of those houses, gatecrashing a house party, turning up with a bottle of Echo Falls, and gradually working my way into London from the outskirts.

Are you writing pop songs to be listened to in those places?

KK: I'd like to think so. You feel innately that those might be the most exciting people in the city, because they live their lives in motion, they're constantly absorbed in this whirlwind of activity, they're not dickheads dressed like children's TV presenters with babies strapped to their chests cycling to school in Stoke Newington. Not to harp on about it too much, but that place has such stasis. I like the idea of these people one day fetishising the North Circular, and filling their studies with fly-tipped mattresses. I've never understood the disregard for the suburbs, they've always seemed like the most interesting places in the city.

As Tom and Pat grew up in satellite towns, do you two have a different relationship with London? You're more disconnected there, in places that are more insular and conservative.

TW: I can remember as a 17-year-old getting the last train down to London, going to some drum & bass night, and getting the first train back. It was very very exciting.

KK: I completely understand what you're saying. My bedroom where I grew up as a kid, from as long as I was sentient until I moved home, literally behind the back garden was the A404(M) which takes you to London. I spent a lot of time by myself as a kid, and I'd have to come home and go to bed before Eastenders. I'd lie there in bed, staring at the sunset and listening to the traffic on the A404(M) careening towards London and wondering 'where do all those people go?'. You do feel that gravitational pull. It's why I like suicide bridge [a bridge over the A1 in Haringey, between Archway and Highgate] so much, it feels like the gates of the city. When you stand on top, whether it's daytime or night, or shrouded in fog, you can still see Canary Wharf and The Shard when you're still pretty much in suburbia.

Real Lies does feel like music for a twisted head, the melancholy at the end of being high.

TW: A lot of our tunes have been written on Sunday afternoons, and a lot of them sound like it. When you're hungover your sense of hearing is heightened, but at the same time half of your brain is missing because of the evening before.

KK: There's an element of being our age in a city like London and having the interests and lifestyles that we do have, and you spend a lot of time occupying zones of time that maybe a lot of other people are shut off from. When you've grown up and have kids to look after, those zones are dead to you, you can't occupy them any more. There is that space of being trapped in between, and occupying a niche in time that is off-limits to some people, and that's one of the privileges of being young and in a city, it's an incredibly exciting time, so you maximise it and you end up pushed into these weird buffer zones.

In another interview you talked about how smoking areas were coming-of-age confession booths. I wanted to ask how Real Lies' music engages with how masculinity changes as you head through your 20s...

TW: A lot of it is to do with masculinity. To go back to the smoking area, the drop in 'Deeper' was recorded in smoking area in a club, I think the cover art really brings that vulnerability of masculinity out too.

KK: [Masculinity] never gets enough attention. It gets caricatured. People don't understand that there are nuances, not every man has to conform to type. There's nothing more offensive than those Ginsters adverts about Movember and how you need brown sauce to have a fucking sandwich. Come on mate. I find that very limiting. I think with the haircut thing [the sleeve artwork] there's the vulnerability, you're trusting a man with something that's quite important.

TW: It's a time that you're looking at yourself in a mirror and somebody is running a razor-sharp blade around the side of your head. Its about trust, it's about masculinity, it's the the central themes of our band.

KK: It's fraternity, which comes out of the house I suppose.

TW: We've got our night called Congress. It's influenced by Boys Own from the late 80s, early 90s, that fanzine culture, which again taps into the masculinity thing, the idea that you can go to a football match on a Saturday afternoon, go to a club on a Saturday night, and on a Sunday sit down and write a song about it and it doesn't necessarily sound like the fucking Fratellis.

KK: I think a lot of bands in London have tried to misappropriate this fraternity thing in recent times. What they've ended up settling on is this bro, dudism, talking like surfers...

TW: ...Disgusting...

KK: ...they sit around all day watching Nickelodeon and eating pizza and calling each other dude. How do these people's girlfriends get off? They sit around and smoke weed all day, fucking potheads watching cat videos on Buzzfeed, talking to each other like Americans. It's the ultimate defeat to your past, acting like your imagined childhood self, a doppelganger that existed in suburban DC in '83. They're corrupting their own youth. The auto-pederasts of Dalston must be purged from daylight, send them packing back to the countryside with their cheese and their fucking eggs.

TW: All the records that they listen to are shit as well. Pavement.

KK: Pavement are the worst band in the world.

TW: How can a band like Dinosaur JR possibly talk to a 19-year-old English person living in London?

KK: Me and my mates used to go on cruises in someone's car and listen to drum & bass. Imagine if I'd put Pavement on then? I'd have been dumped on the A404(M) without a fucking hope in hell of getting home. I'd have been a fly-tipped mattress.

TW: And you'd have deserved it. 

'World Peace'/'Deeper' is out now via Sweet Exile/Marathon Artists.. The next Congress takes place on December 19th, full info here

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Laurie Havelock
Nov 26, 2013 10:38am

Wear your heart on your sleeve chaps, by all means, but don't alienate some people who quite fucking liked your records by serving to ridicule them. I find it confused that you have such contempt for one group of lost men (in East London, the sheer cheek of their moving there!) while you trumpet the anaemic, 24-hour, 'we're all DJs', North London nega-Hipster as a more worthwhile mode of male-ness? And chuck in a bit of fetishism for Wembley A-roads while you're at it? Christ.

I'm 23 and Pavement talk to me far more clearly than Happy fucking Mondays ever will.

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Nov 26, 2013 10:41am

are these guys the new gay dad

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Nov 26, 2013 11:00am

Hmmm, the last English band I heard who talked like this was Wu Lyfe...who turned out to be shit. Bravado can be fine, I just hope they can back it up.

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Bippo Paudo
Nov 26, 2013 11:01am

In reply to Laurie Havelock:

Just listen to their music if you do like them and avoid whatever they're saying.

i.e - I do love Slayer's music but I would never going out and have a drink with them. Musicians speeches are often overrated.

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Nov 26, 2013 11:04am

lol at a band formed by the online editor of vice magazine uk

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Nov 26, 2013 11:12am

these guys are about 1/3 as clever as they think you are. fetishising the suburbs? what a novel idea kev!

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Nov 26, 2013 11:27am

Just listened to the song's very non-descript 80s revivalism isn't it? With the attitude they appear to have they'll need to come up with much better songs to avoid dismissal.

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Nov 26, 2013 11:31am

Yeah, New Order have already cleaned this room lads.

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Stephen Malkmus
Nov 26, 2013 11:46am


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J Mascis
Nov 26, 2013 11:55am


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Phill Babb
Nov 26, 2013 11:57am


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Phill Babb
Nov 26, 2013 11:57am


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Anthony Adams
Nov 26, 2013 12:05pm

Sound like reasonable geezers to me...

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Nov 26, 2013 12:11pm

I have it on good authority that Kev's real name is Kevin

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Jack Shankly
Nov 26, 2013 12:14pm

Anyone want a fight?

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Johnny White
Nov 26, 2013 12:19pm

There's only one Johnny White!

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Another Johnny White
Nov 26, 2013 12:20pm

Hang on a minute... I'm Johnny White also which makes your proposition absurd. There must be at LEAST two Johnny White's

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The Duke
Nov 26, 2013 12:27pm

What is the deal with this bullshit nostalgic fetishization of the suburbs? It reads like these “alterna-lads” read half a Ballard novel, and the synopsis of an Iain Sinclair book on Amazon before barfing it right back up in this interview. This is why you shouldn’t interview your mates. Wind-up or not pure bullshit like that deserves to be challenged.

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Mark Bosnich
Nov 26, 2013 12:27pm

Top tunes!! I often use their music to soundtrack my own 72 hour excesses.

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Mark Boshnich
Nov 26, 2013 12:33pm

Bosh Bosh Bosh!

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Kev Kharas
Nov 26, 2013 12:35pm

is this Kev Kharas the Kev Kharas the music writer Kev Kharas or a different Kev Kharas?

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Nov 26, 2013 12:36pm

I'm Kev Kharas

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Nov 26, 2013 12:38pm

In reply to The Duke:

Perhaps it's because they grew up around the suburbs and therefore they inspired them?

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Real Life
Nov 26, 2013 12:42pm

Blimey, you fellas again?!

Might as well have called your band The Beatlez, mate

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White Lies
Nov 26, 2013 12:47pm

We told you once already. Change your fucking name. There won't be a third time.


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The Real Johnny White
Nov 26, 2013 12:49pm

In reply to Laurie Havelock:

Guess who likes Pavement, Stoke Newington AND eggs. Johnny White: The enemy within

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One more Johnny White
Nov 26, 2013 12:52pm

In reply to The Real Johnny White:


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Nov 26, 2013 12:58pm

hard to imagine the quietus would let this nonsense slide if they weren't friends. nothing worse than the middle-class fetishisation of working-class culture. men can go the football, and clubs, and be sensitive? what a novel exploration of modern masculine identity. they hate East London, but never leave; romanticise the suburbs, but never live there; fantasise about being an alcoholic but just take shit cocaine with media mates. songs are alright, but for this much crowing you've got to do better than an average new order rip off

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Nov 26, 2013 1:15pm

Loving the weird raging against Stoke Newington. As an area that has seen significant gentrification over the last 15-20 years it can hardly be described as being in stasis. Then again, this lot wouldn't have been around for long enough to really know what they're talking about, right?

"This is why you shouldn't interview your mates."


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Nov 26, 2013 1:19pm

In reply to :

So attending a football match is a 'fetishisation of working-class culture' is it... huh

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Nov 26, 2013 1:53pm

In reply to bld:

But Stoke Newington is fucking awful.

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Nov 26, 2013 1:53pm

holy moly jesus christ, these three used to live in fucking stoke newington. it's not cool to be nasty (dickheads)

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It's hard out here for a Bish
Nov 26, 2013 2:11pm

*slags off stoke newington in interview* *holds xmas do in stoke newington*

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Nov 26, 2013 2:40pm

they look like Swedish submariners.

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Nov 26, 2013 2:46pm

these guys are outrageous, is there anything they won't say, an edgy Space for the 2010's. Also, feel like there is a bit of revisionism going on here cause i'm pretty sure these mugs used to dive around Dalston in tie-dye Teeth t-shirts playing in bands like Deep Sht or Big Deal or whatever. Yawn.

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The Holloways
Nov 26, 2013 4:16pm

There has only ever been and will only ever be one band on the HR. I've heard this lot knockabout in the Library. Upper St Posers. You'd never catch them in Nambucca. We wouldn't have it.

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Nov 26, 2013 4:17pm

fifth generation gentrifiers pissed off that the bang they were promised upon landing in the East End didn't live up to the hype, now throwing out indie versions of Daily Mail headlines in interviews!?...this is little England

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Mantis Toboggan
Nov 26, 2013 4:44pm

"There's a weird plastic surgery/dentist place on the Hanger Lane Gyratory, and you think if you rifled through their rubbish bins, what would you find? Jesus Christ! You'd find bits of humans"

I live above that place. Want me to find out?

The foxes sure do seem to love it.

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Nov 26, 2013 4:45pm

Countdown to a 'Keane Cleanse' of the readers comments in 5....4....3

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Nov 26, 2013 5:13pm

funniest article I've read in a while, cheers lads.

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Nov 26, 2013 6:31pm

In reply to r:

It's got its fair share of problems (i.e. the aforementioned gentrification and subsequent influx of prats) but it's very far from "fucking awful". Not as boring as suburbia, anyway.

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str8 bro
Nov 26, 2013 11:52pm

"I've always been wary of #lads, both of the American and English stripe. I dislike their conservatism, their bad shirts, their tendency to misunderstand the difference between misogyny and #banter, their enthusiasm for appalling music... all of which compensating for their little willies and lack of imagination"

Oh boo-hoo, did somebody get bullied? Way to live up to the stereotype of the beta-male music writer nerd.

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big bobo balde
Nov 27, 2013 3:10am

Load of wanky bullshit. Just cos you're annoyed your previous haunts(Stokey, Dalston etc)have become a bit mainstream popular, doesn't mean you have to start fetishizing the suburbs. Just play your music, shut up and save us from your pseudo-intellectual smartarsed shite.

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the real r
Nov 27, 2013 9:20am

In reply to str8 bro:

hahahah...yes he definitely did... and he would have deserved it

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beta male
Nov 27, 2013 9:40am

perhaps where you said 'full disclosure' it would have been worthwhile to mention that kev kharas was one of the quietus' flagship young writers a couple of years back. maybe kev wants to keep his music and his career at vice separate - totally understandable - but to not mention these things at all seems totally disingenuous.

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Nov 27, 2013 10:18am

Jeez, that didn't go down at all well, did it... I dunno, if more British bands paid a little more attention to being GOOD (actually learning instruments, practicing together, doing a good show, writing some decent music) rather than all the swanning about and spouting warmed-up dodgy manifestoes that represents most bands today, we'd have more to get excited about.

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dave seal
Nov 27, 2013 10:44am

'It's a time that you're looking at yourself in a mirror and somebody is running a razor-sharp blade around the side of your head. Its about trust, it's about masculinity, it's the the central themes of our band.'
wow. the cringiest thing i've read in a long time, thanks quietus. and the music featured above is very unremarkable imitation of a type of music that was a bit shit at the time i do recall. with added 'bosh bosh bosh'

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Nov 27, 2013 12:43pm

young english band with lots of misplaced swagger. they remind me of Brother (but with better media connections, obviously).

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Nov 27, 2013 2:22pm

Pat comes across best here I think.

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april o'neil
Nov 27, 2013 9:06pm

young londoners are appropriating my american dudist lifestyle? glad these guys are here to call that shit out.

must say the cultural politics of cheese and "brown sauce" went a bit over my head here

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Nov 28, 2013 9:16pm

They're right about pavement - absolute cuntshop

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Dave Seaman
Nov 29, 2013 12:33am

To be honest, this lot sound like a right bunch of twats. Middle-class tits trying to BE 'edgy' but just coming off like boring little shithouses. "Ooooh, we're cool because we stay up late and do drugs". My mate Niko stays up late and does drugs all the time, and he's a right boring cunt.

Your music is Pet Shop Boys knock off wank. If you were really as interesting and cool as you think you are, you'D make interesting, cool music. But ya don't, because ya not. x

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Nov 29, 2013 1:00am

I've heard of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr - who the fuck are "Real Lies"

Other than this article I've never heard a single fucking thing about them...and now I'm glad

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Nov 29, 2013 1:00am

I've heard of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr - who the fuck are "Real Lies"

Other than this article I've never heard a single fucking thing about them...and now I'm glad

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Jan 10, 2014 4:50pm

Yeah I'd quite happily lap up your Iain Sinclair regurgitations if you made the music to go with em.
You mention New Order almost as an afterthought. That's because you well and truly know that your music sounds just like all the offcuts that nowhere near made it onto Get Ready or something.. and nothing more than that. You're nowt BUT reductive revisionists. Make the music, then we'll listen to your rhetoric.

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