niall galvin is only real

Charming, lazy, rap scally Only Real sings beer-soaked stories about restless love and the day-to-day mundanity of simple happiness.

by Milly McMahon
04 June 2014, 1:15pm

Stephanie Sian Smith

Sinking a few pints with his mates one rainy afternoon in Parsons Green, Niall Galvin aka Only Real is swerving work today. Having recently returned from hip-hop and stripping centrepoint, Atlanta, the flame-haired, baby-faced 21-year-old West London singer-songwriter has done nothing but graft recently. Constructing his forthcoming debut album with producer Ben Allen (Washed Out, Deerhunter, Animal Collective, Cee Lo Green), the duo worked from the control room of a corrugated iron shipping container turned studio surrounded by loose chickens. Keeping shit real, when not in Atlanta, Niall can be found on more familiar British soil in Brixton with producer Dan Carey (Bat for Lashes, Toy, Willy Mason, Mystery Jets) still ambitiously crafting his most significant body of work.

Niall's signature down to earth lyrical verses have been recorded and rendered in a totally contrasting style. Warped, raw mystique surrounds the bucket hat-clad, hashtag lad persona Only Real presents. Depth lies accessible but disguised thoughout his songs. Typifying his geezer-friendly, dreamy, lullaby-like sequences with a twang of nostalgic 90s finesse; the developing sound defines the second age of new, young, Brip pop and inviting comparisons to his doppelgänger King Krule. Hailed as EMI and Virgin's newest and most exciting signing, Only Real is currently dropping tracks sporadically online paired with retro, 90s-themed videos of him and his mates having a good time. Relatable and entertaining, he is the musical equivalent of a brew drunk out of a pint glass. i-D chat to Niall about girls, being a dick and love/hating Pulp. 

Photography Stephanie Sian Smith

You have been spending a lot of time in Atlanta producing the debut album. How has that affected the music?
It adds to everything because Atlanta is such a buzzing hip-hop fuelled kind of place that has always been at the forefront of music. It's aptly fitting with some of the vibes. There's a lot of indie stuff going on there as well. We started going out with some of the indie bands there on nights out. It's a very cool place to be.

Did you visit any of the strip bars?
I didn't, l need to visit those next time! There's actually a particular bar where I'm told all the strippers are over 60. I'm going back in a couple of weeks. 

Middle-aged strippers could be the inspiration behind the second album…
My decline into stripper addiction.

Are you romantic?
Yeah, but I can be a real dick sometimes. I get really fed up of the idea of romanticising everything, but then you can romanticise that emotion just as much, which is interesting. 

Some of the songs l consider most important to me are tracks that lads who I've loved have introduced me to. Are there any specific tracks you feel close to for the same reasons?
Yeah definitely, I couldn't listen to Pulp for that exact same reason for six months which sucked. For me it wasn't the songs that were specifically related, it's the memories it triggers. But eventually I got drunk and played them again. I just love them!

Do you stop yourself writing if it gets too painful?
I'm perfectly happy to share and be as honest as I can. There are songs on my album that are almost painfully honest but I wrote those songs three months after the things I was feeling because at the time I felt too numb, too sad to write. A few months on I could see those feelings with the hindsight and perspective to channel into my writing. It's a healing process. I am not somebody that cries into my guitar at the time. Equally if I'm really happy, I'm not sure that I'd write a song there and then about enjoying myself.  

What do you think are the things that define you to other people?
Probably my personality... but it's fucked to dissect what people like about you. I like to avoid that at any cost, theres no gimmick with me, the artists I like are real. They are all quite funny and quite nice.

What will be the artwork on the new album?
I haven't actually worked it out yet, I guess I have quite a long time to decide because my album isn't coming out until early next year. I think I've come up with the title of the album but I cant say what it is because I don't want it to change, the title is taken from a song and I don't want that to have an impact if it changes. The name will probably steer the artwork, not in a really literal way, I would like for the cover to show a photo of me, an artistic photo, I have something in mind. Just not a press shot. I really like Harmony Korine, generally for me the photography I like is off the cuff and accidental.

Catch Only Real live at Field Day on Saturday 7th June


Text Milly McMahon
Photography Stephanie Sian Smith

Field Day
Only Real
Stephanie Sian Smith
Milly McMahon
niall galvin