Niall Galvin’s Only Real moniker has taken step after step in the right direction over the past three years, a culmination of progressions that sees his full-length debut with Virgin EMI hit the stores this month. “It feels like it’s going at a nice healthy pace,” he tells us, whilst sounding characteristically chill about the new record being out in the open. “There’s something really nice really nice about it being done and a finished piece of work. The pressure’s off now, it’s out of my hands. I’m just pleased that I’ve made it as good as I can.”
The steady climb from bedroom-produced beats to a major label release sees Galvin’s world of Only Real taken to new heights on ‘Jerk At The End Of The Line’, with the foundations that had laced his project with bags of potential, transformed and realised as something that’s incredibly well rounded and full sounding. Whilst the step up might not have altered the early stages of the creative process, it’s opened up a world of opportunities to take this sound to a new level. “When I found the two producers that I did the record with, it really opened me up to developing the sound and filling it out with things like drum machines and analogue synths. I just didn’t really have the access to things like that before.”
‘Jerk At The End Of The Line’ has seen Only Real working with producers Ben Allen (Bombay Bicycle Club, Deerhunter, Animal Collective) and Dan Carey (Hot Chip, Nick Mulvey, Childhood), relationships that have allowed the West Londoner to open up from what had previously been a very cut way of working. “It was the first time really that I’d found people that I could vibe with creatively,” Niall says. “I was able to get to a point where they understood my mind, and I was able to understand theirs enough so that we could have that process. It was nice to have someone there that I was able to bounce ideas off and tell you when things are good as well as when things are bad.”
"The pressure’s off now, it’s out of my hands."
— Niall Galvin
Of course Only Real is not without musical pals that he’s able to share his work with, but the relationship struck up with Carey and Allen ran much deeper than anything he’s experienced with his immediate group of mates. “I’ve made music with Ben and Leo from Childhood before, but that’s more of its own thing than part of Only Real. I’ll always send my friends new songs and take things on board, but this was the first time that there was this relationship on such a daily level. We were getting in to the nitty gritty of things. It was quite an intimate level,” he explains.
Whilst clearly focussed on taking his output to a higher level, the album still harks back to a number of earlier Only Real cuts, only injected with the studio gusto that new ways of working have enabled. “It’s something that I was wary of because I know that there have been times when I’ve been really into a track, and the album version just doesn’t quite hit the spot in the same way,” he says. But on ‘Jerk At The End Of The Line’ it’s apparent how much freedom Galvin’s been granted to work on improving what can be improved, whilst preserving that something special that’s garnered all the attention up to now. “When it came to 'Backseat Kissers', I didn’t really feel like it needed anything, it didn’t need to be tampered with so I left it as it was. But then with 'Cadillac Girl', Ben put this high-pitched synth over the chorus. It was the first the song I did with him and it was the moment when something clicked. I realised I was able to create something that was a bit different sonically but very much still in the same lane.”
It’s instantly noticeable how many of those older tracks have benefitted from the studio time. ‘Blood Carpet’ is a particular highlight in that regard, with the added punch of Galvin’s delivery and backing lines that are taken to an even floatier, twisted and downright weird place. “It’s a really good example [‘Blood Carpet’] of what I wanted to come out of working with these producers, and it explains really what I was trying to do with it. I’d been listening to a lot of other music that seemed relevant to what the track could be, like Happy Mondays, Primal Scream and stuff like that. The skeleton is all still there but there’s this whole other world around it with these crazy synths and this bumping bass that’s given it extra bite.”
"We’re really excited to the play the album to people."
— Niall Galvin
It’s tracks like this that say a lot about the early stages of Only Real, he says, and the inclusion of them on the record make up a really important aspect of what this debut represents. “They’re big body of Only Real, if it was a robot or something,” he says, laughing at the peculiarity of his own analogy. “I wanted them to be involved in what will be perceived in a few years time, or to people that hadn’t followed me before the album, as my first body of work. They encompass the first year or so of this and sonically, some of them really represent a lot of my different elements. I just really like some of them, basically.”
Amid the Madchester and psych influences, hip-hop has always had its place within Only Real’s kaleidoscope too, with the jovial exterior of his nostalgic rhymes prodding at darker themes when they’re stripped back just a little. When it comes to new track ‘Petals’ however, they’re allowed to occupy a much more explicitly gloomy place, showing off the new territories that Galvin is just as comfortable in occupying. “It was a result of getting lost in making the track and just going where it felt right to go. I knew when I was writing that this was a darker sound, and that it was much more of a rap song. I’ve always felt like I’ve that in me and it’s something that I definitely want to explore more in the future,” he says. Don’t get it wrong though, ‘Jerk At The End Of The Line’ is a record that’s just waiting for summer to roll round and give it that sun kissed sheen, and with a heap of shows in the UK and France lined up for the coming weeks, it’s high time for Galvin to keep things moving in the right direction. “We’re really excited to the play the album to people. I think it’s probably the best way to promote what you’re doing, so I’m itching to get out there and play it. The first few months of this year we’ve taken the opportunity to really step it up.”
It’s clear that Galvin isn’t lacking in ambition, and as if the prospect of a debut album hitting the streets wasn’t enough to keep him bogged down in the here and now, there’s already one eye on the future. “I’m already thinking about what’s to come next,” he says, and whilst this album offers up a take on the breadth of influences that go in to Only Real, the one eye that’s on the future seems dead set on exploring those realms yet further. “I just want to keep rolling and doing whatever I want, and slowly building a portfolio of things so that over time, people can develop an understanding of what Only Real is. Doing whatever I want in terms of genre will hopefully allow me to define some kind of bigger meaning with this. So long as it’s all coming from the right place then I’m happy to roll with it.” The plans are there an in place to take Only Real far beyond the West London streets that Galvin calls home, and as his twisted, vibey, rep real universe expands, it’ll sure be difficult to not float along for the ride.
Only Real's new album 'Jerk At The End Of The Line' is out now via Virgin EMI.