The Thrills

Much has been written about just how kooky it is that The Thrills, five lads from Dublin, have made the beginnings of a career by playing music steeped in the California sound of the 1960s. That’s four decades and a lot of geography between them.

But singer Conor Deasy doesn’t quite see it that way.

“It just sort of happened by accident, really,” he told Pollstar from Portland, one of the last stops on the band’s second tour of the States. “We just started listening to lots of records that we hadn’t paid too much attention to before. I wasn’t even really aware that they were particularly American records. I thought we were just listening to great songwriters, you know what I mean?

“And of course, a lot of the great songwriters from that time were American. Often, when you’re that close to music, you have a serious lack of perspective. You have no sense of objectivity about it.

“I know there is an American sound there, but it’s strange how oblivious we were to it because we were in the middle of it. It’s still only our first record though; we want to be one of those bands that is progressing and moving forward and not making the same sound over and over again,” Deasy said.

The Thrills’ affair with California began years ago when the band members (Deasy, guitarist Daniel Ryan, drummer Ben Carrigan, keyboardist Kevin Horan and guitarist Padraic McMahon) all packed up to live in a one-bedroom flat in San Diego for a few months. There, they wrote the songs that would make up much of their debut, So Much For The City.

Perhaps it was the sea air, but the results were an awful lot like the Beach Boys and the Byrds, and packed with references to West Coast locations like Big Sur, Santa Cruz, San Francisco and Las Vegas.

When it came time to record, they landed back in Cali, this time in Hollywood, about a year and a half ago. They took the songs back home and Dublin friends passed the disc over to an unlikely admirer, Morrissey. He invited the quintet to open for his comeback special at Royal Albert Hall. The time since has been filled with accolades for The Thrills’ recorded work and live shows.

The Thrills

The album was released in America on Virgin Records last fall and the band is hitting the territory hard, learning the peculiarities of touring in the States, like playing acoustic sets at radio stations to promote gigs – which is where they were headed when Pollstar talked to them.

“It’s something we do more in America than we do at home,” Deasy said. “I don’t mind it. Sometimes you turn up at radio stations and they have no equipment to do anything but, if they’re well used to it, we usually have a good room and a good mic, so it’s all right.”

Both past U.S. tours have been short ones, Deasy said, finishing up at around the two- and-a-half-week mark. The singer said most of the dates so far have been in 500-capacity rooms.

“But the cool thing is that we’re selling them out. There’s probably places where we could have stretched it out even more. In New York, it was more like 600 to 650 and then in San Francisco, it was over 700,” he said, adding that the band would rather play smaller rooms that are packed than overshoot. The next tour, scheduled for March, will be the first full-length outing, hitting the country from coast to coast for nearly six weeks and coinciding with this year’s unbelievably packed Coachella Music & Arts Festival. Besides the Pixies, Radiohead, Kraftwerk, Flaming Lips, etc. will be gracing the stage. “Every year, we’ve always seen Coachella covered and reviewed in the magazines back home and pictures of the backdrop in the middle of the desert,” Deasy said. “And the lineup is in impeccably good taste. There’s never any moronic Linkin Park-type nu-metal frat boy idiots, just proper bands. It’s always a good feeling of what’s going on that year, so it’s something we’ve been looking forward to doing for a while.”

Dave Kaplan from The Agency Group is behind the tour plans in the States, which is good news for the band considering it’s always had an eye on establishing a fan base here. Kaplan got to know the band through Russell Warby at The Agency’s London office. Both agents share a propensity for independent-minded bands, including several of the same clients. (“For lack of a better term, we just have good taste in music,” Kaplan said.) The record label, according to Kaplan, is looking for a follow-up to the debut, which came out last summer in Europe. That may hinder some tour plans, but he expects The Thrills to be back at least three more times before the end of the year. Some of those dates will be headline, some will be support slots or part of a package. “Their success in the U.K. was pretty instantaneous, but they know America is a much larger and different animal, and they’re willing to go out there and do they work,” Kaplan told Pollstar. “They like to tour and they like to play live, and they love America. Just listen to the record.” “I feel like we’re a stronger band coming out here because when [the album] came out at home, we hadn’t played that many gigs, really,” Deasy said. “We hadn’t toured, anyway. I feel that we’re a much better band playing the songs here. I like that we can, do lots of touring here. “A lot of times, bands from home just kind of casually drop the record here and do a couple of shows and just go home. America has always been important to us.” In case the reader is wondering, the band took its name from the legacy of two California icons who have recently found themselves in serious legal trouble – Michael Jackson and his Thriller album and Phil Spector’s string of The “blanks” bands.