Five lads from Dublin took the rock world by storm in 2003 when they released their first album So Much for the City. The Thrills, who got their name from the Michael Jackson album Thriller, were already playing huge summer festivals in Europe and topping the charts in the U.K. and Ireland before they invaded America. Lead singer and lyricist Conor Deasy, guitarist Daniel Ryan, keyboardist Kevin Horan, bassist Padraic McMahon and drummer Ben Carrigan received massive media attention and airplay for both their good looks and 1960s melodies. But today, the band has reached a major crossroads in the professional life of rock stars.
The Thrills have entered the real make-or-break part of their music career — the sophomore effort. Having been awarded major accolades for their debut album they are currently promoting their follow-up release Let’s Bottle Bohemia. Expectations are high, especially considering the standards they set on their last outing. The Thrills have won many awards; arguably the most impressive was in December of 2003 when The New York Times named their So Much for the City the second-best album of the year (OutKast’s album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below was named number one).
Lead singer Conor Deasy is pleased that they have managed to get the second album out so quickly. “The fact that we worked so hard to make a second one in such a short span of time, I’m proud of that. All the bands these days work at such a bloated pace. I’d love to get three records out in three years,” he says.
The new album has an emphasis on arrangements and explores the subtleties of sound that the band impressed listeners with on their first album. But this time, the band decided that they should take into the studio their experiences of playing live shows. They also have worked with new collaborators and the songs have a deeper and darker feeling. “Our second record is a step on. If we had made the same record again it would have been a disappointment,” says Deasy.
Let’s Bottle Bohemia is more of a rock-and-roll album than their first, although it still bears their trademark 1960s sound and incorporates lots of string instruments. The lyrics have taken a cynical turn, and Deasy confesses to being a little bit jaded by his experiences in the music business. I point out that the title is extremely sarcastic and he responds, “Well, it is and it isn’t. The title came to me when I was walking through a clothes store that sells kind of old scuffed-up vintage clothing.”
The metaphor that he is making about the music industry in the title is the clothing shops where expensive, brand new clothes are manufactured to look as if they have lived through the bohemian era of the 1960s and 1970s. The album title is possibly a reaction to some articles that branded The Thrills as 1960s revivalists. But Deasy doesn’t want the band to be labeled in this confining category. “I have no interest in selling a lifestyle,” he says.
His experiences with fame and constantly touring around the world crop up throughout the record. In “Faded Beauty Queens” he sings, “Well I don’t know how we ended up here/Wide-eyed and new money with faded beauty queens.” There seems to be a forewarning in the title of another track called “You Can’t Fool Old Friends with Limousines.”
This album is also the first time The Thrills have addressed being Irish in a song. Chosen as the closing track to Let’s Bottle Bohemia is “The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing.” Deasy explains what he’s saying with this song: “It was more about that early period of the band when we just signed our deal and people expected a certain type of pose from us, and it just felt kind of unnatural. And it just felt like we were really gate-crashing someone else’s gig. We’re not cool. We’ve never been cool, but people want that from you.”
Whether or not they thought they were the lads for the part, The Thrills have been embraced by the American hipster twenty-somethings, making them very cool indeed. The magazine Entertainment Weekly dubbed the band the best Irish export since Guinness. Deasy laughs, “Well, I prefer Guinness myself! We should probably appreciate any Irish comparisons we get because most people don’t associate us with Ireland. Everyone thinks we’re American.”
The band are very proud of being Irish despite the fact that they aren’t associated with their homeland the way a musician like Enya is. So perhaps the new album is a way for the band to set the record straight. “`The Irish Keep Gate-Crashing’ appreciates the Irish culture and what it means to be Irish. It’s a cliché, but when you spend more time away from it, you gain perspective,” says Deasy.
The band consider Ireland their home definitely, but reluctantly admit that for now, home is on the tour bus. “I’ve spent a lot of time in cities like New York and London, and I love those cities and the pace of them. But I began to appreciate the lack of pretension in Irish society. I’m not saying it’s not there at all, but it’s just not to the same extent,” Deasy says.
The band are hoping to record the next album, their third, in Ireland, and they are already moving on to the next set of songs. “Even Let’s Bottle Bohemia isn’t where we’re at right now. I’m already thinking about the next record,” says Deasy. I remind him about his prolific plan, and he smiles. “Yes, three albums in three years. Exactly.” ♦