"I think some people took [the album] the wrong way," says singer Conor Deasy, of the reaction to the band's debut, So Much for the City. "We love everything from Air to Super Furry Animals to Mercury Rev, and I think a lot of those modern influences were overlooked."
Part of the problem, Deasy surmises, has been the press's fixation on the time the band spent living on the California coast -- when members were in their late teens, before they had a record contract, and also for eight weeks late last year while recording So Much. As a result, many have pegged the group as a one-trick pony -- a bunch of Dubliners who worship the golden era of California music when the Beach Boys owned the charts.
"It's only our first album," explains Deasy. "It doesn't define who we are as a band. None of our favorite bands ever settled on a single style and we won't be any different."
Listening to So Much for the City, it's easy to hear why critics and the public are quick to label the Thrills as revivalists. Their songs are bright and full, with big choruses and vocal harmonies. It's hard to ignore the similarities between the group and yesterday's hitmakers like the Lovin' Spoonful and the Beach Boys. Although Deasy understands where California pop comparisons come from, he doesn't quite hear the record that way.
"Actually, when I listen to the record, I hear the sound of a group of guys stuck in their hometown who don't really want to be there, feeling a bit frustrated and that they're in a bit of a small place. It's not really about California at all, actually. [California] is a symbol of something else for us, of escapism maybe, because we were going through a lot of crap at the time."
Deasy doesn't discuss specifics, but he does mention that the band stopped playing together for a year-and-a-half. He claims that the respite was voluntary because "we had no idea where we were going with it." But the band's press sheet also reveals the Thrills inked an ill-fated deal with a local Dublin label called Supremo, which not only never released any of the band's material but also made it difficult for the band to pursue other avenues.
In any event, the band did finally extricate itself and signed with Virgin UK, which released its debut Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far) EP in November 2002. In stark contrast to the current album, the band's first release showcased a stripped-down, more relaxed incarnation of the Thrills in which the songs waft by as Deasy sighs about summers past.
"Some of those recordings were years old and quite flawed. They're full of mistakes, but there was a real charm to them. They were demos that we recorded on our own. We used to go into cheap Dublin studios and record through the night, going in at midnight and working till noon the next day."
The Thrills have apparently made peace with their hometown: The band still calls Dublin home, headlining two sold-out nights at local venue the Olympia, just before the new year. Strangely, despite his eagerness to dispel the perception of the Thrills as a "California band," Deasy doesn't rule out returning to a California studio after they wrap their tour of America.
"Everyone [in California] put a spark in our eyes and kept us looking forward, which was important because the last thing we wanted was to be dwelling on friends and parents back home, getting a proper job and shit. Sure, we're in a different place now, but it's always nice to have a few distractions."
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