America’s always going to be in love with UK bands. Maybe it’s the accent, maybe it’s the culture, but for unexplainable reasons, they’re so much cooler in our eyes. And a UK band getting the slot as opener for the Pixies Reunion tour is a coup any musician would sell their soul for. The UK-based pop band, the Thrills, got the gig. A little over a year after their critically-lauded debut, So Much For The City (declared the second-best album of 2003 by The New York Times), the Dublin quintet is back with Let’s Bottle Bohemia [both albums on Virgin Records].
“It’s great to get to play places like this,” said Thrills’ keyboardist, Kev Horan, looking around the vast Hearnes Center arena in a childlike awe before their October 5, 2004 show in Columbia, Missouri. “When you see us out tonight, you won’t believe the reception these guys get. Nobody’s really heard of us, but it’s a pretty attentive crowd we get to play to every night.”
Kev is a quiet, soft-spoken guy. His slight build is exaggerated in close-fitting clothes (that’s soooo UK). He’s got a woolen cap pulled over a mop of dirty dark hair, and sad, soulful eyes that would make any mother want to take him home, sit him down for a good meal, a bath, and tuck him into bed with a teddy bear. But this mommy-reporter took the high road and kept talking:
Is it hard to open for an audience that’s here only for the Pixies? It’s great exposure, and yet…
“We’ve done loads of these support things, like Morrisey and Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones. When you’re opening for those kinds of people, you’re an absolute side show. You’re opening just for the hardcore fans who only want to see them. But the Pixies only play for just over an hour. It’s a pretty short gig. I guess if they pay their $50 or whatever to get in here, they might be the least bit curious to see what the other band has to offer,” he chuckles.
Is it true that you guys were gonna rent a big house in Laurel Canyon, Ca. to record Bohemia, but the band Slipknot wouldn’t let you in?
He laughs. “Yeah. We were listening to the radio in the van on the way here and one of the Slipknot singles came on and we all…[he makes a grimacing face and laughs]. They overstayed five weeks there, I think! If you listen to their stuff—I don’t know how it doesn’t just get recorded and done. There’s absolutely no soul to it or anything. We went out to see the house one night just before they finished recording and they were all fast asleep in bed. We five, crazy, drunkards were outside looking up at those black curtains in the windows, imagining… it would have been an amazing place to record.”
So it was actually reserved for you, then?
“Yes, but… Well, once you’re there, you know. They were getting charged overtime for staying over.”
A lot of your fans in the UK feel that the Thrills are getting too Americanized with this second album, and that this is an album for America and American audiences. How do you feel about that?
“The first album, So Much For The City, was loaded with American references. That wasn’t really deliberate. I think maybe it’s just because we haven’t done a tour back home in ages. But last year we did almost four UK tours in one year. We’ll have a big UK tour straight after this. While we’re over here, it makes sense to stay here.”
The new album is produced by Dave Sardy, who’s done metal acts like System of a Down and Marilyn Manson to Dandy Warhols and Johnny Cash. There’s a switch!
“He approached us,” says Kev, looking very flattered. “We didn’t have to track him down. He really wanted to get involved because he liked the first album. We wrote most of this [new] album on the road so it has more of a lighter kind of sound. We didn’t demo it; we just recorded it straight because we only had a short time until we had to get back to the tour. So if anything, he was pushing us to a more traditional sound. Things that we instinctively do well. It was a nice sort of balance.” Guest appearances from Peter Buck of REM and Beach Boys collaborator, Van Dyke Parks.
“So Much For The City is kind of a charmingly naïve album. We wrote it at home. We never really toured. We’ve hardly been home for two and a half years. You spend a lot of time over here, as an outsider, and it’s hard to explain but it has an effect on you. It wizens you up a little bit to spend a lot of time in places like New York or Chicago or Los Angeles. I love those cities, and we have some time off at the end of this tour. I’m not going home till I have to go home, I love it over here! But when you’re here for an extended period of time, doing the same thing, it can kind of grate on you after awhile.” Kev says they’ll be back home in Ireland for Christmas, but there are plans being set to tour Australia and Japan between January and March.
The band has been in America since January 2004, when the first half of the last album was recorded in Los Angeles and then finished in New York.
“We said as soon as we finished the first album that we wanted to do three albums in three years, and then take a break. Depending on what happens with this album, we may be ready around April or May, between festivals, to get the new album started. We have four or five songs, already. Not recorded, but rehearsed. Hopefully there will be a new album out before Christmas next year. Then, I think we’re going on holiday.”
In their precious little off-time on tour, Kev says, fans of the stalking persuasion might find the guys hanging out in pubs, bowling, or playing pool.
“I’ve had some funny incidents [with fans],” he says. “Japan was shocking. The first time we went there we didn’t even have an album out. Sometimes you wonder if it’s all contrived by a record company to make you feel happy to be in Japan. Freaks following you around train stations and stuff. You can’t take it too seriously, but they’re just looking at you. You’re thinking, ‘why have they got a pen out, and a copy of the album?’ We don’t have anything like these guys [the Pixies]. Now, they’ve got some serious fans, following them around, trying to get onto the bus and stuff.”
“We met the Pixies before we ever did this tour at some UK festivals. We see them pretty much every day. Sometimes they’re at the side of the stage or the sound desk while we’re playing.” Again, he seems flattered beyond belief. “We know that they short-listed three or four bands. They each picked a band. So it makes you feel a bit better about it, that it’s not some big marketing decision by a label.”
Sounding like a cross between the Beach Boys and Dinosaur Jr. during their performance at the Pixies show in Columbia, Mo., the Thrills’ lead singer Conor Deasey looked more suited to a university library in a tan corduroy blazer and jeans. The five-piece band played a 45-minute set to the Pixies’ hour. Conor’s voice is laid-back, easy, and sometimes sleazy—a cross between a sigh and a yawn with an occasional grunt in his songs like their hit, “Whatever Happened to Corey Haim.” Onstage Deasey said, “Once St. Patrick came to me in a dream and said, ‘you must write a song containing the elements of Gorky’s Zygotic Monkey and the E. Street Band.’ I said, ‘I accept that wager,’ and it goes a little like this…” He then dedicated their single, “Corey Haim” ‘to the plus-twenty-eight females in the house.’ Hearing the song live, the listener is even more so left feeling like they’re intruding upon a private moment every time he spouts out that ‘uh!’. Still, with the mounting fame, the amazing tours and the critic raves--it’s working for them in a most thrilling way.
To find out what really happened to Corey Haim, check out this interview with Corey Haim and Corey Feldman by NT's Rob Levy--Ed.