January 23, 2004  
Volume 97, Issue 63  

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The Thrills bring back the soul to the city

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Christopher Rihet/Max Dodson/2002
STILL DREAMING ABOUT BIG SUR. Cute Irish pop-rockers The Thrills get a dose of freedom while on the American West Coast.

The Thrills are an Irish band described as a hip blend of ’60s-inspired West Coast rock with the soul and exuberance of Britpop — that of course being a very poetic description.

In reality, they’re a good band, not a great band, but good considering their newness to the music scene. Remember that even U2 sucked when they first emerged. So, given time, they have potential.

Here’s the quandary: in an over-saturated market with too many bands and too few fans, what makes this band worth noting? What makes The Thrills thrilling?

It’s a difficult question for to Kevin Horan, back-up vocalist and pianist for The Thrills to answer and certainly not one you want to ask without at least softening him up first with a few easy questions like, has stardom changed you? Horan seems to know this — at least he sounds like he does.

He’s remarkably comfortable, direct and doesn’t seem to be buttering his answers with sound bites regurgitated from other interviews. Whereas most aspiring rock stars seem to feel the need to sell their music, Horan doesn’t — it sells itself.

So has stardom changed him?

Horan laughs at the thought. To keep him in line, he says, are his bandmates and hordes of technicians, all of whom are old friends. The Thrills are not merely a band, explains Horan, it’s an extended family. Sort of like an unpolished Irish version of The Partridge family, except without the creepiness.

“I’ve known everyone since I was 16, and all our crew were friends long before things took off,” Horan says. “I’d say that touring would be a bit of a pain if you didn’t get to know your bandmates well. But, we all get along, so the fights aren’t too serious.”

America has always been on the horizon for the band. Their debut album So Much for the City is dotted with references to the great North American juggernaut — its cities, people and problems — but not with any malicious undertone.

It was during a recent four month trip to San Diego that the band found a great deal of inspiration.

“When we lived in San Diego, we had a house right on the beach. Well, one block from the beach — in front of it was a vacant lot, so our house looked straight out onto the beach. When we got back to Ireland, we kind of idealized those memories when we were stuck in the miserable pissing rain, working shitty jobs. We had such a great time over there, and the images in our heads cheered us up during the writing process. There’s nothing like sitting on the beach with 12 friends, cranking beers and having the sun beating down on you all day. There’s no better freedom.”

At the root of The Thrills’ musical philosophy is a belief in avoiding a cookie cutter approach to songwriting. It’s certainly a lofty pursuit to write something original, especially today, when all you need to sell out a stadium is a pair of breast implants and some fireworks. But not The Thrills — they’re actually in it for the music, and that sounds serious.

“When we were in America we had a look at the bands on the Billboard charts,” Horan says. “The bands are big, but very bland. All the soul is gone. It’s a song-by-numbers approach. The same old songs with the same little tricks.”

Horan says the band plans to return to North America again in March and continue their mini British invasion of North America. Considering the success they’ve enjoyed on their home turf, it’s possible that with a little luck, they could pull it off. Now that is a thrilling thought.



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