They make no bones about it: Harmonic new Irish outfit the Thrills titled their Virgin debut So Much for the City because, quite frankly, that’s exactly how they felt about their native Dublin at the time. “You know how — when you’ve grown up somewhere your whole life — you just wanna get the f--- out of there?” mop-topped frontman Conor Deasy inquires rhetorically. Four years ago, in the summer
of ’99, he and his mates were “bored, bored of the same clubs, the same people. We were just in a bit of a rut, really.”members flew over, rented an oceanfront house, dragged furniture onto the sun-baked sand and beach-partied their way into California culture. The next year they returned to the West Coast — San Francisco this time — to further their surf-sound studies. So it’s no surprise to hear the jingle-jangle of The Byrds ‘n’ Beach Boys’
optimism in self-explanatory City songs like “Big Sur,” “Hollywood Kids,” “Don’t Steal Our Sun,” “Deckchairs and Cigarettes” and their current U.K. smash single, “Santa Cruz (You’re Not That Far).” Coupled with Deasy’s marshmallow-light, Neil Young-quavering falsetto, So Much for the City is as far from Dublin as that Lucky Charms leprechaun is from a bowlful of his own sad cereal.
The second Stateside summer, Deasy was so broke he left for Dublin a week before his band buddies did and felt mortified when Ryan emailed him a few days later to say that he’d just met two Thrills icons, Brian Wilson and Burt Bacharach. Back in Ireland, though, the group’s distinct sound, an approach so uniquely American that Deasy worried they’d wind up laughingstocks, was beginning to attract attention. After all, their album was being released at the height of the Strokes/White Stripes rock revival. He admits, “I thought we’d come out and people would go ‘What the f--- is this? This isn’t the trend we’re in!’ But as it happened, we got a really good buzz going in Britain. But none of this was planned, Deasy wants it known. “With all our harmonies and my singing style and all, it was never really thought through or anything. When the band came together back in Dublin, my voice came together with it. I just think there’s this Irish
cultural fascination with America.”
And the Thrills owe it all to that first summer. Recalls Ryan, “Our band had been falling by the wayside for a couple of years, so when we hit San Diego we brought along our acoustic guitars, but we basically came there just to have a good time and get the hell away from Ireland.” But, concludes Deasy, before phoning several San Francisco friends to invite them to The Thrills’ show, “It was a kind of musical awakening for us, in a way. Things just started to make more sense to us in California. Most of those summers, we just hung out talking about music, guitars and songwriting. And everything just seemed to open up from there on out.”
Listen closely to So Much for the City, and you can almost hear the Sea World seagulls. …