The Thrills joined the Pixies' tour for a month of dates, kicking off last night in San Diego. The Dublin five-piece are touring in support of Let's Bottle Bohemia, the follow-up to its 2003 debut, So Much for the City.
"The last record was kind of like an escapist pop thing, and we were reflecting on these memories of California that were haunting us," says frontman Conor Deasy. "With this record, the rose-tinted lenses were definitely off."
The band spent five weeks recording the album with producer Dave Sardy (Jet, Marilyn Manson) in Los Angeles. Though the band members hoped to live together while making the album, a certain masked band foiled their plans. "Dave called [and said], 'What about recording in a house up in Laurel Canyon? There will be a swimming pool, and all the gear will be there. And you won't have to pay for hotels,'" Deasy recalls. "But the guys went down there, and Slipknot wouldn't leave. So we went for a humble, more conventional studio approach -- which wasn't a bad thing, actually."
Though Let's Bottle Bohemia was recorded in the same state that inspired the Thrills' first album, the laidback harmonies and Deasy's lyrical reflections on the West Coast landscape ("Big Sur," "Santa Cruz") were replaced by rockier riffs and wider observations of American society. "Whatever Happened to Corey Haim" borrows the name of an ex-child star to spotlight tabloid TV culture. "The song isn't meant to be a cheap dig at his expense," Deasy says. "It's about voyeuristic television in general, and how pop culture has reached an all-time low."
The cut also features string arrangements from longtime Brian Wilson collaborator Van Dyke Parks. Elsewhere, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck lends mandolin to "Faded Beauty Queens." "Peter's wife owns a venue in Seattle called the Crocodile Cafe, and we played there a couple of times," Deasy says. "He came down there once, and [guitarist] Daniel [Ryan] just casually said, 'Would you like to be on the record?' And he said he would. It happened very informally."
The Thrills are looking forward to heading back across America -- this time on bigger stages, thanks to their Pixies support slot. "Small tours in America can be quite groveling experiences," Deasy says. "Often the PA's are pretty dodgy, and there are no showers."
Thrills tour dates (opening for the Pixies):
9/23: Los Angeles, Greek Theater
9/26: Berkeley, CA, Greek Theater
9/28: Salt Lake City, Kinsbury Hall
9/30: Denver, Magness Arena
10/1: Kansas City, Uptown Theater
10/2: Lincoln, NE, Pershing Auditorium
10/4: Columbus, OH, Veterans Memorial Auditorium
10/5: Columbia, MO, Hearnes Center
10/6: Nashville, TN, Ryman Auditorium
10/8: Tampa, USF Sundome
10/9: Miami, Mizner Amphitheater
10/10: Orlando, Hard Rock
10/12: Birmingham, AL, Boutwell Auditorium
10/13: Atlanta, Fox Theater
10/14: Atlanta, Fox Theater
10/16: New Orleans, Voodoo Festival
10/17: Houston, Reliant Arena
10/19: Dallas, Next Stage/Nokia Live
10/23: Irvine, CA, Verizon Wireless Amphitheater