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When the Thrills made their international debut in 2003, the Dublin-based quintet's sound was described variously as "sun-drenched," "sun-soaked," or just downright "sunny." Inspired by classic American pop of the late '60s and early '70s, the group's debut record was largely crafted amid successive summer jaunts to San Diego and San Francisco, CA, and perfected during the wet Irish winters during which the members worked to fund the trips. Name-checking Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, and Neil Young — and boasting the likes of Morrissey, Oasis, and U2 among their highest-profile fans — the Thrills were an anomaly as the garage rock revival swept across the Atlantic in both directions, yet their effortless pop sensibilities were enough to earn the group two Top Ten albums in as many years.
The Thrills' story begins in the Dublin suburb of Blackrock in the mid-'90s, when neighbors Conor Deasy and Daniel Ryan (singer and bass guitarist, respectively) formed the Cheating Housewives with Gonzaga College classmates Ben Carrigan (drums), Kevin Horan (keyboards), and Pádraic McMahon (guitar). In 2001, they changed tack and became the Thrills. The band began writing and demoing material with a view to securing a record deal, which they soon did with local label Supremo Recordings, home of Chicks. For a time, the Thrills decided to eschew the bustling local live music scene that had spawned many young bands — but few that shared the West Coast pop flavor that pervades their own music. However, through the first half of 2002, the group's sporadic gigs became battlefields for major-label executives to lobby for their signature.
Later in 2002, the Thrills signed with Virgin Records, attracted by the promise of artistic freedom and the label's decision to allow them to record their debut record in Hollywood with producer Tony Hoffer (Beck, Air). In September, they were invited by Morrissey to open his show at the Royal Albert Hall in London, their first U.K. show, and in November they released their debut EP, Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far). December saw the Thrills heading to L.A. to record what would become their first album. Returning to Dublin in 2003, the Thrills released their first single, "One Horse Town," in March, debuting at number seven in the Irish charts and number 18 in the U.K. So Much for the City was released in May, going straight to number one in Ireland and number three in the U.K., achieving platinum status several times over in both countries. Three more hit singles followed: "Big Sur" in March; "Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far)" in August; and "Don't Steal Our Sun" in December.
Released in September 2004, Let's Bottle Bohemia was again recorded in L.A., this time with D. Sardy and featuring orchestration by Van Dyke Parks and a guest mandolin performance by R.E.M.'s Peter Buck. Though it debuted at number one in Ireland, it peaked at a disappointing number nine in the U.K., and barely registered overseas. Nevertheless, lead single "Whatever Happened to Corey Haim?" closed out 2004 as BBC Radio 1's most requested track, and the album achieved platinum status in Ireland in 2005. An extended break followed, as the Thrills aimed to evolve their sound. Their third album was originally recorded in New York in 2006, but didn't meet the band's standards. New material was written, including the single and opening track "Midnight Choir," and at R.E.M.'s suggestion, the five relocated to a renovated morgue in inner-city Vancouver to re-record the album with Tony Hoffer. Teenager was released in June of 2007. Less polished and more aggressive than either of its predecessors, it failed to light up the British and Irish charts, selling just 600 copies in Ireland its first week and barely grazing the Top 50 in the U.K. In October of 2007, Teenager was released in the U.S.