Thrills on collaboration with REM man

EMMA LEE Just over a year since they won critical acclaim and a host of award nominations for their debut album, Dublin quintet the Thrills release the follow-up on Monday. Emma Lee spoke to keyboardist Kevin Horan.


Be careful what you wish for – you might just get it, so the saying goes. When the Thrills made their wishlist of people they wanted to work with on their sophomore album, Let's Bottle Bohemia, little did they know that they would end up laying down tracks with not one, but two, of their heroes on the same day.

In the case of the Thrills it was REM's Peter Buck and legendary songwriter and arranger Van Dyke Parks, renowned for his work with one of the band's favourite groups, the Beach Boys.

“It was quite an exciting day,” says the band's keyboardist Kevin Horan.

Van Dyke Parks worked on the arrangement of the track The Irish Keep Gate Crashing, while Peter Buck plays mandolin on Faded Beauty Queens and guitar on The Curse of Comfort.

“It was [album producer] Dave Sardy's suggestion to get Van Dyke Parks in. It was really nice to meet him – it was a real privilege,” Horan says.

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And how did the collaboration with Peter Buck come about?

“When we played Glastonbury last year REM headlined. They watched us and we talked to them. Then we were playing a gig in Seattle at a venue which Peter Buck's wife owns. We said jokingly, 'we would love to have you come down to the studio'. Sure enough, he came down, played some mandolin and did a solo,” Horan says.

And it seems that they were not the only ones who were starstruck.

“Peter Buck was excited to meet Van Dyke Parks too,” he says.

The keyboardist says that REM is one of the bands whose longevity they aspire to emulate.

“REM are the classic band. Every album sounds different. Even after huge successes they turn round and do something. Like recording Monster after Automatic for the People when they could have replicated themselves,” he says.

The band hit the big time early last year, winning legions of fans with a clutch of sunny radio-friendly singalong pop anthems, including Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far) and Big Sur.

The debut album, So Much for the City, reaped extensive critical acclaim and a host of prestigious nominations, including a place on the Mercury Music Prize shortlist.

Horan describes Let's Bottle Bohemia as “a lot bolder and more mature” than the first album and says that it has a more “urban” feel to it that its predecessor.

“The playing and arrangements are a lot better,” Horan says. “Ever since we started out with the band we have hardly been home. I think most of the songs on the new album are a reflection of that.”

They chose to work with producer Dave Sardy, who has worked with a diverse range of artists, as they connected on how they wanted the album to sound.

“We wanted to work with somebody who would reflect the fact that we had grown a lot as a band,” Horan says. “We heard he worked with people like Marilyn Manson and Johnny Cash. It seemed a good combination. We thought he had very similar tastes in music to us. We had always heard from other bands that he was a calm character, which is crucial.

“We got on very well with him – he's a good laugh,” he adds.

The album was recorded in LA and part in New York in February and March and the new tracks were written while the band was on the road touring their first album.

“We wrote and rehearsed during soundchecks and on the tour bus. We were so happy with the way the songs were sounding. It just felt like the right time to do it,” Horan says.

He says that after spending time holed up in the studio he and singer Conor Deasy, guitarist Daniel Ryan, bassist Padraic McMahon and drummer Ben Carrigan are looking forward to getting back on the road – including a date at Norwich's UEA on November 13.

“We have not done a UK tour since last November last year, which we have such good memories of. There are some places we cannot wait to get back to,” he says.

And one final question – who is next on the Thrills' wish list to work with?

“Brian Wilson,” Horan says, without hesitation.

Who knows, now he's made a wish it might just happen.

t The Thrills' new album, Let's Bottle Bohemia is released on Monday. They play Norwich UEA on Saturday November 13. Box office 01603 508050 or visit

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