Dublin, Ireland

Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far) by The Thrills

Tell me where you lost those damn songs
It isn't without a sense of irony that I've chosen to write about Dublin, Ireland, instead of Santa Cruz, California, when it comes to the alternative rock band The Thrills' only mainstream hit, named not after their hometown, but the coastal U.S. city. Stick with me and you'll understand why; trust me, I have my reasons.

The Thrills formed in the mid-'90s in a suburb of Dublin, Ireland. Their original name was the Cheating Housewives, but following a trip to San Francisco in 2001, they opted to change the band's moniker. Not impressed with the Irish rock sound and desiring to do something a little different, band members Conor Deasy, Daniel Ryan, Ben Carrigan, Padraic McMahon, and Kevin Horan found inspiration in American pop of the 1960s California beaches. Their 2003 debut album So Much for The City has been described as "sun-drenched" and "ocean-soaked," full of vocal harmonies and jangly guitars.

Roof of the carousel on the Santa Cruz boardwalk<br>Photo: <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SantaCruz_BeachBoardwalk_Carousel_palmsDSCN9371.JPG">Larry Pieniazek</a>, <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/">CC BY-SA 3.0</a>, via Wikimedia CommonsRoof of the carousel on the Santa Cruz boardwalk
Photo: Larry Pieniazek, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
The tone of their music is happily nostalgic, harkening back to a simpler time of cruising the strip and downing milkshakes at malt shops. Obviously influenced by the Beach Boys, Kevin Horan pointed the band that direction while they were still debating on and honing the perfect sound. Horan, allegedly possessing the largest collection of Beach Boys music and paraphernalia "that side" of the Atlantic, grew up on classic "beach" rock and is, according to his bandmates, obsessed with the Beach Boys band.

Of the tracks on So Much for The City, Deasy said to livedaily.com, "Those songs are our ways of picking us up because we were kind of miserable. We were dropped by our label. And the towns (in the songs) are put as a way of escapism, as opposed to documenting little tales about what happened when we went there. When we put in a title like 'Santa Cruz (You're Not That Far),' it would literally pick us up a bit." One can only imagine how the harsh winters of Ireland can weigh on a person's mood. The Thrills, instead of focusing on them, took a musical holiday to a far-away place...

Unofficially nicknamed Surf City (Huntington Beach beat them to the trademark with that name), Santa Cruz occupies a stretch of beach just south of San Francisco. Not far enough south, though, that it missed being damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. In fact, the quake rendered seven buildings in the town to rubble and killed six people, injuring several others, and causing millions of dollars in damages.

Dublin CastleDublin Castle
Currently, the boardwalk of Santa Cruz Beach boasts a carnival atmosphere to rival that of the East Coast's Coney Island… even if the "boardwalk" isn't actually, well, board. (The West Coast versions are typically concrete.)

But our article isn't about sunny Santa Cruz, California, but rather a much more historical (and colder) place. Dublin is the capital and most populated city in Ireland. One of Europe's most youthful cities, about 40% of its population is under 25 years of age. There are thousands of pubs and nightclubs across the city (Irishmen are notorious for their tippling), and the area called Temple Bar is where tourists gather for entertainment in the form of street performers and small music venues.

Dublin's rich history is riddled with violence and conflict. From even preceding the Norman invasion in the 12th Century and encompassing current day, Ireland has known more than its share of it. In the past century alone, its residents have been enmeshed in everything from the Lockout to the Easter Rising to the War of Independence, Civil War, and the Troubles.

But from great conflict is often born great things. World famous for its literary history, many notable writers have come out of the city, including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, and George Bernard Shaw. It is the setting for James Joyce's major work Ulysses, and he named his short story collection "Dubliners."

And now the Thrills, with their dreams of warmer climes and cheerier surroundings, have made their way into music's underground consciousness with their idolization of everything Beach Boys, a bit of a stretch for a band from Ireland, perhaps, and worthy of a listen for that, if for no other reason.

Justin Novelli
July 30, 2016

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