Sunday 19 November 2017

Q&A: Ben Carrigan on riding the hype wave and his ambitions as a solo artist

Ed Power

Ed Power

The drummer from The Thrills releases cinematic solo album -- who saw that coming?

While The Thrills was happening, whenever there was any downtime, I was always writing songs in one vein or another. Some have been sitting around four or five years. After The Thrills wound down, I started working on them again. Then I had all these newer ones I'd put together. When I finished them all, I'd planned on using them as a calling card into the film and TV world. They all had a similar feeling and sound -- it was kind of an afterthought, but suddenly I had an album.

Conor Deasy wrote most of The Thrills songs. Was it frustrating to be effectively watching from the sidelines while he exerted creative control?

The way it worked is that Conor was the main songwriter. He wrote the songs and almost all of the lyrics on acoustic guitar. Then the rest of us would help out with arrangements. People would have opinions on drum parts and what have you. As I've come to understand, when you are the writer, you have a vision as to how you want everything to slot into place. Once people start fighting over the songs, the dynamic can get awkward. Conor is a great songwriter. The rest of us were happy to let him write the songs he was writing.

The Thrills have just put out a 'greatest hits'. Is it final curtains for the band?

That was quite a surprise, really. I always find it funny that a band that has three albums can have a 'best of'. It's quite a compliment, I suppose. The Thrills haven't done anything since 2008. There are no plans to do anything in the future. A lot of people think the band has completely split up. There is nothing in the pipeline.

You were one of the few Irish bands to be championed by the UK music press and surfed a wave of hype.

We were lucky with that. We'd been doing gigs around Dublin under various names and nobody took any notice of us. It was only when our manager at the time... well, we got the chance to go over and meet people in the UK. Things kicked off for us in the UK and then people took notice of us over here. Once you have the NME seal of approval -- that's what bands looked for back then. It doesn't work so much any more.

The downside is that when your cheerleaders in the British press lost interest, all the air went out of your career.

It's funny. When we put out our first record, the timing was perfect. You can never see these things while you're in the middle of it, it's only with hindsight. The music scene was changing. People were getting into new things. It was really exciting. Also, it was the tail-end of the old way of doing business. The big labels still had a lot of influence. MySpace didn't even exist, which seems extraordinary now. By the time our third record came out things had changed. It didn't get the attention it deserved, which was a shame.

The Greatest Narrators is released today. Ben Carrigan plays The Sugar Club, Dublin, next Wednesday

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