Shilpa Ganatra talks to the talented musician about his new release and the experience of being the leader of a musical group.
It feels very strange to be the leader of a group
There’s a long running joke which runs thusly: What’s the last thing a
drummer says in a band? "Hey guys, why don’t we try one of my songs?".
Boom, and indeed, boom.
But there are exceptions to the rules, and a man who’s certainly
exceptional is Ben Carrigan (32), the erstwhile drummer in power poppers
The Thrills. He’s kicking off his solo career with debut album The
Greatest Narrators, which sounds little like the Big Sur group.
Though that’s where he gained the most prominence, there’s plenty more
strings to his proverbial bow. For starters, even before The Thrills
he was awarded a scholarship to the Berklee School Of Music in Boston,
and then to The Royal Conservatory of Music in The Hague.
"The drums are my first instrument and that’s what I’m known for, but
I’ve learned plenty of different styles and instruments along the way;
I studied classical and jazz, and I’m a big fan of soundtracks.
"There’s definitely a Thrills influence in the album too, but it’s set
alongside all my other loves. It’s definitely more personal to me."
Though the other members of the group have given the album their
blessing, he’s not letting outside opinions affect his views on the
LP, which was released September 23.
He explains: "I’ve had positive feedback from the lads - they seemed
to like it. But I was very hesitant about showing it to them as I’m
trying not to have my judgment clouded. You’d get that from record
companies - they’d tell you how great a record was and how much it was
going to sell and then you’d lose sight of reality."
In fact the debut - a layered and lustrous affair that could be filed
next to Adrian Crowley - was written and recorded in near isolation.
He played all the parts on it, bar a few that were re-recorded by
musician pals, meaning it was very nearly a one-man show.
Ben explains: "There were some parts that I knew could be played
better - I know I’m not the best guitarist or bassist in the world -
so I laid down the parts but then got in friends who improved what I did. Some of them are in the live band too."
For his live outing, which takes place at the Sugar Club
Wednesday September 28, there will be no less than 11 people on stage - seven core
musicians and a string quarter - reflecting the textured nature of
songs like the sweeping instrumental Flashbacks or the chamber pop of
After Hours in Cairo.
"It feels very strange to be the leader of a group," he says shyly.
"It’s not the most natural thing in the world for me. That’s why I
prefer composing music for films or other people - there’s no
pressure. Even as a drummer I could stay in the shadows and hide
behind my kit.
"But I believe in this album so I’m standing up to support it, rather
than the other way around." Though he’s now kicking off his solo
career, he’s not ruling out a Thrills reunion either.
"We’re just on a hiatus," he explains. "We haven’t done anything since
2008, when we toured Australia. We never split up, but we’re all
working on other projects.
"In time, I’m sure we’ll get back together. It just got a bit crazy
for a while because we were away from home, so we needed to take a
"I do have plans to do a second album though," he adds. "I mentioned
it to my girlfriend yesterday, and she advised me to get my first one
out before I worried about the second!"
The Greatest Narrators was released September 23. Ben Carrigan plays the Sugar
Club, Dublin, this Wednesday.
Check out You Knew it All Along from the new album below.