Beer and Pavement

My “Interview” with The Thermals

Posted in Live by SM on May 30, 2011

As mentioned before, I have a little side project over at The CoMo Collective where I cover the local music scene. I’ve tried my best to parlay that into opportunities to interview national acts. So far, I received a half-hearted reply from The Walkmen and no answer from The New Pornographers and Yo La Tengo. I won’t quit as the follow interview (done over email) demonstrates just how fun this little gig can be. Hutch Harris was super cool in taking time from his busy touring schedule to not only answer my lame questions, but he also responded to the follow-ups. I just wish I was in town to see them play…

Which brings me to the next topic. For the first two weeks of June, I will be in Spain. I’m not taking a computer. So, the posting around these parts should be scarce. I’ll try to update when possible, but I’m not promising anything. In the meantime, search through my archives. I’m sure there’s something embarrassing there you can call me out on.

Poster by Justin Nardy

The Thermals are touring and said tour makes a stop at Mojo’s this Wednesday. The tour is in support of the threesome’s latest release, last year’s Personal Life, the rare punk rock record about relationships. While the band has taken a bit of a break from the somewhat political messages typically associated with their previous work, fans are still sure to find vintage Thermals pop-punk that will induce pogoing for an entire hour-long set.

Recently, The Thermals’ Hutch Harris and I sat down (in front of our laptops) and chatted (via email) about touring, records, and dating. Take a moment and read what he had to say about these topics. Then, be sure to catch The Thermals Wednesday at Mojo’s.

TCC: For people with non-rock ‘n roll jobs, we often have to explain what we do for a living in a short, concise manner. I call this the “elevator talk.” You have to explain what it is you do in the time it takes for the elevator to reach your floor. So, how would The Thermals’ elevator talk go?

HH: we play in a rock band for a living. we make money playing shows and putting out records. (now we’ll just stand here in silence uncomfortably until we reach our floor.)

TCC: The Thermals hail from Portland. What’s that like? Do you bump into indie rock royalty (other than yourselves) every time you go to the grocery store or library? Does every Portlandian survive on craft beer-only diets?

HH: portland is the best. we’ve lived here for thirteen years now. yes, indie-rock royalty is everywhere. but you won’t find them at the library because it’s not cool. and yes, we survive on craft beer, as long as it’s organic and gluten-free. which isn’t cool either.

TCC: Is someone in the band gluten intolerant? That sucks. How do you make that work on the road?

HH: no, none of us are gluten-free. it’s just very popular in portland.

TCC: Speaking of Portland, have you seen *Portlandia*? What do you think of it?

HH: of course we’ve seen it. we played the premiere in NYC, it was awesome! we love the show – fred and carrie are both friends of ours, we’ve done a lot of shows with both of them over the years.

TCC: 2006’s The Body, the Blood, the Machine was a breakthrough for the band in a lot of ways. It received a fair amount of critical acclaim and was a pretty charged political statement in some uncertain times. How did that record and the response it received from critics and fans change or support how you felt about this band? Can you see another political album like The Body… in the band’s future?

HH: TBTBTM was the first record that kathy and i made just the two of us. we were very proud of it but had no idea what people would think of it. the response it received was amazing! it was great that so many people understood what i was trying to say, and responded so positively. that’s really the most you can hope for as an artist. most records we’ve made have been political in one way or another. i’m not sure we’ll ever make a record quite like TBTBTM. But we may try.

TCC: With the follow-up to The Body…, Now We Can See demonstrates a newfound maturity, an ability to see more clearly. From where did that perceived maturity come? Was it just a case of not wanting to do the same album over? Did anything really change? Was it related to your move from Sub Pop in any way?

HH: we are getting older and wiser, we can’t help it! we definitely did not want to make the same record twice. we wanted to make a record with no religion or politics, although both subjects did manage to sneak in there. it was totally unrelated to the label change.

TCC: Personal Life is your relationship record. (I know this because Pitchfork told me so.) What brought that on? Was there intent to make a record about love and love lost?

HH: every time i sit down to start lyrics for a record, i try not to have a theme in mind. i like to just start and see what comes out. although i did want to make a record that was more simple and down to earth than the last few records we had made.

TCC: The last time you played Columbia, Mojo’s was about half empty despite all the critical acclaim and media attention the band was getting at the time. Is it hard to get up to play for a crummy turnout on a weeknight in a midwestern town (although, I danced my ass off that night) or is it invigorating to play in such an intimate setting?

HH: i’m most concerned about how well we play. if we put on a good show, i’m satisfied. it doesn’t bother us so much if the turnout is small. although that hasn’t been a problem for a long time.

TCC: Do you remember where you ate last time in Columbia? Any other fond memories of Columbia?

HH: um, indian food i think? was this the show where we supported mates of state? you’ll have to remind me.

TCC: First, I apologize if you ate at India’s House. No one should ever have to eat there. No, you were the headliner that night. It was in Mojo’s, a weeknight, I believe. I actually almost approached you all, but you looked like you were on your way out, possibly to eat. So, I chatted up the girl selling your merch. She was studying for the GRE. Either way, your answer suggests that the stop in Columbia wasn’t all that memorable, but that’s understandable. What do you find to be the most challenging to stops in small, midwestern towns? Or is it a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of the big city?

HH: oh yeah it was 2007. it’s coming back now. we play hundreds of shows each year so it gets hard to remember! any town can be fun, as long as the vibe is good and the people are friendly. there are few towns in the US we don’t like.

TCC: What’s next for The Thermals?

HH: we are supporting matt and kim for six weeks in june and july, then heading back to europe (we are touring here now) in august for festivals.

TCC: Finally, in reference to my earlier question concerning Personal Life‘s status as a relationship album, would you fill out the following (theoretical) dating site profile for The Thermals?

  • Relationship Status: Looking for… HOTT men and women.
  • Kids? we promise we will try to not knock you up.
  • Religious Views: nope.
  • Political Views: pro-fascism, as long as it’s done right.
  • Tattoos and/or Piercings: no cherries or birds please.
  • What do you like to do for fun? fuck you all night.
  • What would be your ideal date? yr bed.
  • If you were an animal, what would you be? kesha.

I don’t know about you, dear readers, but that was hot. So hot that I expect you to make it out to Mojo’s this Wednesday for The Thermals set. The openers are Morning Teleportation. Doors open at 8:00 and it’ll cost you twelve bucks to get in.

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