interview by RJ Cubarrubia
photos by Christopher Nelson
Armed with a new drummer, a new album, and a new label, Portland indie-pop-punkers The Thermals are back on the beat and ready to blow your eardrums yet again. After the departure of former drummer Lorin Coleman and an amicable split with Subpop, core duo Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster found their way onto recently relocated Portland via Olympia label Kill Rock Stars for their newest album, Now We Can See, and found a new drummer, Westin Glass (although Kathy gets the drum credits for the album). The Thermals never disappoint, and after they tore their KEXP in-studio, the trio and I talked about Westin’s arrival, the move from Subpop to Kill Rock Stars, the “lost” Thermals album, and more.
First off, new face: Westin Glass! How’d you two get set up with Westin?
Westin: We did like five shows with them, The Big Sleep.
Kathy: Yeah, and so Sonya from that band put us in touch and then we just played together.
Hutch: We just went to a Say Hi show and started yelling at Westin between songs, “Hey! Will you be our drummer?!”
Westin: That’s fucked up! That didn’t happen.
On air, y’all were talking about how everyone has been moving down to Portland and Kill Rock Stars just moved down to Portland. Why did you decide to switch to Kill Rock Stars from Subpop?
Kathy: Our contract was over with Subpop and they wanted to keep working with us but we just wanted a different kind of contract, like a more independent style contract. We wanted to own our recording, license it, and have contracts for one record at a time. So we just wanted to have even more control than we already had with Subpop, where we pretty much had control over everything, all creative control. But we love working with Subpop and it was sad to leave them. We love them so much but we just felt like it was time for us to do something different.
I know that there’s a mystery Thermals album out there, a ghost record.
Hutch: The lost record!
Are we ever going to get to hear that?
Hutch: You’ll be illegally downloading it in a couple years. I don’t know; we would have to get massive for them to put out something old. I mean, we’ll try to put it on the box set.
Speaking of Portland, Stephen Malkmus recently said something in an interview about how Portland bands, or maybe Portland, feel that they take their hometown bands for granted, almost, and he mentioned you guys in there.
Hutch: I did not talk to him about that!
Kathy: What did he say about us?
Hutch: He said he talked to me, or maybe talked to The Thermals, about feeling that and I’ve never felt that and I’ve never said that. But a couple nights ago I kind of felt it… It wasn’t sold out and it should’ve been, Portland!
Hutch: But Seattle, sometimes, is more of our home than Portland is.
Kathy: Yeah, I feel like that, because Portland is a small city and there’s a lot of bands, like hundreds and hundreds of bands, and everyone you meet is in a band and you’re playing in a band and then you’re going to shows. So it’s sometimes hard to keep up, you know? And it’s kind of spread thin sometimes because there’re so many bands and there’s not enough people. I’ve heard a lot of friends in touring bands that come through that they either have a really good show or a really bad show in Portland because there’s just so much going on.
Hutch: I’ve never felt that for us. I never felt that we were underappreciated; I always felt we were really appreciated in Portland and loved a lot. Maybe he didn’t even say it. Every time I do an interview, I always read shit I didn’t say, so he probably didn’t say that.
With this album, there’s much more of a positive vibe, and I hear a big reason is our new President? I know you guys are really stoked on Obama.
Kathy: I think he puts a filter on everything, like everyone just sees everything more positively because he’s in office. But we wrote the songs before he was even running.
Hutch: It was like crossing our fingers, hoping for the best.
Well, the reason he won is because of this album.
Hutch: Well, I didn’t want to say it... I’m expecting a phone call!
Kathy: Cool, thanks!
The Thermals latest album, Now We Can See, is out now on Kill Rock Stars. For more information on their latest album and their upcoming tour, visit The Thermals’ Myspace page.