April 5th, 2007 | Interviews

sarah tillman

Portland’s Thermals blew out of a 4-track like nobody since the first Wipers demos and restored five years back into every person who heard them. Their last record The Body, The Blood, The Machine examined the current state of America the same way the Philip K. Dick’s Radio Free Albemuth did. Bassist Kathy Foster and drummer Lorin Coleman wait as singer/guitarist Hutch Harris speaks via phone from somewhere in the north.

How does it feel when the world agrees with the last Thermals record?
It makes me feel good. Right before the record came out, I thought it would sound really irrational if you tried to take it seriously. Now it sounds a lot more rational, which is scary. But it’s also encouraging—it’s about communication. You want to connect to the world and see if anyone feels the same way you do about things that bother you or whatever scares you.
Are you happier now than you were writing The Body, The Blood, The Machine last year?
I always feel pretty good when I wake up in the morning—in a lot of ways, I’m a pretty positive person. I enjoy living! I have it pretty good—I don’t have to work at home. We just work on the band. For me if I got up and had nothing to do, I’d just be a piece of shit!
How do you like touring all the time?
I love it and we love it but we definitely sacrifice a normal life style. All of us are single and none of us can keep up a relationship.
Now everyone’s gonna hit on you at the merch table.
I don’t care—I just wanna be honest. People don’t hit on me at shows.
Whose tire tracks are the Thermals following?
Kim Deal—I love the Pixies and I really really love the Breeders. I’d go see them in San Francisco and San Jose and she’d be hanging out at the merch table—she’d sold like a million records but she was so down to earth, and I was like, ‘I totally wanna be like her.’ And then when we met Death Cab for Cutie—looking at those guys, not one of them were fuck-ups. They weren’t babies and they didn’t need someone to take care of them. We wanted to be a band like that—strong and independent and not a bunch of whiners.
Are you slightly honored about your lyric naming Sub Pop’s new Hardly Art label?
I’d be more honored if they gave me some money! Obviously we’re friends, so I thought that was pretty sweet, but they had to buy the name—someone else had a small cassette label and someone else had a website, so they had to buy that, too. But nobody approached me—that’s the music industry for you! I’m the sad victim artist!
What’s the last thing you thought you’d never see in your lifetime?
It’s hard not to say 9/11—I really never thought I’d see something like that happen. For me, what’s going on now is stuff you’d read about in books and think would never happen again. The Bush administration is a lot like the Nixon administration—it’s all about expanding power. It’s so ridiculous what we’re seeing every day from the Bush administration. I found myself in the past six months getting into 9/11 conspiracies. Bush and Cheney didn’t want any questions answered. They just wanted it swept aside—so they could get on with the war and making money.
How do you feel now as a Thermal and an American?
I wanna be like, ‘Where is my country?’ But the evangelicals in Jesus Camp say the same thing. Half want one thing and the other want something different and no one is really happy. I never want to say America is a terrible place—that’s not true!—but it is being overrun by assholes! Bush is fucking making such a terrible name for America—so many years of progress just burned.
Do you have any friends in the service overseas?
I don’t but I’ve talked to people at shows who just got back or are just about to go back. I hate the attitude that, ‘You’re stupid for joining the army.’ They want to defend our country and they’re being used—making the whole world unsafe and getting our people and a ton of Iraqis killed. It’s nice to talk to them—I’m just like, ‘Fuck, be careful.’ What do you even say? There are a ton of people who don’t support Bush in the military—they know it’s not right. But they’re still going back. They don’t want to leave the people they served alongside over there.
Has the Christian right commented on your last record?
People felt picked on! There were like three letters and the first one I didn’t respond, but then I started writing back just to explain what the record was about. It’s not hating Christians—it’s about seeing evil people using religion and religion being used. I think it helped a lot of people understand.
What do you think is going to happen in 2008?
I have no idea but I’m not looking forward to it. I’d like to see the Clintons back in the White House. I think that would be so funny. The Clintons will cheat and kill whoever they have to to get back—they have experience and they’ve done it before! There’ll be a lot of quote/unquote suicides. I love them but they’re just as nasty—though how they treat the world isn’t as nasty as Bush. And when was the last time we had a vice president that couldn’t run because everyone just knew he was so evil?
New heights for America.
Thanks a lot, everybody!