The Thermals are on Desperate Ground in Fla.

We caught up with frontman Hutch Harris before their show in Ybor tonight.

Posted by Julie Garisto on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM

DESPERATELY SEEKING THERMALS? From left, Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass stop in Tampa.
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  • DESPERATELY SEEKING THERMALS? From left, Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass stop in Tampa.
The pogo-inducing, fist-pumpin’ pop-punk band from “pre-Portlandia-Portland, Ore.,” formed in 2002 and are on their sixth LP — their debut for Saddle Creek. John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth) produced the visceral Desperate Ground, and critics have been praising the album as their best since The Body, The Blood, The Machine (Sub Pop). CL caught up with frontman Hutch Harris about his organic distortions, the album’s recurrent themes of violence and his enduring friendship and collaboration with fro-licious bassist Kathy Foster.

CL: You guys toured pretty extensively early this year. What have you been up to during your break?

Harris: Just kind of hanging out at home and just relaxing. We toured so much this year so haven’t been doing too much for the past couple of weeks. … I’ve seen a lot of good shows … Thee Oh Sees and Summer Cannibals.

Critics are praising the new album as a return to form.

We recorded with John Agnello. He was awesome. We’ve always wanted to record with him. One of the things I did on this record that makes it sound like the old ones is I sang through this old cheap vocal mic that I have, that I used on the first record when we were recording on a four track. And I wanted that sound so I actually just brought my four-track with us. I just plugged the mic in and sang through the four track so it sounded all distorted and gritty. He just took that sound and put it on tape. He was just really accommodating with doing exactly what we wanted to do and getting that lo-fi sound but have it produced in a studio.

How long is the next leg of your touring schedule?

It’s only Florida actually. We didn’t get to do Florida on the long trip we that we did in May and June. It’s Gainesville, Tallahassee, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, Palm Beach and Miami. Florida is great to do but it takes so long to do, and if you’re on a long tour already, it takes an extra week. So many people wrote to us who were disappointed we didn’t come to Florida, so we booked an extra trip just for Florida.

What inspired you to take on such brutal themes for Desperate Ground?

We live in such a violent country. People are killing people here and in different countries. We wanted to put out a record to reflect that it because it never seems to go away.

The videos are pretty grisly too.

Oh, yeah, those were a great time. We always have fun making videos. We wanted to be in control of what the videos were. We wrote the treatments ourselves. We got a friend of ours who’s good at film to shoot them, but we directed the videos. They were the first videos we wrote and directed. We’re super happy with how those turned out. … We always want to have more and more control. I’ve kept a lot of control over a lot of aspects of making records. I’ve always kept a lot of control over what we do.

What’s kept you and bassist Kathy Foster going so long?

We’ve known each other for so long and we’ve been good friends for so long. We’ve played music together for so long. It’s the odds that you can really connect with musically and in life because, it’s, like, disarray. You’re not going to find a ton of people that you’re going to get along with and play well with, so when you find people like that, you really stick with them, you know. We found that with [drummer] Westin [Glass] too, but obviously Kathy and I have been playing together for, like, 15 years. We’ll always play together.

How do you complement each other?

I would say that I’m crazy and she’s not crazy. So there’s that!

Is it true that Ben Gibbard of Death Cab helped you get signed to SubPop?

We gave Ben (Gibbard) a copy of the first demos I was working on for the Thermals. He liked them so much, he gave them to SubPop, and then they signed us soon after that. Ben ended up getting some success. Chris Walla worked on our first couple of records, and Death Cab took us on tour with them. They really helped us out a lot. … Sleater-Kinney took us tour a couple times. They were good to us when they were still around, and we were big fans of theirs. I’m still good friends with Quasi, and I got to see their 20th reunion concert a couple of nights ago.

I’m a little older than you, but you can probably relate to me in how surreal those milestones are.

Yeah, I’m old.

What have you listened to for the first time since your younger days?

After I saw Quasi, I put on Field Studies, my favorite record from them. I just listened to it twice in a row. It totally took me back to when I first moved to Portland and I was working in a record store, and I always listened that record.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Yeah, just that we’re really pumped to play Florida. I’m really glad to play there again.

The Thermals play Crowbar tonight with Beach Day and Florida Night Heat, $15, 1812 N. 17th St., Tampa. Doors at 8 p.m. After party features DJs Mes and Silence with special guest Oprah Spinfrey, aka Theo Severson, and food provided by Cafe Hey, shot and beer specials. (No cover for party.)

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