The Thermals: They’re Gonna Change Your Life

L To R: Westin Glass, Hutch Harris, & Kathy Foster Of The Thermals

The Thermals are THE number one indie alt/punk band of my generation. So it shouldn’t surprise you to find out that the first time I met singer Hutch Harris, I got a little misty. Just a little bit, just from feeling overwhelmed. This was back in 2006 outside the Bowery Ballroom in NYC. I had been spinning the band’s records to date then, their blazing debut More Parts Per Million ( 2003 Sub Pop), the boldly named Fuckin’ A (2004, Sub Pop), and the epic The Body, The Blood, The Machine (2006, Sub Pop) pretty much incessantly.

And because I am the truest of rock nerds, I went to see The Thermals, not once, not twice, but three times in a row for the Summer ’06 tour. Futhermore, I was so smitten with the band’s unique, sharp and hard-hitting brand of perfection, I had to confess my love. ( Not in a stalker way, don’t worry!)

More Parts Per Million; DIY Harris Recorded This In His Kitchen!

If you’re a tried and true rock-o-phile like me, you know the sexy game our kind plays in pursuit of proof of the often abstract world of the ephemeral rock experience. After the show’s over and 98% of the crowd is already on the way home, here we stand in some back alley by the tour van, unabashed in our complete dorkiness as we cling to our sharpie marker and magazine cover/special edition single/ freshly purchased T-Shirt in hopes of an autograph, and experiential knowledge of the rock hero up close and in 3-D.

And after seeing The Thermals open for fellow Pacific Northwesterner’s, the essential Sleater-Kinney in 2003, I was a woman possessed. The hope and pure joy The Thermals gave me from the way they effortlessly and expertly wielded their signature brand of Alt Rock filled my eyes with stars, my heart with songs, my mouth with cornball expressions of adoration. And that live show—HO-LEE-SMOKES! Dancing that will make you ache for days.

Pillar Of Salt, From The Body The Blood The Machine

The thing is, Rock was and still is divided into two time periods for me: Before Kurt and After Kurt. When frontman Hutch Harris and his superhero counter part, second-to-none bassist Kathy Foster came out swinging with debut album More Parts Per Million (recorded by Hutch in its entirety in his kitchen on a reel-to-reel), it was the first time since the awful year of 1994 that I had seen brand new blood validate indisputably the power and presence of Alt Rock for a generation of bands that proudly wore their 90’s influence on their sleeves.

Intelligent albeit baseball bat-weilding, mailbox-bashing alt punk bands were dwindling by the end of the 90’s in a serious way. The Thermals reminded everyone that gritty, out of focus, yet melodic and perfectly executed punk based rock was as relevant and important as ever, and that furthermore, that sound wasn’t backing down one little bit.

Right On Rock Goddess Kathy Foster

So when I painstakingly beaded them bracelets, an earnest little kid offering in the style of presents you make for your parents in grade school, I went to The Bowery Ballroom back in ’06 hoping there was a magical way to maybe say “Hi, I love you, you changed my life, thanks!” and deliver my little offering of gratitude.

That night, I decided to grab something to eat before the power drinking that accompanies my show-going, and found myself, bracelets in pocket, sitting next to none other than the illustrious bassist, Kathy Foster (who did stellar double duty on drums AND bass in the studio—a one woman rhythm section–on TBTBTM and Now We Can See) at a little falafel shop on the Lower East Side. I practically fainted as I tried to make my way over and say hi.

I doubt that my greeting to her was discernable. I must have incoherently spouted some compliments, gave her the bracelets and then ran out of the shop, amazed that someone capable of such ethereal perfection was indeed real.

Sexpot Hotshot Frontman Hutch Harris

Fast forward to me walking up to the Bowery an hour later that night, still very much stoned off of my chance encounter, and who’s outside smoking a cigarette? Oh just the band’s born-to-rock (it’s in his DNA, folks) singer/guitarist Hutch. Even though I was in my blood sober, I drunkedly stumbled towards him only to find that he was WEARING the bracelet I made. That’s when my little indie rock soul sort of lost it and my eyes got all misty.

After the show Hutch, Kathy, fab guesting guitarist Joel Burrows, and then drummer, the awesome Lorin Coleman, hung out for a wee bit. Unasked they put me and my guitarist on the list show for the next night AND at that show dedicated their last song to me by name. Do people get any nicer?! Fuckin’ A INDEED, whew!

“I Don’t Believe You”, The 1st Single From TT’s Latest LP, Personal Life. Yes, That’s Carrie Brownstein!

Needless to say I am very much still in love. Being the gift that keeps on giving, The Thermals never disappoint—on the contrary, every album has been a solid ten. The more recent full-length, Now We Can See  (2009) with it’s anthemic title track landed the band at SXSW that year, and the latest perfect effort, Personal Life (2010), was produced by Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla. Personal Life features the band’s dare I say best-fitting (they were all AMAZING—Lorin I still love you!–, but this kid’s got the moxie!) drummer Westin Glass.

Oh, I’ve Got Something For You To Read Over Here: The Adorable Westin Glass.

Unlike other fellows his age, the prodigal Westin has not only found a home in The Thermals that flawlessly completes this trio (I bet Hutch and Kathy look at him sometimes and say, “You complete me”) but is extremely intelligent and well-read, completely confident in his presence on-stage, and is a bonafide Super Sweetie.

I just had the privilege of catching The Thermals just a few nights ago at Maxwell’s ( it was a helluvaway to commemorate the capture of Bin Laden, folks!), Hoboken NJ’s indie rock institution, and but of course I was floored.

By the time the band was done rollicking through yet another immaculate live performance with an intensely satisfying mix of songs from every album, my neck had a nice dose of whiplash, my T-Shirt was soaked the entire way through, and I was my 16 year old wide-eyed, rock-intoxicated self, stoned absolute by yet another religious encounter with these superhero monster gods of rock. Yeah. It’s like THAT.

A MUST SEE LIVE SHOW: The Thermals Leave Their Mark

If you missed out on that show, do not fret! The Thermals love you and care about you, and they are coming back for you! Grab your chance to find what’s been missing from your life when The Thermals return to the area on Friday July 1st at Brooklyn’s The Bell House. You can also catch them touring with Matt & Kim this Summer, too. And when you buy them a beer and say hi and then go home and write about how great they are and how amazing the show was in your diary, don’t feel too nerdy. I always do the same thing.


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  • bob paulos

    Well written. Anyone who has not had the chance to see this band you must. You will find yourself doing the 90’s pogo there intire set !! I do.

    • angie sugrim

      Hell Yeah, Bob-O! This band is the truth, the way, and the light!


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