2015 Artist Survey: The Thermals

Hutch Harris on Streaming, the Election, Dating, Star Wars, and the Apocalypse

Jan 07, 2016 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our upcoming Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.

Here are some answers from Hutch Harris of The Thermals. The Thermals' new album, We Disappear, is due out March 25 via Saddle Creek.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

 

1. The Ghost Ease: RAWMost bands use hybrids of known languages to communicate with the listener. This band has a language all its own, and this record is a gorgeous collection of post-grunge alien flora and fauna. I can't quite decipher RAW, and I don't need to. All I know is that every time I hear this record I want to immediately hear it again. 

2. Colleen Green: I Want to Grow UpColleen does indeed grow up on this perfect follow-up to her Hardly Art debut Sock It To MeI Want to Grow Up is bigger, brighter, louder, and wider than anything Green has done before. Colleen's lyrics are personal, sincere, and can be incredibly funny just by being honest. Pay attention, young bands: this is what you do once you have people's attention.

3. White Reaper: White Reaper Does It AgainHonestly I'm not sure they did it again. 2014's White Reaper is good. White Reaper Does It Again is AWESOME. It reminds me of the best (first two) Strokes records, and Exploding Hearts' (R.I.P.) Guitar Romantic. This record is the fuzziest, catchiest, most joyously dark sugar-rush I had all year. Highly addicting.

4. Bully: Feels LikeImagine if Kurt Cobain was still alive and Nirvana was recording songs in his home studio. Imagine if Hole were still together and making records as good as Live Through This. Now imagine if they were the SAME BAND. I know, right? Feels Like is my '90s alt-rock wet dream come to life. This is an awesome debut, and I'm very excited to see what Bully does next.

5. Summer Cannibals: Show Us Your MindIf you know me, you know I love Summer Cannibals. They've been one of my favorite Portland bands for a few years now, and they're one of the most prolific, hard-working bands I've ever met. Show Us Your Mind shows us that Summer Cannibals have no intentions of slowing down, and are getting better every year.

6. Ian Karmel: 9.2 on PitchforkComedian Ian Karmel may have moved to L.A. a few years ago, but like he's all Portland, apparent more than ever on his debut album. Karmel straight-up murders the audience at Portland's Mississippi Studios with the confidence, poise, and skills of a man twice his age.

7. Wimps: SuitcaseAnother super-catchy, super-fun LP from Seattle's Wimps, now on Portland's Kill Rock Stars labels. This is a match made in Northwest grunge-punk heaven. Wimps are smart, snotty, and ultimately adorable, like an old Matt Groening comic strip come alive. Work is hell. School is hell. Wimps are life.

8. Beach Slang: The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like UsI don't drink much any more. I don't need to, I have this record! Beach Slang has recorded the aural equivalent of a three-week bender smashed down into a half-hour LP. Picture Jawbreaker and The Replacements drunkenly brawling in a tiny Philly dive bar. Who wins? We do. Now let's all go to rehab.

9. Speedy Ortiz: Foil DeerThere are a lot of us out here these days who want to be The Breeders. None of us will be The Breeders, but Speedy Ortiz comes closest. Comparisons aside, this is a solid recording of solid songs. The title Foil Deer sounds to me like a fancy way to wrap up leftovers, but everything on this record sounds brand new.

10. Sleater-Kinney: No Cities To LoveComeback records are supposed to suck. Not only does No Cities not suck, it sounds as great as anything Sleater-Kinney made before they broke up, and contains some of the catchiest songs of their career. It must be great to get to a point where your band doesn't get compared to any other bands, you just get compared to yourself. No Cities To Love has a lot to live up to, and thankfully proves Sleater-Kinney still has records to love.

 

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

 

The highlight for me was performing twice at Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen in L.A.—once with Kathy as the musical guest, and then again doing stand-up. The low point was reading about mass shootings in the news every single day.

 

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

 

So many hopes and plans. Most I can't discuss until an official announcement comes along. Man, keeping my mouth shut (when I have to) is the hardest part of my job. Let's just say that 2016 will be a very busy year for me and The Thermals.

 

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

 

I listen to music almost exclusively on Spotify. It's easy to use and there are few records I haven't been able to find on it. Would I like to get paid more for streaming plays? Of course. Always.

 

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

 

Do people still buy records? We haven't put out a record since 2013, so we haven't dealt with a Friday release date yet. I've never expected people to pay for our records, and I still don't expect them to.

 

Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

 

I've always embraced mainstream pop music for my entire life. I'm glad that people in the scene seem to care less about politics than they used to. 

 

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

 

It's a total shitshow. We've never been closer as a country to realizing Idiocracy than we are right now. Donald Trump's ascent is terrifying, but it won't last. Bernie Sanders is a positive force, but supporting him isn't realistic in the long run. I'm voting for Hillary.

 

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift's 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist's album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

 

I would cover either Weezer's Pinkerton or The Strokes' Is This It? because I love every song on both of those records.

 

Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

 

I have never been fired from a job or a band. I don't get fired. I do the firing.

 

What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?

 

I would listen to my father playing the piano, rehearsing with singers in our apartment in NYC. He would rehearse with and then accompany singers at Broadway auditions. 

 

What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

 

To be treated with kindness and decency as a touring artist.

 

What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on?

 

Every date is a disaster. Dating sucks. I'm like Liz Lemon when it comes to dating: "I just wish I could start a relationship about 12 years in, when you really don't have to try anymore, and you can just sit around together and goof on TV shows, and then go to bed without anybody trying any funny business."

 

Which Star Wars character are you most like?

 

Princess Leia in the gold bikini, because everyone wants to either be me or fuck me.

 

Following the terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris do you think that security at music venues should be improved and do you now worry about something similar happening at one of your shows.

 

I do not worry about something similar happening at one of our shows any more than I worry about a plane crash or other disaster. These things happen, but they are incredibly rare. You can't let fear rule your life. 

 

Which recent anniversary for an album, film, TV show, or historical event has most made you feel old?

 

Back to the Future Day. 

 

If Mark Kozelek starts a fresh beef in a forest and nobody is around to write a 600-word thinkpiece about it, does he still make a sound?

 

I don't understand the question and I won't respond to it.

 

Which part of America or which specific state do you find it most challenging to tour in and why?

 

All of the U.S. is challenging to tour. The country is too big, the drives are too long. We should make the country smaller.

 

In 2015, what do the words "indie rock" mean?

 

It means "music that can sell a car or soundtrack a twee documentary."

 

What was the most baffling cultural phenomenon in 2015?

 

People randomly shooting other people.

 

If you could drop a copy of one album in the inbox of every citizen of the world, what album would it be (besides one of your own)?

 

U2's Greatest Hits.

 

FFS (Franz Ferdinand + Sparks) proved that collaborations can work. What other two bands would you like to see unite as one new entity?

 

Dragonforce and Selena Gomez.

 

How prepared are you for the apocalypse, zombie or otherwise?

 

I've got a cupboard with cans of food, filtered water, and pictures of you.

 

If your house were on fire, what would you grab as you were running out?

 

Nothing. Let it all fucking burn.

 

What's the biggest goal for your life that you have yet to achieve?

 

Having kids, I guess.

www.thethermals.com



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