An Interview With Hutch Harris of The Thermals

Back in March, I had the good fortune to interview Hutch Harris of The Thermalsfor a nifty English magazine in the Netherlands called Unfold. Released biweekly, each issue “unfolds” to reveal a poster as the reader makes their way through the magazine. The experience is sort of like opening a present or dissecting a paper crane (but in a good way…uh, that doesn’t make sense, does it?). Of the publications I’ve written for over the years, Unfold is definitely the most distinctly unique.

The Thermals played a gig in Amsterdam that month and they’re set to perform in their port-of-call tomorrow night, March 20th, at the Crystal Ballroom in downtown Portland. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough room in the original Unfold article for more than a few of Harris’ quotes.

Here’s the interview, in full, in addition to the video for “I Don’t Believe You,” which features both Isaac Brock and Carrie Brownstein:

1. The lyrics on The Body, The Blood, The Machine criticized the conservative political climate of the mid-2000s in America. Now We Can See offered a more optimistic view a few years later but, halfwaythrough Obama’s stint in the Oval Office, how are you guys feelingabout the country lately?

Not feeling great! We are still involved in two wars that appear to be endless. We are now getting involved in a third conflict. We still don’t have good healthcare and the rich keep getting tax breaks.

2. Dare I ask for your thoughts on the possibility of a President Gingrich or President Palin in 2012?

Gingrich is as boring as he is horrible. He’s a cheater and a hypocrite. Palin will bring about the end of the world. She’s a fucking nut job, pure and simple.

3. Ok, enough with the politics. You released Personal Life, a new album last September that seems like it’s moving the band in a new direction. It’s less frantic than your older releases and “I Don’t Believe You” might be the catchiest song you’ve ever recorded. Was that all intentional?

Yes, it was all intentional. We are always trying to make our songs as fun and catchy as possible. We also wanted to make a record that was clean and simple.Personal Life is that record. Very sparse, a lot of space. No guitar over dubs. Just one lead vocal doubled. Chris (Walla, of Death Cab for Cutie) did a great job producing.

4. Carrie Brownstein appears in the video for “I Don’t Believe You” and, notto give anything away, but the premise is a bit strange. Where did theconcept come from? Did she play any part in coming up with the plotline?

Whitey McConnaughy, who also directed our videos for “A Pillar of Salt” and “Returning to the Fold”, wrote the treatment for the “I Don’t Believe You” video and directed it.

5. A cheesy question but I’ll ask it anyway: what’s the video all about? Is it a commentary on Patriot Act paranoia? Or a cheeky gag about noisy house-bands in Portland?

It’s definitely not political commentary. It is a cheeky gag.

6. Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock also puts in an appearance. The Portland music scene has gotten a lot of national and international press in recent years. Is it a pretty tight-knit community? Do you guys all hang around in a secret clubhouse somewhere, fight crimes like the Super Friends or anything?

I’m good friends with a lot of Portland bands – Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, Wild Flag, The Shins. But i don’t see a lot of them that often. We all tour so frequently. Most of us are not even in Portland that much.

7. You’ll be playing at Trouw here in Amsterdam on April 21st. Dutch audiences can be notoriously finicky and are prone to talking through shows. As a result, do you approach gigs here any differently than anywhere else you’ve played?

We turn up the amps as loud as we can to shut people the hell up.

8. Oops, another political question: the increasingly conservative Netherlands government has tightened its marijuana policies in recent years. Do you think America could ever pull off the whole “legal weed”thing?

Possibly. It is actually happening, slowly, in California. I hope we can legalize weed in the US one day.

9. One last thing: if you guys had 30 seconds to come up with a haikuabout Amsterdam, do you think you could do better than Colin Meloy?

How do i know if I can do better? You didn’t tell me what Colin’s haiku was. Having said that, yes I’m sure i could do better.

10. That said, 30 seconds. Go for it if you feel so inclined. 3 – 5 -3or 5 – 7 -5. Your choice.

30 seconds, sure!  You’ll never know how long i spent on this.

i hate all haikus.
they are so fucking stupid.
ah ah ah ah-doi.

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