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Full Lesson Q&A with Hutch from the Thermals

Below is the full text from the interview I did with Hutch Harris from the Thermals for Monday’s English lesson. It was the second time I’ve interviewed a band for an English lesson, and this time, there wasn’t a specific topic for vocab (like drinking last time). So I did my best to reach the perspective on American culture and vocab terms that Hutch could offer and I think it went pretty well.

But first, the Thermals’ tour dates.

12.04.08 Chop Suey Seattle, WA
12.05.08 Doug Fir Portland, OR 21
12.06.08 Doug Fir Portland, OR All Ages, early show
12.12.08 Primavera Club, Barcelona, ES
12.13.08 Primavera Club, Madrid, ES
12.14.08 KCLSU, London, UK
12.17.08 Ekko, Utrecht, NL
12.18.08 Vera, Gronigen, NL

Jason: Since your last album [The Body, the Blood, the Machine] was, in some ways, a comment on American politics and society, I just wanted to ask you about how you feel about Obama’s victory and if it’s affected your world view.

Hutch: Dude, I’m stoked. I’m so stoked. I was scared until the last minute, really. I didn’t even have a drink. I wasn’t going to get drunk at some Obama party and have it turned around and have McCain steal it or something. As soon as he took Ohio though, it really seemed like was gonna happen.

So yeah, it totally changes my world view because choosing Obama wasn’t choosing the lesser of two evils. It wasn’t like if we would have gotten John Kerry. And it would be quite different if we had McCain and Palin going in there right now. Everyone knows that. Not just did we get a great president, we also dodged a bullet with those other two. And the whole world was rooting for Obama. So obviously the world is going to be very different and it looks to be positive.

Jason: How do you think it affects the Christian/fascist state that you were imagining on your last album?

Hutch: The most disgusting thing right now are people who think that Obama is the antichrist. I mean this is serious. I hate even talking about it because it’s almost like we shouldn’t give these people any credibility at all. I don’t know. What’s wrong with people? Obama is a good Christian. People, I think are confused as to what the president actually does and what he has the power to do. Yeah, I don’t know what to say about the nuts. I try to think about that less. I turned myself off on thinking about religion and being wrapped up in it after that last record. But obviously you can’t. I just try not to obsess about it and let it get me down like it used to.

Jason: Totally. For a lot of our members, I’m guessing that “punk” and “garage rock” are going to be relatively new terms. So your first couple of albums were described as low-fi and more recently there’s been a lot of talk of the Thermals pop sensibilities and I wondered how your sound has evolved and what we can expect on the next record.

Hutch: It’s just what you said. It’s pop sensibilities for sure. I think as pop songs, these songs are written the best of all our songs. I think the structures are really solid. They’re really catchy. I’m really proud of the lyrics because again I feel like the lyrics have some gravity to them, but at the same time, they work really well on the surface, if you’re just thinking about it as a pop song or something you can sing along too. There is another layer without being too pretentious about it.

Jason: Do you think “lo-fi” was a term that applied to you at a point in time?

Hutch: We called it “no-fi” for the first record because the first record, you know, was just on cassette. “Lo-fi” would have been an over statement for that record. But we’ve been going through a natural progression since then where we don’t take huge leaps in fidelity, but we try to make each record sound better than the last one. For us to just put out records on a four-track cassette would just be ridiculous.

Jason: So you do a lot of touring internationally, and I wonder, what’s your favorite country to play in?

Hutch: I kind of think it’s got to be Germany. Even before we were getting successful here and in the UK and other countries, Germany and the Netherlands jumped on it right away and we had some of the most exciting shows in Germany. If we’re talking about all countries, it has to be the US. The best shows of our lives have been mostly in the US, either in Portland or Seattle or New York. But we have fun shows everywhere. It’s hard to pick one. We love touring Europe. Touring Europe is a lot more fun than touring the US. You’re treated much better. Hospitality…no matter what your level, you’re just cared for a lot more. And a lot of times it’s easier because the countries are so much smaller, the drives are a lot shorter. I mean in the west [of the US], driving like 9 hours a day with a show every day? That’s crazy.  We just did only UK shows for two weeks. It was beautiful, it was like two hour drives every day. But touring the UK is much more like touring the US. I’m talking about mainland Europe when I’m talking about them feeding you and putting you up, etc.

Jason: Have you picked up any German from your shows there?

Hutch: I know a little bit. I know some short words. It’s a really intense language. I was actually to a German band one time…Because most German bands we play with, they’re all singing in English. And of course they speak English. Their English is better than ours. It’s more grammatically correct. They say “months” instead of “munts.” They say “second” instead of “sekind.” But anyway, I was talking a German man and he was saying that the English language, the thing is you have so many more words to choose from than in German that you can be way more expressive.

Jason: And then the last thing I wanted to ask you, since I think it will be a new word for a lot of our members, is what are thermals and how did you pick that as your band name?

Hutch: The real definition of a thermal is hot air. Like if you’re hang gliding…or birds, will ride a thermal. That’s not why we picked it. But it’s associated with heat, so you say thermal underwear or long Johns. Which to me, that style, people wearing their thermals to rock shows, that’s a really Northwest thing. And we were totally into flannel when Nirvana was big. You’d have black cut off shorts and wear your thermals underneath with boots or whatever. That wasn’t me. I’m thinking more of girls, actually, but it was something I always thought was really cute. So we’re named after underwear. But it works to say that it’s just a lot of hot air.

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One Response to “Full Lesson Q&A with Hutch from the Thermals”

  1. Full Lesson Q&A with Joey Keithley of D.O.A. | English, baby! Blog Says:

    […] tour of China that starts this week, his philosphy on political music and a longer-term view of the singing-in-English phenomenon I discussed with Hutch Harris. Full text below, but first, D.O.A.’s tour dates, which are also available on their MySpace. […]

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