In a way, The Thermals is the quintessential indie band. It’s attracted major label interest since forming in 2002, but its loyalty to the Northwest and strict DIY standards are testaments to punk rock ethics.
“We just wanted to keep making music and never really had any high expectations in terms of career goals. The idea was to quit our jobs—and we did, which was rad,” says Thermals frontman Hutch Harris. “I actually worry about getting too big,” he adds. “It can kill a lot of people’s careers.”
After an amicable split with Sub Pop records, The Thermals was quickly scooped up by Kill Rock Stars and set loose on an album. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Harris and vocalist / bassist / sometimes drummer Kathy Foster, The Thermals has survived several incarnations spurred by a revolving door of members. The lineup finally solidified as a power trio with the addition of drummer Westin Glass.
There’s an infectious energy in the raw, post-pop-punk packed into The Thermals’ fourth full-length. Now We Can See spans unrelenting riffs and mellower ballads while never losing its punk rock backbone. The Thermals’ 2003 The Body, The Blood, The Machine was a concept album based around politics and fascist faux-Christians. In contrast, Now We Can See is about self-discovery. Harris and company are growing up. Seeing as how the band’s members are all in their 20s or early 30s, they’re right on schedule for re-evaluating their lives and applying lessons learned. (You hear the sea change in lyrics like “I looked my fear in the eyes / looked at the water below / I knew I could love or live / I let it go.”) But even with introspection and newfound strength, up-tempo drums and quick, three chord riffs keep the songs lively.
“I actually worry about getting too big. It can kill a lot of people’s careers.”
“Music means everything to me. We’re just trying to make something we like first,” Harris says. “If other people like it then that’s cool. But I’m trying to make songs I want to hear.”
Here in New Mexico, The Thermals will take the stage both in Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Drummer and newest Thermal Westin Glass is originally from Albuquerque, and he’s chomping at the bit to play a show in his hometown.
“This is my first time playing with The Thermals in Albuquerque. I’m really excited,” Glass says. “I love playing live. The audience doesn’t realize how much they are a part of the show. When the crowd is having a good time, the show is a lot better.”
Friday, Sept. 11: Santa Fe Brewing Co. (35 Fire Place Santa Fe), 7:30 p.m. • $10 advance, $12 at the door, all-ages