I remember sitting in my car with my friend, driving home from Vienna. The sun is shining, we’re putting our sunglasses on and light a cigarette. “Now We Can See” is sounding from the CD player, we sing along to “Oh Way Oh A Whoa” and nod our head to the rhythm of the drums.
I have a special connection with this record, that’s why I was nervous like a school girl that’s just being asked out by her first big crush when I was asked to interview The Thermals for the magazine of the Poolbar Festival. However, the band was incredibly sweet and funny and the result could be worse, right?
So here it is, in full length and original version. If you get the chance to, go see them at the Festival in Vorarlberg where they play on August 13. Other highly recommended bands to watch: Portugal. The Man, The Weakerthans, Ok Go, Get Well Soon and FM Belfast.
First of all, welcome to Vienna!
So, you’re now pretty much in the middle of your European tour. How has it been going so far? Where have you been already?
Hutch: It’s been really good.
Kathy: Yeah, we started in the UK, played three shows there, then came over to Brussels. We were in France, did a show in Barcelona, then Switzerland and Germany.
Vienna probably has the worst weather of all of them?
Westin: Yeah, totally. We had summer already! It’s quite like Portland though. A little bit colder, but Portland is quite grey and rainy.
You’ve already been in Austria before. How do you feel about coming back?
K: Good, we always have really fun shows here. People are really wild here.
Since you released your last record “Personal Life”, you did some massive touring. How does this actually affect your personal life?
W: It makes it pretty impossible to have one. It makes your boyfriend or girlfriend mad at you because you’re never home.
Don’t you ever feel like you just need a break?
H: We do have breaks in between. And when we have a break, it’s a real break, and we have nothing else to do.
When you’re constantly on the road, how do you stay entertained?
K: Just make fart jokes.
W: We read, and we listen to music a lot.
H: Yeah, I always get to read more on tour than at home.
Anything you’d recommend?
H: I only read rock biographies. I just read “Scar Tissue” which is from Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. There’s also a good one of David Bowie and Dr. Dre, but I’d read pretty much any musician’s biography. Auto-biographies especially, because when someone else writes biographies, it feels like a text book a lot of times, there’s no emotion. But when it’s different when they write it on their own. You know that a lot of it is fake, because they’re just making stuff up to show off, but it’s interesting.
K: I just finished Patty Smith’s book “Just Kids”, that was really good.
W: I just read that Smith book too. It’s about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer. It’s a really good book.
You’re now touring with The Coathangers from Atlanta, and in summer you’re gonna tour with Matt & Kim in the U.S. How did that come about? Did you know the bands before?
K: We know The Coathangers, we’ve toured with them a couple of times in the U.S. Matt & Kim asked us to tour with them, but we haven’t met them before. We’re having a long tour with them, it’s almost six weeks.
H: We tour the whole country twice. First we go up, then all the way to the East coast, then we go back to the West, then we go back to the East coast and then we drive home.
How are you touring? With a bus?
W: It’s somewhere between a van and a bus.
H: There’s only four of us travelling, so we don’t need anything big. We try to have as little people around as possible.
Since you’ve released “The Body, The Blood, The Machine” you always had some sort of a theme for your records. How was it with your new record, who came up with the concept?
H: We never decide on that first. I just start writing then lyrics, and then I see if it seems like there’s a direction to go, if I feel like there’s more to be said about. This time we wanted to make a record that wasn’t so heavy and serious. It still came out very serious though. But we tried to touch more down-to-earth topics. It’s just about love and people being in love and it going wrong, as opposed to the end of the world and dying. We tried to make something more… normal.
So your new record is about love and relationships, but it still seem really dark. Is it about you dealing with experiences you had?
H: It also is. But it’s about friends too, not only about love relationships. It’s about people not trusting each other, people lying to each other, people fighting. When you’re in love with someone or with someone, you’re fighting more than with anyone else that you know. The person you like the most, you fight the most with.
But I hope it’s not that you’ve all given up on love now?
H: No, never!
Since your formation, we saw a couple of changes in your list of members. Now with Westin on the drums, do you feel like you found your final lineup?
K: Yes, he’s the number one drummer!
H: Yeah, Westin has been with us now for three years, that’s longer than any other drummer. Also, we all get along personally really well. We see each other all the time, even when we’re not playing shows.
But you don’t live together?
H: No, we don’t want to go that far. I haven’t lived with anyone for ten years. It’s too annoying. I mean – I literally am.
Westin, How was it for you to join the band after they already released a couple of records?
W: It was very easy to get in. It was all very natural and fun. I loved the music, I loved all the records. Everything they do is what I’d do anyway, it’s just like an awesome opportunity for me.
K: When he played with us for the first time, we asked him to learn four or five songs, but he had already learned twelve songs. He’s proactive.
“Personal Life” is the first album where all three of you contributed. How was working together like?
K: It was really easy, from the first day on we just clicked. We all have similar taste in music and how we like to play music. And since we had already been playing together for a year and a half before we started writing, we had already gotten used to each other. So it went pretty smoothly. We collaborated a lot. We wrote half the record throughout the year before we recorded, on tour and between touring. And then, for the month before we went to the studio, we wrote the rest of the songs.
How long did it take you to record it?
K: It was probably like two weeks. And then we mixed it with Chris Walla from Death Cab For Cutie over the next few months when he had time.
So, what music do you personally listen to?
K: It’s all over the place. We all go through phases. On this tour, we’ve mostly been listening to top 40 pop club jams.
H: Like Usher, Rihanna, Britney Spears, Mariah Carey, Ke$ha, Snoop Dogg… But no, we listened to the Descendents yesterday, and we like the Red Hot Chili Pepers. We like stuff from the 90s a lot. Weezer, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana….
Do you already have plans for a sixt record?
H: No, we never plan that. We don’t want to force it, it’s better to just let it come naturally. We talk about what we want the record to sound like – just like a real loud, heavy, smashing record. I consider the first two albums that there’s a thread that goes through all the songs that unifies them. So maybe we can make a record like that, where we’re not going to announce the theme. Since we’ve had records with themes three times in a row, people will just expect that whatever we do, we’ll have a theme. You know, we don’t have to spell it out for the people. We could just write the songs and let someone else tell everyone what it’s about. Unless they get it wrong, then I’ll have to step in.
When will you be finished with touring this year?
H: Now we’re done at the end of August, since we’ll be back for the festivals. But it’s like a Catch 22 – everytime you see and end, you get 22 more shows.
Well, thank you very much for your time, have a good show!
I’m gonna change your life
I’m gonna turn you around
I can lift you up
You could hold me down
I’m gonna change your life
I’m gonna leave my mark
We can lie in the light
We can wander in the dark