The Thermals 

Everywhere at Once: Portland indie-punk trio The Thermals are impossible to shake.

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The Thermals are everywhere. Former Sleater-Kinney guitarist Carrie Brownstein found them in her porcelain vase, ceiling fan, paintings and even in her toilet in the Portland, Ore., trio’s most recent music video, “I Don’t Believe You.” The visual accompaniment to Personal Life’s first single, it exemplifies the infectiousness of the band’s sound.

There’s no science, however, behind the band’s musical appeal.

“We like trying to write intuitively and seeing what happens,” says drummer Westin Glass. He adds that the band already has sketches in various stages for new material that’s “going to be exciting.” The hard-to-top Personal Life was written within a year of 2009 release Now We Can See, thanks in part to a newly stable lineup; Glass joined the band permanently in 2008, after Now We Can See was recorded.

Additionally, singer/guitarist Hutch Harris’ repetitive lyrics, Kathy Foster’s simple, infectious bass lines, Glass’ giddy energy and the trio’s overall brash punkiness add to its irresistibility.

In semi-ironic fashion, Personal Life listeners might find themselves humming or singing the latest single, “Never Listen to Me,” throughout their homes, offices or bathrooms. Chugging along, the other tracks have the pop-punk sensibilities of Green Day, with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists’ fervor shining through. A more minimal, lingering and, as the title suggests, personal album, it’s less crunchy, lo-fi punk than older efforts, yet still catchy, to say the least.

In Portland this September, The Thermals were everywhere, whether it was at the Crystal Ballroom CD release show or helping folks shake Saturday morning hangovers at Mississippi Studios or playing for little kids at The Kennedy School.

“That was really fun,” says Glass, who managed to squeak “fun” into his answers to most questions. “We were a little nervous about playing for the kids. We’re a really loud band, and we didn’t want them to go deaf or something.”

As he and Foster sat surrounded by children before that set, it was easy to recognize the tight bond they’ve formed in just two years—pivotal cohesion for a rhythm section. “We do have a serious mental connection. We’re always saying the same thing at the same time,” Glass says. “It’s a fun thing to have with somebody.”

The Thermals can be caught playing gigs across America for the rest of 2010, which is less freaky and more enjoyable than finding them in your bathroom, a la Brownstein in that video. They’ve played more than 170 shows in 2010, with only short respites between road trips. However, Glass never tires of the grind. “It’s pretty much the raddest thing I could be doing, and I never get sick of it,” he says.

After all of the road activity, fans might think they couldn’t possibly see The Thermals out on the town. Yet, the band is active in their hometown of Portland. When in town, Glass occasionally serves up vegan rice bowls at Sonny Bowl, a food truck his friend owns. Or, “go to 82nd and Foster. There’s a string of adult stores there. I can usually be found browsing around,” Glass laughs.

The Thermals themselves can’t get away from one thing—Furbies. Actually, they’ve been soliciting the critters via Twitter; bringing one to the show gets fans on the guest list for free.

“People are using Twitter for these revolutionary things. We are using it to get weird toys from the ’90s,” Glass says.

At the time of our interview, the tour van had six in various levels of dilapidation, except the first one, which Glass says is really cool, smart and “fresh.”

“You’d be surprised at how much smoother they can make the tour. ... And, we love to torture the tour manager.”

w/ The Coathangers, Elf Power
The Urban Lounge
241 S. 500 East
Friday, Oct. 29, 9 p.m.

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