The Thermals are an indie/alternative/post-pop-punk rock band from Portland, Oregon, USA. The group formed in the summer of 2002.
Their debut LP, More Parts Per Million, was conceived and recorded in the kitchenette of singer Hutch Harris's house, known as The Moss Motel, in southeast Portland, Oregon. The album was recorded on a 4-track cassette machine, with total tracking costs around $10. A demo of the record was passed from Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, The Postal Service) to indie giant Sub Pop Records, who signed The Thermals after they had played just a handful of shows. MPPM was then mixed by Death Cab For Cutie's Chris Walla at The Hall Of Justice in Seattle, Washington. Sub Pop released the record in March of 2003. A blistering slice of "no-fi", MPPM was rated everything from "un-listenable" to "very fucking listenable". The original live line-up of The Thermals consisted of Kathy Foster (who had collaborated with Harris on various musical projects for years prior) on bass, Jordan Hudson on drums, and Ben Barnett on guitar. Harris sang, flailed about, and occasionally stripped naked onstage. Barnett left the group after the first few tours for MPPM, Harris picked up a guitar, and The Thermals became what is commonly known as a power trio.
Harris, Foster and Hudson returned to Seattle in the early winter of 2004, to record their second album, Fuckin' A. They re-teamed with Chris Walla, who manned all recording and mixing duties this time around, at Seattle's famed Avast studio. With a sound more in the mid- to some-fi area, Fuckin' A achieved the main goal The Thermals had in mind while creating it, which was to receive a parental warning sticker. Released in July 2004, The Thermals toured the US and Europe relentlessly in support of Fuckin' A, before returning to Portland to record their unreleased, or "lost" LP with Joanna Bolme (The Jicks), at the original Jackpot Recording Studio. The album was tentatively titled We Sleep In A Holy Bed, and has yet to see the light of day. Harris and Foster split with Hudson soon after, in the fall of 2005. No less than three people would play drums for The Thermals over the next three years, including Caitlin Love, Lorin Coleman, and even Kathy Foster herself.
For their third record, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster hired Brendan Canty of Fugazi to produce. Canty had recently recorded a Thermals song for his "Burn To Shine" series, in which indie bands perform at a house slated to be burned by the fire department. TBTBTM was recorded at Supernatural Sound in Oregon City, with Foster playing drums on all tracks, and splitting bass duties with Harris. The album (loosely) tells the story of a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians. TBTBTM was released in August of 2006, and subsequently featured in many Best-Of-2006 lists, including Pitchfork, Spin, NPR, and The Onion's A.V. Club. The Thermals toured for close to two years following TBTBTM's release, and were briefly a four-piece again (Harris, Foster, Coleman, and Joel Burrows on second guitar). This line-up dissolved in early 2008, and Hutch and Kathy set about making another record as a duo.
The Thermals have recently released their fourth and possibly best album to date, Now We Can See. After an amicable split with Sub Pop, the band has signed with the iconic Northwest label Kill Rock Stars, recently relocated to Portland, Oregon. Now We Can See was recorded by John Congleton (Explosions in the Sky, Polyphonic Spree) again at Supernatural, and at Congleton's studio Elmwood in Dallas, Texas. NWCS is full of the hi-fi power for which Congleton is famous, and continues The Thermals' tradition of raw punk energy combined with brilliant melodies and intelligent lyrics. Hutch and Kathy recorded NWCS the same way they did TBTBTM: as a duo, with Foster acting as a one-woman rhythm section for the entire record. Westin Glass joined The Thermals soon after the recording was completed, to become the fourth drummer for The Thermals, sixth if you count Harris and Foster. Please insert your own Spinal Tap joke here, thanks.
The Thermals are most famous for discovering a fourth chord in pop-punk. It's F#minor, in case you were wondering. The Thermals have also made many fine contributions to rock journalism, including the terms