The Thermals’ Hutch Harris on the evolution of Portland’s music scene

The Thermals

One of this year’s Noise Pop shows I’m most looking forward to is Portland trio The Thermals. They’re playing the same night as Julien Baker, which presents a problem, but plan on going to both shows. I spoke to singer-songwriter Hutch Harris a few weeks ago in preparation and my story will run next week in The Bay Bridged. While you wait, read an extra Q&A that didn’t make it in.

The band debuted a new song at Stereogum yesterday. Catch The Thermals when they play Noise Pop 2016 at the Brick & Mortar on Feb. 25.

You started The Thermals in 2002, when the Portland music scene was just getting going. What was it like watching the city flourish musically in the past 14 years?

It’s been cool to be a part of it. There was definitely a turnover. When Kathy and I lived in Portland, we moved here in 1998. Elliott Smith had gotten big, but he’d already moved to L.A. A lot of people had started moving here, like Modest Mouse, Sleater Kinney, Steven Malkmus. At the same time, a lot of Portland bands started coming up. We signed to Sub Pop, the Heliosequence did, and then Blitz and Trapper, and the Decemberists got super huge. A lot of these bands kind of came up together. Portland is still a really cool place. The cool thing is there’s not a ton of industry here as far as music. There’s a ton of bands that are from here. There’s some good record labels here, but there’s not a ton. It’s not like Seattle or L.A. or San Francisco or New York, so it’s still really chill to live here.

What are your favorite Thermals records?

My favorite is More Parts Per Million, our first one. That one is really special and personal to me because I made that record all by myself. I played all the instruments on that record, and I recorded it on a four-track at my house. And that was the record that got us signed to Sub Pop. After that, The Body, the Blood, the Machine is definitely my favorite thing that we’ve done. A lot of that has to do with people responding to it so well. I know that record means a lot to people, and that means a lot to me.

What convinced you to try your hand at stand-up comedy? How long has that been an interest?

I did theatre stuff as a kid. Before I did music, I did plays starting around when I was 10 or 11, up until I was 14 to 15. That’s when I got into music, and as soon as I got into music, I forgot about doing any other performance because I loved playing music so much. I feel natural performing, and natural on a stage.

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