They are the third Portland-based band I’ve talked to in as many weeks. First STRFKR, then Boy Eats Drum Machine, and now the Thermals. Is every group from Portland on tour? “It’s an infestation,” says Westin Glass by phone from Colorado. Glass, who plays drums, joined Thermals founders Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster two years ago, replacing Jordan Hudson. “In Santa Fe, New Mexico, last night, we played the late show, and there were two bands that we knew on the bill with us — both of them from Portland.”
Progressive in their politics but with an occasional heart bender thrown into the mix, the Thermals put up a punk force-field without sounding like a punk band. Now We Can See (2009) was a band-centric album that targeted hard-core followers, but Personal Life has everyman appeal that looks outside the band. “A lot of the songs were built around Kathy’s bass lines,” says Glass. The rest of it, he says, was a matter of “coming up with parts and then coming up with parts to go with the parts and then just putting it all together.”
The Thermals have five studio discs and other releases from which to build their setlist. “We try to make it a decent mix of new songs and the older songs that seem to be the most crowd-pleasing, but it’s not an exact science.” In concert, the Thermals don’t rearrange any of the songs. They play each one just like the original recording, note for note. “You can’t really improve on perfection,” says Glass.
THE THERMALS: The Casbah, Friday, November 19, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 day of show.