Break And Brace: More Parts Per Million Turns 15

the_thermals-more_parts_per_million-frontal1 This week marks the 15th anniversary of the release of More Parts Per Million, the debut LP, from Portland, OR’s power pop titans, The Thermals. More Parts Per Million is an album that hit me squarely between the eyes with  heaps of lo-fi charm and gigantic pop hooks. In the early aughts we lived in time where the CD was still king. I can’t say I miss that audio format in the least, but I do tend to miss the ritual of excitedly making a b-line to my local record shop after reading review or hearing the last 30 seconds of a song on my  favorite college radio station to hunt down a copy, but I digress. I have a crystal clear memory of the first time I heard The Thermals debut LP. I was sitting in my car in the parking lot of my nearby Newbury Comics when the opening chords of It’s Trivia came crackling out of my car speakers and I was instantly taken by that track and everything that followed, including the skuzz pop masterstroke, No Culture Icons. The songs that occupy More Parts Per Million feel off the cuff, full of energy and vitriol. It’s no wonder the album still sounds as fervent and vibrant today as did when it was recorded.

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of catching up with Hutch Harris to chat about his bands debut LP turning 15, the songs he’s written for a future solo release, and the eventual retirement of The Thermals.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Can you tell us a little bit about the songwriting/recording process for the ended up being included on your debut?

Hutch Harris: All of the songs on More Parts Per Million were each written and recorded in one day. I would write a song on guitar and record it to a click track on my 4 track cassette. I would then track drums and bass. Then I’d sit on my porch and write lyrics, then track the vocals in 3-4 takes. By the end of the day I’d have a finished recording. It was a very satisfying process.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: Did you have a specific vision for More Parts Per Million? If so how did you go about achieving that?

Hutch Harris: I wanted something that was very immediate. Kathy and I had just spent a year working on the Hutch and Kathy record. I wanted to make a record quickly without thinking too much about it. And I wanted to do something that sounded like The Ramones.
thermals hug
The Ash Gray Proclamation: When’s the last time you listened to the LP?

Hutch Harris: Many years! I don’t listen to our records very much. I would rather work on something new.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How do you feel the album has stood up over the past 15 years?

: Judging by the amount of attention and love it is now receiving, 15 years later, I feel like it has stood the test of time very well! That makes me feel very fulfilled.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: What is the first thing you think of when you hear No Culture Icons?

Hutch: The filthy one-bedroom house where I lived and recorded the record in 2002. I called it the Moss Motel as it was covered in moss and sinking into the dirt. It was demolished not long after I moved out in 2005.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: The How do you feel the band has evolved since releasing that album?

Hutch: I think we started evolving immediately after we released More Parts Per Million. If you record your first LP on a 4 track you have nowhere to go but up! 15 years in, I feel like we have taken the band as far as we can, and I think we should end it soon.

The Ash Gray Proclamation: So, with that news is it safe to say you are not writing the next or final Thermals LP?

Hutch: Not at all! I don’t think we need to make any more records. I have been working on some solo stuff.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: Can you tell us a little bit more about these solo recordings?

Hutch: I am taking my time but will be releasing a solo record eventually!Kathy is currently working on the first LP for her new band Roseblood. It sounds amazing so far!

The Ash Gray Proclamation: How has the current administration affecting your songwriting and everyday life?

Hutch: It has of course affected my life, but I’m trying to not let it affect my songwriting. I have been writing very personal, apolitical songs. I’m not going to be writing any songs about the evil idiot in the white house. He gets enough attention already.

The Ash Gray Proclamation
: I have read that you have been working with other bands as an audio engineer/producer. Are there characteristics you look for in before agreeing to these recording projects?

Hutch: When I produce other projects I am looking for bands that are passionate about what they do, no matter their age or level of skill. So far I’ve found that in every band I’ve worked with! I love making records and I love helping bands make the records they want to make. I feel very lucky that I get to do it for a living.

More Parts Per Million can be ordered through Sub-Pop
The Ash Gray Proclamation’s 10 Questions With Hutch Harris – 2009.

The Thermals @ The Columbus Theater Providence, R.I. April 26, 2016

Thermals 1Some artists have the ability to stop me dead in my tracks upon first exposure. That eureka moment that causes one to drop everything they are doing and run to the record store or, if you must, the digital music shop. Upon hearing and subsequently freaking out over The Thermals No Culture Icons in 2003 I immediately jumped in the car, drove to my local Newbury Comics, and snatched up a copy of the band’s full length debut, More Parts Per Million. Since that day The Thermals have gone on to release six more LP’s, including We Disappear, which the band recently issued on Saddle Creek Records and are currently supporting on their current U.S. tour.

Since re-opening in 2011, Providence’s Columbus Theater has played host to an impressive line-up of national and regional acts, but inexplicably I had never set foot in the 90 year old venue until this past Tuesday evening when Portland, OR’s noise pop outfit, The Thermals made their R.I. Live debut. As I walked into the theater I was ushered upstairs to the intimate 200 seat theater which resides above the venues namesake and 1492 capacity room. After a raucous and impressive set from openers Summer Cannibals, The Thermals took to the stage and wasted little time before kicking off their set with the1-2 punch of Into The Code and My Heart Went Cold from their latest LP. With assistance from bassist, Kathy Foster, Drummer Westin Glass, and lead guitarist Jessica Boudreaux (of Summer Cannibals), Hutch Harris led the quartet through a rousing set of cherry picked tracks from the bands catalog, with particular focus on the new material found on We Disappear as well as their critically lauded 2006 release, The Body, The Blood, The Machine. Having Boudreaux on board only aided the band to unleash dynamic and bounteous layers of guitar fuzz which in turn allowed Harris to ditch his telecaster at times, channel his inner David Byrne and whip the crowd into a frenzy. The set drew to a close with some the bands strongest material, for hair raising performances of Power Doesn’t Run On Nothing and I Hold The Sound. After a short break, The Thermals kicked off their encore with the very song that stopped us in our tracks 13 years ago with just as much ferocity and grit as they demonstrated on their debut, albeit with a little more sweat and swagger.