Hutch Harris of The Thermals Talks Portland Bands, Elliott Smith, Saturated Music Scenes

Let's just get this out of the way now -- I am originally from Portland, Oregon. I have nothing but love for my beloved Beervana, and anyone that knows me knows that I like to talk your ear off about all things Portland. 

Hutch Harris, founding member and lead singer of Portland indie trio The Thermals, just so happens to be from Portland, as well. I asked Hutch a few questions in anticipation of his band's show at The Rhythm Room tonight.

Showing some real restraint, I kept the Elliott Smith questions to a minimum.

Up On The Sun: How has the northwest indie rock sound/scene - especially in Portland - changed since the band started out? There seems like there was an explosion of new bands around that time, so was it difficult to make a name for yourself in such a burgeoning scene?

Hutch Harris: The music scene is more saturated than when we started out. I would
think it's even harder to make a name for yourself now than it was then. It wasn't hard to make a name for ourselves because we are awesome. Also, a lot of the bands that "exploded" out of portland at that time weren't actually from there. We were.

UOTS: Was it difficult to follow up The Body, The Blood, The Machine with all the critical praise it received?

HH: It definitely pushed us to work hard. The lyrics on TBTBM are so respected that I have to try to always keep my lyrics smart.

UOTS: Who writes the majority of the songs?

HH: Some songs I write and bring to the band. Some songs we write as a trio, starting with a riff Kathy or I write on the spot, as we "jam" or whatever. I write the lyrics.

UOTS: What are some of your favorite bands and/or albums out right now?

HH: White Fang, Boom, Nurses, Explode Into Colors, Reporter, Glass Candy, Rib Cages. These are all awesome portland bands.

UOTS: Who are some of your favorite Portland bands that people outside of the city/region haven't heard of?

HH: Most of the bands I just listed. People know and love Glass Candy all over the world. People in scattered US cities know and love Explode Into Colors. Unfortunately they already broke up.

UOTS: Where was Personal Life recorded and how long was the process?

HH: It was recorded at Jackpot and Alberta Court in portland. Total of about 3 weeks recording and mixing.

UTOS: I loved your cover of "Ballad of Big Nothing" on the To Elliott: From Portland compilation. Could you speak to what an influence someone like Elliott Smith was to you?

HH: I can speak to what an influence Elliott himself was on us. We love him! He was (pretty much) from Portland (editor's note: born in Omaha, attended Lincoln High School in Portland) and he was on Kill Rock Stars, our record label. He was an amazing writer and musician, obviously!

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Michael Lopez