The Thermals

Silent Uproar: In listening to the new record, it seems to be cleaned up a bit sound wise. It still has that raw feel to it but it sounds a little bit more produced. Was that done intentionally, or was it just the recording process this time?

Kathy: Yeah, it was both. The first one was recorded on cassette 4 track so it's kinda recorded in the way that you peak out everything and it has that peaked out kinda of sound.

SU: The fuzziness.

Kathy: Yeah, and then, for the second one we didn't want to do the same exact thing but we didn't want it to sound like really clean, either, so we went to the studio and recorded with Chris Walla. We recorded on a 16 track and so this time we kinda worked with Chris and communicated to him that we wanted it to be a little bit of a step up from the last one, but we didn't want it to be a huge difference.

He could of made it really clean with that setup that we had, but we worked with him and he had a lot of tricks in the studio to make it, to give it kinda that gritty sound. He did a lot of stuff with room mikes, and like for the snare, he'd mike the snare and then put it through this tiny little amp and then mike that amp. Just different miking techniques that he did. It was more like a recording choice or sound choice, and it came out exactly the way that we wanted.

SU: Cool, I really like it too. I think it ads a little bit of variety to it just to have that little bit cleaner sound, but still have that kinda rough feel to it.

Kathy: Yeah, I think that probably more people will be able to like it. The first record, I love the way it sounds, but it's not for everybody.

SU: Right. Have you heard back from any of the press on your record? Do people seem to be in to it?

Kathy: Yeah, people that liked the first record seem to really like the second record, and we also had that in mind, too. We wanted people that liked the sound of the first record to be able to like the sound of the second record. And so far, it seems like people really like it. We're happy.

SU: Well, what's with the album title? Is it a sly attempt to keep the record out of chain stores or is there a …?

Kathy: I don't think it was… Well, I guess we had that in mind, but we didn't really think about that when we were thinking of the title. It's more just like an exclamation, you know, hoping that when you put on the record you're going to shout "Fuckin A" when you hear.

SU: On the site you said that your recording sessions were the best experience the band has had. What was it about the experience that made it so great?

Kathy: I think everything, like the studio and the people that we were working with. We recorded at a studio in Seattle and it was just really nice. Like it wasn't a big studio, it was really cozy and comfy and you know, they have a lot of good mikes and stuff but they're also familiar with a lot of the vintage stuff. So it wasn't like a super 'studio' studio. So just, like everything.

I like the way the studio was set up and how it looks in there, and just feeling comfortable in there and then also working with Chris. He's really great to work with. He doesn't bring any attitude to his work or anything. He's really open to our ideas and a lot of engineers can be kinda divas. They have their own sound and they get kinda bent out of shape when you start telling them what you want, but Chris is just the opposite of that. Then his assistant, Troy, was also awesome to work with, so everyone was just great.

Also it just went really smoothly. We recorded everything in about 3 ½ days and then we mixed for about a day and a half. It went really smoothly and we didn't have any over dubs so we just played all three of us together and then Hutch put his vocals on and that was it.

SU: And do you think you'll keep working with Chris on the next record?

Kathy: Um, we're not sure. We might you know, be taking it a step up a little bit. So we're still …we're not set on what we're doing for the next one yet.

SU: As far as playing together, you're still pretty young as a band. Do you feel that you're still learning things as you go along, or is it starting to seem kinda like all old news now?

Kathy: Well, I guess this band is pretty young, but we've all been playing music for a long time and we've all been friends and playing together for a long time. So while this band feels new, it doesn't really feel that new just because we've always been playing together for so long. I think we've all been just doing music stuff and trying to further it as we go along but this is the band that kinda took off the most, so we went with this one.

We're all really into recording at home and just doing our own kinda sound projects so we've all been learning stuff already for the past 10 years. I think it rejuvenates us because it's like a different sound for all of us and it reminds us of stuff we listened to in high school and stuff. So it's really fun to play and the sound is really fresh for us. But working as a band is kinda old.

SU: What happened to Ben? He kinda just disappeared, but there wasn't really anything said about it. Is there anything to say about it?

Kathy: Not really. He had his own things to work on, and he had his own band and that kinda took him away from our band. Like, we'd be planning on doing stuff and he would go on tour for a couple of months, so we were kinda going back and forth already with playing as a three piece and a four piece. It just worked out better for him to be working on his own stuff and us doing ours.

SU: Are you happy with the relationship that you have with Sub Pop?

Kathy: Yeah, we really love them and everything that we've done so far has been really awesome. They're really sweet people to work with and also they're really open to ideas. You know, of course they have ideas and input as far as marketing and what they think will be more saleable, but when we shoot them down, as we always do, they're pretty accepting of that. They're kinda like, well, how about you do this, and we're like… No. They don't really push it too far. They just kinda make suggestions and since we have all been playing for so long, we really have clear ideas of the sounds that we want and just the image that we want. We're all just kinda nerds, so we're not really into doing anything for anybody else.

SU: Well, how did they hear about you when you'd only been around for 4 or 5 months when they came to you?

Kathy: Well, Hutch had recorded a bunch of songs on the 4 track and he started making CDR copies for his friends, just little demos, and was passing them around here in Portland. People were getting really excited about it and they would make copies for their friends. So at the time Ben, the 4th member, was friends with Ben from Death Cab for Cutie and so he gave him a copy of it. Then at that time he was doing the Postal Service stuff at Sub Pop and Ben Gibbard really loved it and so he passed it on to Sub Pop and then they really loved it so they were listening to it in the office a lot, and they contacted us after that. Really we credit Ben Gibbard who helped us out a lot as far as hooking us up with the label and also he's taking us out on Death Cab tours and stuff.

SU: Well, you and Hutch go way back. Are there any secrets you want to reveal about him?

Kathy: Uh, let's see. He's pretty shameless and open. I mean, he got naked on stage, so, he doesn't really hold anything back. There's probably nothing I could say that he hasn't already shared with everybody.

SU: This new tour starts next week, right?

Kathy: Our record comes out the 18th and then we're going to play Portland that night and then just head out from there for about 3 ½ weeks.

SU: Well are you excited about getting back out on the road?

Kathy: Yeah, I am. I really love it and we recently did a week and a half at the end of April on the East Coast opening for Sleater Kinney and that was real awesome. So yeah, we recorded the record in January and then did quite a few shows around the Northwest. Then we have really just kinda had the last few months off so we're really excited for this summer. We're just going to be doing a lot of touring and stuff and I just love to travel and playing shows, so that's about. I feel so aimless when I'm at home now.

SU: I know there has been some interest about seeing the band overseas. Is there any plan to head over there again?

Kathy: Yeah, I think we're going to be going over there in July, July and August for maybe three weeks or so. I think that the response to us is a lot better over there.

SU: Oh really?

Kathy: Yeah, I think our biggest fans are in Holland.

SU: It's really weird how sometimes things really catch on over there but don't so much here, and sometimes it's the opposite.

Kathy: I think that at least they appreciate it. When we're over there, we sell a lot of vinyl and people kinda of appreciate interesting recording techniques. It seems like there's more of the punk and stuff. But, I think with this next record it'll span more countries… you know, a little bit more listenable.

SU: Right. Well, can you tell me a little bit about the artwork for the album? Is that somebody in the band's idea?

Kathy: Yeah, the three of us put that collage together. We just got together a few times just doing collage stuff and kinda working together to come up with something, and that's about it.

SU: Was it just kinda random stuff or is there significance to certain parts of it?

Kathy: There is some significance, and some randomness to it. I think this record kinda has two themes…. Some stuff about government and country and then there's some stuff about just love and relationships.

With that in mind and also I thought the cover should have some kind of excitement to it, like some explosion or jumping or something, so it's kinda combining images that maybe are just exciting, then other things also make you think, then also there are some thermal images in there for obvious reasons, just like the thermal heat images. So it's kinda a combination of all of our thoughts and ideas.

SU: Well, you seem to have quite a lot going on with all your different bands and projects. How do you manage your time so that you can fit all that in?

Kathy: Well, I don't know. Sometimes I feel like I'm running around with my head cut off, but it works out pretty well. What's going to make me the most happy in my life is to be doing things that I want to do. Sometimes one thing isn't going to cover it. Jst my personality is that I'm into a lot of things and want to try a lot of different things, so it's easy for me to balance doing a bunch of different things cause that's what keeps me interested.

As far as All Girl Summer Fun Band it's kinda a part-time band just because the other girls are kinda busy up at school and we're all kinda doing a lot of stuff so it's harder for us to coordinate our schedules, to tour, things like that. So we do as much as we can. We usually go on like a week or two week tour maybe once or twice a year. We try to do recordings and work on songs. That works out for The Thermals cause we do a lot more, so I just kinda keep in mind when All Girl Summer Fun Band is going to want to do stuff and try to plan ahead and take time for that, then work around The Thermals' schedule.

Then with my T-shirts, that's also kinda a part-time thing, like whenever I have money to do stuff like that. So when I have time to put into it and money to put into it I do that. I sell shirts in a couple stores around town. So it is still at a level that's manageable for me to do just by myself. And I take shirts with me on tours and try to sell them at shows at stuff like that.

SU: Would you say you're a restless person and that's kinda why you always make sure you stay busy? Like, if you didn't have it all going on, would you get bored?

Kathy: Well, I wouldn't say I was restless. I think I'm pretty mellow actually, and I can be kinda quiet and stuff. Its fine for me if I do a lot of stuff by myself so if I'm by myself it's easier to do all these things.

I think that the more that I do, the more that restlessness comes into my personality. Like, if I wasn't into doing all this stuff I'd probably be fine. But then the more that I do, it's like that momentum stays up, you know. If I'm not doing a lot of stuff I really am kinda restless and I can't stand just not doing anything and so I get up and start doing some things. Like, I can't take naps or lay down because I just think that I could be doing this and this and this. So yeah, I think I cause that in my own personality, which kinda feels good. It feels like a momentum is happening.

SU: Well, name your favorite band that your friends would make fun of you if they knew you liked.

Kathy: Um,……

SU: Or maybe they know and do make fun of you.

Kathy: Um, like the last year I've been into a lot of mainstream stuff like The Strokes and Radiohead, but I mean, a lot of people like them. I know that my friend who moved to Germany, he has lived there for a while and when we went over there last year, he was like, bring me some music. I made him copies of The Strokes, Radiohead, Flaming Lips, and he kinda made fun of me for just having such mainstream taste.

SU: That's not that bad. They could be much worse.

Kathy: Yeah, I am listening to the Stokes the most I guess and I know a lot of people have their own opinions, but it seems people either really like them or don't like them at all.

SU: Yeah. You're from Portland, right?

Kathy: I've lived here for 6 years, but I'm from California.

SU: That's cool. Are you into Chuck Palahniuk at all? Do you know who that is?

Kathy: Yeah, I haven't read that many books, but recently I got a book for Hutch that he wrote about Portland.

SU: Yeah, I was going to ask if Portland was as cool as he made it ought to be in that book.

Kathy: Yeah, it is cool, but he also pointed out a lot of things that we didn't know about. Portland is really small but it is so really city-ish so I think like any city that you live in, you find out about a lot of stuff, but then you kinda get stuck in you little circle and you don't know about the other things that are going on. Yeah, it's really cool, I feel like Portland has all this really weird stuff now.

SU: Yeah, well that was the thing when I was reading it, I was thinking surely there is not this much cool stuff in every town and we just don't know about it. It must just be Portland.

Kathy: Yeah, it'd be cool if he'd start writing books for other cities. Find out about all the weird stuff.

SU: As a female musician, what other female musicians do you look up to or sort of respect.

Kathy: Um, I grew up and in high school and after high school listening to a lot of things like Bikini Kill and I really admire female musicians like that that have a lot of courage and nerve to be themselves in front of the audience. I really admire Kathleen Hanna for her saying all the things that she had to say in her music and on stage and just having a really strong presence and not being afraid to be up there on stage in a leotard, stuff like that. I think that's really important for women to be able to feel like they can do that.

I admire a lot of local people like my friends that play music. Also, there's a band that used to be from here called Dear Nora and that's Katy Davidson and I like her a lot. I'm trying to think. I thing mostly I just kinda admire a lot of my friends. We just went out with Sleater Kinney and I really like watching those girls pay. I had never really listened to their music before, but just watching them play was really awesome. They're all really good musicians and they have good things to say. Like at every show they had a table where people could sign up to vote in case they weren't signed up and just information about different things going on. I really admire that.

Yeah, just Portland is really inspiring because there are a lot of women doing music, and art, and fashion, and crafts and all kinds of stuff. Being in this environment you kind of forget that there are other areas where women aren't so supported, but here, it's really equal and there's a lot of stuff here. And then it's kinda weird to go on tour or something in other cities and be treated differently.

SU: The last question I have is kinda dealing with that same issue. Why is it that the only female in all male bands usually ends of playing bass or singing? Like, you don't see many female drummers or female guitar players when the rest of the people in the band are guys.

Kathy: Yeah. I think about that too and I don't know why it's like that because I've always been a person that wants to do everything. And this is the first band that I've played bass in, I usually play drums. When I started playing drums, like a year later I start playing guitar, then I go to 4 track and then I start playing everything.

That's actually one of the things that I think about and deal with cause like when The Thermals started, I wanted to play drums, but then I kinda wanted to play bass but I was thinking about that before it started. I was like, I'm going to be a girl bass player. But then I just decided well, I'll just kick ass with the bass, then no one can say anything. But yeah, I kinda have that in my mind, like, I don't want to appear like I'm playing bass because it's the easiest, you know? So, I feel like I have gotten a lot of respect for the way I play and it's cool like when I'm playing guys are watching my fingers, and they come up and say, I just like to play bass. So that's really cool, but it is funny because a lot of people will say, especially like a lot of older people, 'Oh you're in a band? Do you sing?' So many people say that.

I don't know why, I think that just in the history of music, it's a lot of men who are running labels and stuff like that and putting bands together and writing songs. They just automatically think like oh, a woman can sing but she can't play instruments. It like that's too masculine or something. I mean I think that was happening as music was progressing over the years. I think it was that way because men were running all the stuff. Just the whole attitude of keeping women down and just thinking that that's the only job that they can do, that it is the most ladylike part of it that they could do.

SU: Yeah, especially with the bigger labels where most of the management and the higher ups in those labels are old guys who have been there forever.

Kathy: Yeah, what I'm thinking about is just like Motown, the older labels, like there's an old man writing the songs, and some other man putting the band together. It's all about the image of it. I think women probably just didn't think that they could play instruments; they only thought they could be singers and vocalists. And then I think just as more women started playing music and again, a band being run by the guys or something, it was the guys saying, "Yeah, you can be on the bass, it's not that hard. Just hit a few notes here and there."

I really like to watch women musicians because it is a little rarer, but I like watching the men just to inspire myself and also see what they can do. Because I think women's and men's brains kinda work differently. It's interesting to see how women write songs and men write songs.

SU: And it actually sometimes even works the other way in that it makes it better to see a female musician or female band just because you don't see it often enough. To see a really good one doing so great with it, it almost makes it that much better, not to see the stereotypical same thing you've seen over and over again.

Kathy: Yeah, it kinda gets boring to see another like testosterone band. You know, that's what I like about the bands that I'm in and the people I play with. No one that I play with is about their image. You play with so many bands and you see so many bands, that just have an attitude that they're so bad ass, like how they dress and how they hold themselves and everything. Sometimes even if you're like playing a show with them, you're not allowed to talk to them. It just gets old and, I just like all the people I play with because everyone is just kinda goofy and they're being themselves and I think people appreciate that too when they see it.

May 7 2004