The Thermals’ Energy is Still Hot
Ten years after their conception, The Thermals raw energy still burns hot as ever. Hailing from Portland, Oregon, this band is known for creating conceptual art in the form of music. Often times illustrating political and religious tones. Their newest album, Desperate Ground, highlights the sheer depravity and gives an honest perspective of our violent culture that permeates the human consciousness. I had the privilege to speak with Westin Glass, drummer for The Thermals. Their new album is not one to be missed. The raw power on each track is anthemic in its presentation, with many of the lyrics expressing the sometimes hard to face reality of violence in the world.
George Dean: You have worked with indie artists Chris Walla of Death Cab for Cutie and Brendan Canty of Fugazi on previous albums to mix/produce. They started off as fans that approached you saying they wanted to work with you. What other artists have you worked with?
Westin Glass: Chris did the first two records, the third one was done by Brendan Canty, who played drums with Fugazi, which was awesome. The fourth record was done by John Congleton from The Paper Chase. This last album was made with John Agnello — he’s made really awesome records with Dinosaur Jr. and Sonic Youth, so we were really excited to work with him.
George Dean: Does this lend to the band making a different spin to each album? What other factors play in?
Westin Glass: We go into a record with a vision already in place, it’s a matter of finding a producer that understands that vision and can carry it through. Chris Walla got the sound that we wanted so quickly, this is also true of John Agnello. We all had a very clear idea of what we wanted it to sound like. John just ‘got it.’ That record turned out exactly how we wanted it to be. We have to credit John for being capable of doing that; interpreting our idea and getting it carried out so clearly and perfectly.
George Dean: The new album doesn’t have upbeat punk-pop that is iconic for your band; instead it is filled with these sort of anthemic songs. What is this a reflection of?
Westin Glass: Our album isn’t about impart a specific message, it’s more just about violence and murder. Observing these things that have been around for as long as society has existed.
George Dean: You got signed onto Saddle Creek Records while working on this new album. What was it like to work with them?
Westin Glass: They are the best. They are super cool. Really smart dudes that really have their act together. Everyone that works there is super on the ball and super smart. They really ‘get us’ and get what we want to do with this record.
George Dean: How did you get involved with Saddle Creek?
Westin Glass: My bandmates Kathy and Hutch have been friends with those guys for a long time, before The Thermals even existed. They knew a lot of artist on that label. Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster [The Thermals] set up the first Bright Eyes show in Portland. So we knew a lot of people connected to Saddle Creek such as Connor Oberst. The Thermals did a tour with Cursive and Lady Finger who were also with Saddle Creek. They came along at the right time. They believed in our record and the timing was perfect for when we wanted to release this record, they had the best deal.
George Dean: The Thermals have found a lot of success. The music has been featured in videogames, national campaign commercials and completed international tours. What has been the highlight of your career for you personally?
Westin Glass: One highlight was going to China. That was a pretty amazing experience. I don’t think anyone had even heard of us before, I think they were just coming out to see an American band. Still, I feel we made new fans there.
George Dean: At the beginning of your career, you were known to strip down to your briefs and have absolutely wild shows. Now, your concerts and songs have become more controlled. Could you elaborate on this change? The reason behind it?
Westin Glass: Oh, it’s wild. The shows on this tour have been real wild. We’ve been playing really fast and loud and crazy songs. People are really responding. The crowd get really sweaty.
George Dean: Your band has been firmly established for a decade now. I must ask, how do you deal with the tour life (days without showering, no little luxuries, sleeping on the floors in strangers homes)?
Westin Glass: It’s all part of the game, all part of the experience. We do it for the love for the music, all that other stuff is inconsequential.
George Dean: As a band, you’re often at the mercy of your fans hospitality. Any particularly touching or disturbing stories?
Westin Glass: Just earlier on this tour in Detroit we stayed with some real nice people. Some good friends that we stayed with made us this meal, stayed up real late to wait for us to return from the show and they have this really cute dog named Morty who is a YouTube celebrity. So that was a pretty sweet situation.
George Dean: There are connections between the lyrics spanning your albums. Example: “I Might Need You To Kill” (The Body, The Blood the Machine; 2006) and “Born to Kill” (Desperate Ground; 2013). Was this intentional?
Those two songs are pretty different. You can think of one the answer to the other, but they are different concepts. You can say that the person speaking in “Born To Kill” is the ideal follower of the person who is speaking in “I Might Need You To Kill”.
George Dean: What can we expect from The Thermals at your upcoming concerts?
We’re going to get real sweaty and play some real awesome music.
George Dean: How did you get involved with The Thermals?
Westin Glass: I heard through some friends they were looking for a drummer, I was living in Seattle at the time. I drove down to play music with them, the rest is history. We all connected really quickly on a personal level. It was great. The very first bonding experience I had was when I had a whole mess of songs to learn. Shortly after we went on tour with The Cribs. That was just a really fun experience for me.
George Dean: What is attributed to the bands staying-power and consistent appeal?
Westin Glass: This band is really honest and really hard working, really passionate about making music for the right reasons.
George Dean: What is it like to make music, what is your objective?
Westin Glass: I just love it. I’ve always known I just have to do this, I have to make music.
George Dean: What kind of advice would you give to struggling band?
Westin Glass: Just keep going, this is a business where persistence is all you have. You have to keep going and going, sooner or later you’ll catch a break.
George Dean: Do you have a favorite Mexican food?
Westin Glass: I’m from New Mexico, the Mexican food there is based around hatch green chili, so anything that has that i’m a fan of. It’s my favorite food in the world.+
George Dean: Do you have any pre or post-performance rituals?
Westin Glass: We just love hanging out, cracking jokes. We’re all super casual. Nothing special
From booking bright eyes, first show in Portland, to jet setting all over the world for tours, this band has power, innovation, and passion to power through and remind us about how music can move you, and bring sensation and thought back into the forefront of its appreciation. Be sure to catch the three piece June 7 live at the iconic Cine El Rey theatre live at the iconic Cine El Rey theatre in downtown McAllen. Ticketing information available at tigersblood.org