Though “An Inconvenient Truth” won both Most Thoroughly Depressing Movie (best documentary) and Least Terrible Song From a Movie (best original song) during this year’s Academy Awards, anti-Bushites still seek a unifying rallying cry. With the Thermals latest offering, “The Body, The Blood, The Machine” (Sub Pop 2006), imaginations are fired and hackles raised.
Like a less-corporate Green Day, the Thermals confront the current political situation head on, resulting in a gritty, raucous and angsty record – but in a post-1990s way, not so much “I hate Dad” as “Dear Lord, the Bush administration is running this country into the ground. We’re going to have to rock ourselves back into consciousness.”
For only two people, the Thermals make an awful lot of pretty noise. Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster co-wrote last year’s record as a reaction to the more folk-oriented work that the two had been collaborating on for approximately 10 years.
Harris and Foster wrote their latest record together, finding “a new groove after losing our original drummer.[It was] really comfortable, really fun” Foster enthuses. (Initial Thermals member Jordan Hudson departed in 2005 and has been replaced by Caitlin Love.) When asked to compare the Thermals to earlier work with Harris, Foster stated “It’s louder and faster.” And then she breaks into giggles. “We both record on 4-tracks,” she clarifies; so past work resulted in “folk kinda pop.sort of lo-fi, quick ideas.”
The Thermals are “a reaction to what we were doing before. It just turned out that we loved these quick fast songs demos and we went with that.”
Though “The Body, the Blood, the Machine” may sound (and look, with a black-barred Jesus presiding over a mountain of old kitchen appliances on the cover) like an obscene gesture to the President, Foster disagrees, saying “We don’t even really consider ourselves that political as a band.” This past record is just “kinda a reflection of the times,” she insisted, calling the album a “paranoid fantasy” about how bad life could get if evangelicals saut?ed our brains for dinner.
Instead, Foster locates her politics in the do-it-yourself aesthetic within the band: “Those are our politics – just being in charge of our own thing and not wanting our music to be used for advertising or selling products. We make music because we love to do it and we want to make music that we love to listen to and play and that’s why we’re doing it.”
Obviously, fans are reacting well. Recently Foster tasted the Thermal’s growing popularity, playing on Carson Daily’s talk show and having a video on MTV-U. 2007 is a banner year for the Thermals – it will be the first tour Harris and Foster will travel with a “sound guy,” a new lineup to play with live and the first time someone else planned the tour. “We’ve always booked our own tours and done everything ourselves,” Foster said. More overwhelming than having to employ more people, though, is an upcoming gig at the legendary New York venue the Bowery Ballroom: “We were like, whhhaaaat?”
As for playing in D.C., Foster is looking forward to playing at the Black Cat (“I’m so excited to play there”). Foster and Harris have played at the 9:30 Club before, opening for other groups, as well as other small venues in Washington. But what fuels her rock solid bass lines besides creative energy? Her post-show plan include going to the legendary U Street eatery Ben’s Chili Bowl.
“Ben’s, yeah! I love that place.”
The Thermals will play the Black Cat tomorrow night on the Mainstage ($12). Doors open at 9 p.m.; Big Sleep and Statehood open. The Black Cat is located at 1811 14th St. N.W.; closest metro stop is U Street/Cardozo on the Green line. Rock on.