BYT Interviews: Hutch Harris of Hutch & Kathy, The Thermals
Brandon Wetherbee | May 28, 2015 | 3:00PM |

Hutch Harris is a lifer musician. For over a decade he’s been touring the country with Kathy Foster and Westin Glass (before that Lorin Coleman, before that Caitlin Love, before that Jordan Hudson) as part of The Thermals. Before that he and Kathy recorded an album as Hutch and Kathy. The duo re-released their self-titled 2002 debut earlier this year as a Record Store Day vinyl. They’re currently on tour supporting the 13-year-old new record.

We had a chance to chat with Hutch while he and Kathy were driving in a van to a gig because that’s what lifer musicians do.

Hutch and Kathy play Rough Trade in Brooklyn on Friday, May 29 and Black Cat in D.C. on Wednesday, June 3. Follow us on Facebook to win tickets to both shows.

Brightest Young Things: The Hutch and Kathy record, what I’m listening to, is the one you recorded in 2002, is that right?

Hutch Harris: Yeah.

BYT: Why not re-record it for the new Record Store Day release, why did you decide to stick with the thirteen year old recording?

HH: The record label in Portland, they just had the idea since it had never been pressed on vinyl, so they had the idea that it would be printed on vinyl for Record Store Day this year, and we were like “yeah that sounds great,” and since we had the time off from The Thermals and the record was coming back, we decided we might as well do a tour on it.

BYT: I know its technically two-thirds of The Thermals but it sounds so gentle, its a lot more pleasant, and you’re supposed to get more gentle and pleasant with age but the fact that this predates all Thermals kind of throws that off balance.

HH: Yeah, this being the opposite way, we started off pleasant and gentle but then we got loud and mean.

BYT: So what happened? Is everything OK?

Hutch: Oh yeah, it’s great! Y’know, even before the Hutch and Kathy records, Kathy and I were in punk bands more like Thermals, everything we’ve done has definitely gone back and forth between louder stuff and quieter stuff over the years.

I did a Forbidden Friends project in 2010 that was a lot more like Hutch and Kathy records, y’know just the guitars and percussion and stuff, we listen to a lot of different kinds of music, so whenever we’re stuck on one thing, it’s just that The Thermals got more popular than anything else we did, it’s just easier to stick with that because there’s been a demand for it.

BYT: Do you still enjoy playing all those records? I’m sure I’m not the minority here when I say The Body, The Blood, The Machine is in my top ten of the 00s, but are you sick of playing that stuff?

HH: Not really, there’s a new record every two or three years so there’s always stuff to play, and like you know when we’re at shows people really want to hear those songs we play them, people are so happy to hear them, they feel good.

BYT: Do you feel like Personal Life was too personal?

HH: Uh, no. You know, a lot of [the Thermals records] are not true, you know my life, our life…I think the Hutch and Kathy record is the most personal thing I’ve written, but I never regret writing anything that’s too personal, it’s just honest. I’m not afraid to share that kind of stuff with anyone.

BYT: What are you afraid to share? This record is really intimate and intimacy can be scary, so what are you afraid of?

HH: I’m just afraid of making something that’s boring, you know? If there’s stuff going on in my personal life that I absolutely need to make a song out of, then I’m into that, but regular life isn’t always that exciting, which is why we have fiction where we can just make stuff up that’s exciting.

BYT: Of course. Do you like being in the van still, or do you have it figured out now where you can do it and it’s never really that annoying?

HH: I still love it. I really, really like playing music, and every time we stop touring I’m always excited to take a break from performing but I always end up really missing it very quickly.

BYT: What’s your favorite city to visit that has nothing to do with the venue you’re playing in that town?

HH: I really like LA, Kathy and I are from southern California, we’re from the South Bay, Portland is so cold and rainy, its nice to visit somewhere that’s sunny.

BYT: Why not move from Portland? Portland seems too good, from a D.C. perspective.

HH: Yeah, it’s great. We’re very settled there, we’ve been there almost twenty years and we travel so much but Portland is still a very nice place to come home to.

BYT: What’s your favorite Portland band right now?

HH: There’s this band called Summer Cannibals that is killing it, they’re awesome. Kind of like the Breeders and they’re great.

BYT: How often do people get turned on to your bands because they like The Body, The Blood, The Machine and they find out that you also have songs that aren’t about the Bible?

HH: Kind of often, I mean its definitely some people’s favorite record of ours, I like that if you look it up on the Internet you’ll find people who think we’re a Christian band and also find people who think we’re an anti-Christian band.

BYT: That’s kind of the best.

HH: Yeah, that’s real art right there.

BYT: You’re the opposite of the Bad Religion logo.

HH: Yeah

BYT: What’s the make up of your shows? Every time I’ve seen you its been a pretty even split between boys and girls.

HH: I think it is like that, which is cool, I mean our fans are cool, they’re not like cool in a super cool trendy way, our audience looks like the audiences of the shows we went to when we were younger. They’re just kind of people who know what’s cool but aren’t assholes about it.

BYT: It’s sort of a less financially stable, less kids, Wilco show.

HH: Yeah, it’s not the trendy hipsters who are gonna be onto the next thing next week, it’s people who really care about music.

BYT: I bet you have a very well-read crowd.

HH: I think so too, I think there are definitely a lot of graphic novelist/comic book reading going in our crowd.

BYT: Yeah I could attest to that myself. Are you into that stuff at all?

HH: You know I was like in high school, I read a lot of comics, but I kind of fell out of it, I still think the scene is cool but I just kind of stopped reading.

BYT: What are you reading right now?

HH: I just read non-fiction right now, I like John Logsdon a lot, I haven’t read the new one but I’ve read everything else [by him], I just really like biographies of comedians or musicians.

BYT: What is one you would recommend?

HH: Pryor Convictions, the Richard Pryor biography is amazing, that’s one of my favorites.

BYT: Do you have any interest in doing stand-up?

HH: I have started doing it! I love it.

BYT: Oh why! Please don’t do that!

HH: Why?

BYT: Because you’re respectable and I like your music! Oh no, that’s not good.

Hutch: No, no, it’s great, it’s really fun.

BYT: So you’re friends with the Portland talk show guys, you’re friends with the alt scene and all those guys?

HH: Yeah, like the Alex Falcone show?

BYT: Yeah, I have a similar show in D.C. as Alex has in Portland, so I’ve dealt with a lot of comics, and comics aren’t the brightest people, sometimes it’s much harder to hang out with your stand up friends then it is to hang out with your band friends is all I’m saying.

HH: Oh, it definitely is.

BYT: It’s a slippery slope. My one recommendation, not that you probably don’t already know him, is Curtis Cook. Do you know Curtis out of Portland?

HH: Oh yeah, I know him. I love him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrBi8ZaRjE4

BYT: OK good, OK, at least we’re on the same page of what’s good, not that my opinion has anything to do with yours. Do you feel like you make the kind of music that people feel like you’re friends with the band?

HH: Yeah, definitely, which is cool but definitely weird because when people meet you sometimes they feel like they know you based on knowing the music so well, which is cool because it means I made a connection with some through the music but you don’t know someone just because you know what they’ve done.

BYT: Yeah, the reason why I brought up the previous records is because my friend and I love Now We Can See, and then I was in a very good place when Personal Life came out and he was in a not good place when Personal Life came out. He just didn’t get it. And I told him, “It’s not your band, you’re not in the band, you don’t just get to hate something because you’re in a shitty place,” and it didn’t connect with him, and I still love both of those records, but I think to him they represent this feeling like a friend told him to run around the block, you know what I mean?

HH: Yeah, I mean opinions are just subjective, how do you feel about something that has much more to do with you than the whatever you’re listening to or talking about?

BYT: There’s was no question, apparently I just wanted to relay stories from my old friends to you.

HH: Oh, that’s fine.

BYT: How was being on Saddle Creek versus Sub-Pop versus Kill Rock Stars? Is there any real difference?

HH: Honestly, there’s not a huge difference, I mean we got really good luck to be on three, really good labels, but there’s not a huge difference, we’ve enjoyed working with all the labels and we’re happy to be on Saddle Creek.

BYT: Yeah it seems like you guys have only been with the best of the indie labels, so that’s amazing. Are there any future plans with Hutch and Kathy or is it just this tour and that’s it for the foreseeable future?

HH: I wouldn’t be surprised if we made another record, but we’re definitely gonna make a Thermals record sooner than that, we’re hoping to a Thermals record out next year.