Portland is the home of many well-known bands, and following our interview with Portugal. The Man, we've decided to reach out to other great musical groups in the city to hear their thoughts about live music and the professionalism it takes to make it big.
The Thermals have become one of the most respected bands in the industry for a variety of reasons, not least of which is their dedication to a hard-working ethic. With five full-length studio albums out in just under ten years (most produced by Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla for Sub Pop, but some through Kill Rock Stars), The Thermals are an admirable aspiration for novice bands in Portland or any other city. Plus, the band has managed to stay relevant and popular without selling-out to big businesses for things like car commercials or other products they band doesn't feel comfortable supporting, something that in today's music industry of slim profit-margins is as praise worthy as their dedication to killer tunes.
Kathy Foster, bassist for The Thermals, is in her own league of professional success having also been the drummer for All Girl Summer Fun Band in addition to working solo material. While ordering up all of All Girls Summer Fun Band's previous albums, Banana Stand Media got in contact with Foster, who was kind enough to answer some questions.
You had said you were pretty busy touring with The Thermals lately. How was it? Did you have a favorite city?
We toured a lot this past spring and summer. The last tour we were on was in August, in Europe. We played mostly festivals, in Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Austria and Belgium. I loved playing the festival in Sibenik, Croatia. The people are sweet and fun there. The festival was on an old military base, and the area was very desert-y, but then just a few minutes away was the Adriatic Sea. It was beautiful!
How is playing with The Thermals different than playing with All Girl Summer Fun Band?
The Thermals are a lot more active these days than AGSFB, so I'm mostly playing with The Thermals, which I play bass in. I played mostly drums in AGSFB (and on two of The Thermals' albums), but we would switch around on instruments. I don't sing very much in The Thermals, but I sang a bunch in AGSFB. We did a lot of vocal harmonies, and would take turns singing lead vocal. In AGSFB, I got to hang out with my best girl friends and play music and talk. In The Thermals, I get to do that with my best boy friends.
The Thermals put out a live album in 2007 from LA. How was that? Would you do it again?
I forget about it, because for us, we were just playing a show – we didn't have to do anything differently – and I never listen to it. I don't think I'd want to do it again. I don't really care about putting out live recordings. I like playing live, and I like recording songs in studios or at home or wherever, and I want people to experience both. Live performances are meant to be experienced LIVE! I love the exchange of energy! Writing and recording our songs is a different, more intimate experience for us. Its a really fun time! We go inside, away from everyone for a while and then after a few months, emerge with a bunch of new songs. I love that time. And I love for people to hear what we've done.
Do you have a favorite live show moment as a fan?
My favorite show, of the past several years probably, was Sleep at the Roseland, here in Portland, for Music Fest Northwest in 2010. Their reunion and decision to play the album Holy Mountain live was a stoner dream come true!! I grew up near San Jose, CA, where they're from, and saw them live a bunch around when that album originally came out. It's one of my favorite albums, and they ruled live back in the day. So, I was beyond stoked to go see them, and they were PERFECT! Their playing (shredding!), their volume (fuckin LOUD!), their tones (my ears were orgasming), their visuals (tripped out space or underwater images layered with close-ups of buds) – it was all so perfect. I was so happy.
Least favorite as a performer?
I never dwell on such things.
Who are you favorite live bands at the moment?
I'm really excited to see Hot Snakes!!!! They are reuniting, and playing the same festival as us in Austin next month!
Favorite bands in Portland, Oregon?
Nurses, Formica Man, Night Moves, The Crow, Wampire, 1939 Ensemble, Nucular Aminals.
What are The Thermals playing in the near future?
The Thermals are playing the Halifax Pop Explosion Festival next week, and then the Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin first week of November. And we're currently working on new songs. I think we'll be playing Portland in December or January, so keep your eyes peeled!
Thanks to Kathy Foster for the interview. You can find more about The Thermals on their website, and check out the All Girl Summer Fun Band as well – both bands are incredibly worth your time and money. Photo by Thomas Oliver.