The Thermals’ punkish brand of indie rock is definitely not made for moping, even when the Portland, Ore., trio are contemplating love gone wrong. Their 2006 album, The Body, the Blood, the Machine, is a pointedly political tale about a young couple trying to escape a fascist regime of religious zealots, while their new album, Personal Life, takes a closer look at the politics of love, from heartfelt promises to outright lies.
I recently spoke with drummer Westin Glass about Personal Life and the band’s plan to rock the socks off the Annex on Oct. 2.
Why did you guys do an album about love this time around?
I brought the song “I Don’t Believe You” to practice not long after I joined the band in 2008. Then [bassist/vocalist] Kathy [Foster] had this bass line that became the basis of “Never Listen to Me” and [guitarist/vocalist] Hutch Harris wrote the lyrics. We realized these songs were about love and lies, and as we got more into writing, these ideas became more of a focus. So the love theme wasn’t a calculated thing, but it helped us pace the record. It also helped us tell a story but leave it open-ended.
What surprised you most about the final product?
Each of us wrote our own parts, and it was surprising how well that worked. Not surprising like, “Wow, I can’t believe that worked,” but surprising how well it worked. I was also surprised how quickly some of the songs came together. At least half of the record was written in the last two or three weeks before we went into the studio to record. They were just the right songs for this record, and the whole process was really fun and inspiring.
Who’s your musical hero at the moment?
One musical hero is Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. He wrote an autobiography that’s also a picture book of amazing, weird guitars and all the hot rods he owns. I just checked it out from the library, and I can’t put it down. He’s such a cool guy, and ZZ Top was an incredible band.