‘Liquid In Liquid Out’ seems to remark upon the adage ‘garbage in/ garbage out,’ but in a stinky urinary manner.

When we were recording with John Congleton (Modest Mouse/ Explosions In The Sky/ Polyphonic Spree producer), he turned to me after that song and said, ‘That’s really disgusting.’ I said, ‘Thanks.’ That’s not really what I had in mind but we wrote a lot of this out on the Oregon coast and it was constantly pissing rain on us. So it makes sense there’s so much liquid on this record. We also had the most snow here in 50 years.

I see you as an underrated melodic guitarist stuck in indie-land with Matthew Sweet or Ted Leo. Who would you list as under-recognized axe slingers?

I’d put the Strokes’ Nick Valensi in there. He has some real good melodic songs. Kim Deal for her ‘90s Breeders stuff more so than what she’s doing these days. Last Splash and Pod are two favorite records —hard to top.

Who are some early influences?

The obvious one is the Ramones—that bubblegum punk angle with no blues riffs—just really major chords. Kath and I were raised in California’s bay area so Green Day were massive. The Pixies, of course. It doesn’t show in our sound, but I especially like the second wave of punk—Minor Threat, Subhumans, Exploited.

How about literary influences?

I don’t consider myself as that much into literature. But some writers are big for me, like Joseph Heller, Catch 22 and Something Happened. Hunter S. Thompson was huge. He’s the most influential on my early lyrics and the attitude—celebrating the world’s problems instead of complaining about them. And getting real high.

You’ve moved from the simple catchphrase stanzas of the debut to fully drawn-out verses.

It was intentional at first to write off-the-cuff and do no editing. I’d sit on my porch, write the song, come back inside, sing it, and it’s done. The first record was supposed to be about writing a verse, repeating it, and use very few choruses. I look at it as cheap poetry. Nail something into listener’s heads and repeat it. That’s what makes a catchy song. For Fuckin A, I wrote most lyrics while touring. We made a real effort not to slow down at all or think too much. Many bands eat shit on their second album so it was really a chance to move super-quick. We recorded it in three days. I don’t think it was our best record, but it was immediate. It was supposed to be a good, quick follow-up that didn’t lose any steam. As we went on, The Body, The Blood, The Machine was about taking that beyond, writing stories with an arc that’d be smarter. The lyrics were a good way to challenge myself. We’re kids from the suburbs. At first, we hated being called punk. It made us feel like posers. If you put on our songs, you’ll find it’s not mohawk-and-leather-jacket punk.

Are you railing against tyranny on The Body, as per the line, ‘I might need you to kill’?

It’s defensive. The lyrics are about escaping the clutches of a fascist machine out to get us. It’d be in justified self-defense.

There’s a continual struggle between existentialism and religiosity throughout your works.

I’m more existential. The new record reflects that even more. Kath and I were brought up Catholic. I was a good Christian ‘til I left high school and fell out with the church. The Body had a lot to do with what went on in the Bush administration and church and state. That got into this whole fantasy of its overall plot.

You enjoy ironic satire, don’t you?

Totally. It’s real important to keep it sarcastic and humorous. Many bands take themselves too seriously and it’s laughable. We’re saying what’s on our mind, but not to get on a soapbox—just to talk shit. That’s punk. Lyrically, I’ve had a natural progression. With guitar, I have to bust my nuts. I’ve played for 15 years but it sounds like it’s been five. I’ve never been a virtuoso and I’m always fucking up my solos live.

Catch the Thermals at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom on May 8 and 9. For more info, visit thethermals.com.

1 2

About The Author

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*/ ?>