Kathy Foster of The Thermals
The shuffler: Kathy Foster, bass player for Portland punk-power-pop institution The Thermals. The band is currently on a U.S. tour behind its fourth album, Now We Can See, recently released on Kill Rock Stars.
The Fiery Furnaces, “Quay Cur”
Kathy Foster: I don’t listen to The Fiery Furnaces a lot. I’ve got some of their stuff to check out, and I like some of that. This song is kind of dark and dance-y.
The A.V. Club: Yeah, every track from them is a little different.
KF: I like the idea of just experimenting with everything in all directions, see what you come up with. I like experimental stuff as long as it has some sort of melody or beat. I can’t really get into straight noise. I like more ambient noise. I like a lot of instrumental stuff. I love Out Hud. I love how they’re kind of experimental underground techno or something. [Laughs.]
AVC: But you’re not too into some guy screaming into a microphone over feedback loops.
KF: Yeah. There’s a lot of that in Portland, though. It’s pretty popular with the kids. [Laughs.]
Elevator Through, “The Maze”
KF: This is from their album Vague Premonition. This is definitely one of my favorite bands. Well, before Elevator Through, they were Elevator To Hell. I think at the same time, [guitarist] Rick White was still playing in Eric’s Trip. He did a lot of lo-fi, bedroom-recording-sounding stuff. I love the sound of home recordings and all the spontaneity that comes with it, and all the accidents that happen.
AVC: Have you tried to keep an element of that on The Thermals’ records?
KF: Yeah, for sure. I think Hutch [Harris, Thermals guitarist and lead singer] and I both love recording on a four-track, and we’ve done it for a long time. We love the sound of the tape, just a lo-fi tape, how you can blow it out and record stuff really loudly, and it doesn’t sound peaked-out like it does on a computer or CD. It has more character and warmth.
The Flaming Lips, “Guy Who Got A Headache And Accidentally Saved The World”
KF: That’s on Clouds Taste Metallic. This is another band that has been a huge influence on me in creating my own aesthetic and what I think sounds good. I love this album and the album before this, Transmissions From The Satellite Heart. I love the huge, fat sounds they get, but it also sounds like they’re recording on tape, and you can hear the room. They get such good drum sounds and bass sounds. I just love their songwriting, too. I also like how they kind of became more hi-fi, and I like those sounds, but it’s still fat and blown-out-sounding. I love The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi. One of my favorite moments of being in The Thermals is when we played at Sasquatch a few years ago, and The Flaming Lips played, and we met those guys, and we got to put on the animal costumes and dance onstage. It was at the Gorge amphitheatre, which is just beautiful. The main stage is set up in front of the Gorge. There’s no back of the stage. It’s really epic.
AVC: Which animal were you?
KF: I think it was a mouse? Kind of a nondescript furry animal. It was grey with ears, so it could’ve been a mouse, or a bear. But it was so incredibly hot, no one had their heads on. Mostly, we were all just dancing with the furry suits and no heads. Those guys are super-sweet, which made me like them even more. They just seemed really genuine and warm.
Miss Murgatroid And Petra Haden, “Hummingbird”
KF: This album is called Hearts & Daggers. I got this from my friend Alicia Rose, who’s pretty famous in Portland for being a photographer, and she booked the Doug Fir Lounge for a long time. She plays music as Miss Murgatroid, and she plays a distorted electric accordion. So it’s kind of experimental stuff. And Petra Haden, she’s been in The Rentals, and she’s done her own albums. It’s really pretty. Kind of dark. She’s mostly electric accordion and strings and layered vocals.
The Thermals, “At The Bottom Of The Sea”
KF: It’s from Now We Can See, but it’s the rough mixes. It was just after we were done recording—we’d just get a quick mix of it so we could have it to listen to. I think the odds were good that we would hear a Thermals song, ’cause there’s like tons and tons of versions of Thermals songs on here, from different albums, demos, mixes, and masters.
All Girl Summer Fun Band, ?
KF: This is the same thing, but with my other band, the All Girl Summer Fun Band. This is one of the mixes of a song off our new record that came out in September, Looking Into It. Dammit, I can’t think of what this song is called.
Minor Threat, “In My Eyes”
KF: I don’t listen to Minor Threat too often, but I like it. I’m a huge fan of Fugazi, so at one point I figured I should hear Minor Threat and be familiar with them. I got the complete discography or whatever, it’s all on one CD. I was into it for a while. I was listening to it while I was sewing. Getting all pumped on sewing. [Ian MacKaye] just said, “What the fuck have you done?” I love his raw honesty. [Laughs.]
The Cribs, “Things You Should Be Knowing”
KF: It’s off their self-titled album. That’s who we were just in the UK with. They’re from Wakefield, which is outside of Leeds. We just played five days with them. I think their songs are really good. It’s three brothers plus Johnny Marr. The guys that sing and play guitar and bass are twins, and then the younger brother plays drums. They’re getting really big in the UK. All the shows we played fit 1,500 people or more, and they sold out. People just go crazy for them—there was constant crowd-surfing, jumping up and down, so sweaty, singing every word and pointing at them.
Broken Social Scene, “Our Faces Split The Coast In Half”
KF: This is another band where you just start hearing about a band, and then you want to check them out. I really like this album [Broken Social Scene], and I like a lot of stuff like this—a lot of it’s instrumental and dance-y, but still organic-sounding, and kind of jazzy.