Before Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster became the punk rockers we know them as today, they wrote and recorded a self-titled, folk-inspired LP. While the LP was initially released back in 2002, Hutch and Kathy took a back burner as The Thermals took off. As part of Record Store Day, Hutch and Kathy was reissued on vinyl for the first time. Prior to their show next week at Boot & Saddle, I sat down and chatted with Hutch about touring, Seattle’s booming music scene and the rise of female-fronted bands, and what it takes to keep a friendship as cool as Hutch and Kathy.
Erika Reinsel: Even though Hutch and Kathy has been available since its original release in 2002, what brought about the decision to reissue on vinyl for Record Store Day and kick off the tour in support of the album?
Hutch Harris: Jealous Butcher, the Portland label who originally released the Hutch and Kathy LP, came to us and had the idea to reissue the record for Record Store Day. It was only ever available on digital and CD, never on vinyl. Kathy and I have made so many records between The Thermals and other bands, and I think this was the only one that wasn’t available on vinyl, so we were very happy to finally have it available.
Since The Thermals were on a short break, we figured we might as well do some touring to support the record. The timing was perfect for it. Also, this tour is nice and short, not eight weeks around the country. Kathy and I love playing music together so it just seemed like a natural idea.
Erika: You’ve had numerous side projects that have seemed to allow you to experiment with different genres of music. Has that been a rewarding experience for you musically?
Hutch: Yeah, it’s really nice and fun. It is still guitars and drums, but these records are way different from Thermals stuff. The Thermals shows are so loud and chaotic, so it’s really nice to do these Hutch and Kathy shows where it’s way more mellow. We also talk to the audience, which makes it way more intimate. It’s what you’d hope it would be. We obviously love doing The Thermals, but it’s nice. It’s quite different with these shows.
Erika: Do you think that also helps you grow as a musician?
Hutch: Yeah, for me it definitely does. It keeps me energized and motivated as far as music. Doing any one thing for so long can turn into a rut, so it’s really refreshing for us to do these shows that are a different style.
Erika: Who are some of your musical influences? Any new music you’ve been listening to?
Hutch: Uh yeah, there’s a ton [laughs]. Kathy and I grew up in the 90s, so most of our biggest influences come from that time. Like The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin… all the old stuff, but then Nirvana got big when we were in high school. Nevermind came out when I was 16 and that was huge for me. The Breeders and Kim Deal have also really always been a big influence for me.
As far as new stuff, there’s a lot of cool stuff coming from Seattle right now. There’s this band called Wimps and they’re one of our favorites. We also love Chastity Belt, Colleen Green, S (Jenn Ghetto). She was just on tour with us and we love her record. There’s a lot more female-fronted, and cooler, more punk-like bands coming out now. I love rock bands with a female singer. There’s a band called Summer Cannibals from Portland. They’re great and one of my favorites.
Erika: Is it ever challenging to be primarily known from The Thermals? Does this ever make it difficult or irritating when it comes to your side projects?
Hutch: It doesn’t bother me too much. It still makes it easier to get stuff heard. It’s just something that there’s no getting around. I’m really glad we made a name for ourselves. Maybe if I didn’t like The Thermals it’d be different [laughs], but I’ve been really proud of what we’ve done.
Erika: How has touring as Hutch and Kathy compared to The Thermals?
Hutch: I like both, and it’s really not that different. We miss Westin, but that’s really the only difference. There’s also less gear to carry with Hutch and Kathy, so that’s nice [laughs]. Kathy and I have been playing music together for almost 20 years, so we’re really used to touring with each other. We like each other and get along really well so that’s always nice.
Erika: With that said; what’s been the key to your success? 20 years is a long time!
Hutch: Kathy and I are really different – I’m really hyper and manic, and Kathy is calm and collected, so we really balance each other out. She just puts up with me [laughs]. She’s a really understanding person. Musically, we come from the same background and overall we have the same taste in music. We’ve just been making music together for so long that neither one of us is afraid to give our opinion, but we’re able to give each other our opinion without being a jerk about it. We’re really just upfront with each other. When it comes to writing songs, there are no passive aggressive feelings. I’ll tell Kathy something and if she doesn’t like it, she’ll tell me right away, and I’ll do the same to her. If someone says that to you and you don’t respect their opinion, then that will never work.
Erika: Since the reissue has proven to be successful, do you feel any pressure to do another Hutch and Kathy record – is that something that could come in the future? Or is the focus going to be more on The Thermals or any other side projects?
Hutch: I don’t think it’s necessarily pressure. If we wanted to do another Hutch and Kathy record, we’d do it because we’d want to and because we enjoy it. It is nice though to see that the shows we previously did sold out, and it’s cool to know people still care – or care more now, about this record. When that record came out, no one knew who me or Kathy were, and there was no Thermals. We toured on that record, but no one knew the songs and no one knew who we were, so it’s really cool that so much time has gone by and now people care about that record. That’s been awesome for us.
Erika: What are your plans for the rest of 2015 after the Hutch and Kathy tour wraps up?
Hutch: We will get right back to the new Thermals record in July. It’s almost all written, so we’ll start the recording. We haven’t been hyping it too hard because we want to get the Hutch and Kathy stuff done first. But yeah – we’ll definitely make a Thermals record this year, and probably get that out early next year.
Erika: And then a tour?
Hutch: Yes, many more tours [laughs].
Erika: For anyone coming to the show next week in Philly, what can we expect – is it going to be strictly Hutch and Kathy songs?
Hutch: It’s going to be a lot of Hutch and Kathy songs. We do a lot of Thermals songs too. Kathy played drums on The Body, the Blood, the Machine, so we’re doing a lot of those songs. A lot of those are people’s favorite songs, and it’s cool to get Kathy back on the drums since she wrote all those drum parts. Then there’s also a few surprise covers we do.
Be sure to catch Hutch and Kathy next Tuesday at Boot & Saddle! You can still grab tickets here.