Skip to content

Why They’re Called… The Thermals


Welcome to the weekly feature “Name That Band!” where we get the inside stories behind the mysterious monikers of some ofour favorite artists. (See past episodes of Name That Band! here.)

This week: Portland, Oregon, punk rockers the Thermals, whose Personal Life is just out.

Why the Thermals: “Me and [bassist] Kathy [Foster] had been playing in a band called Hutch and Kathy that was more of a folky pop thing,” explains frontman Hutch Harris. “But when I started writing new songs-this is in 2002, and we were living in Portland-we decided we needed a new name, especially because the material I was writing was pretty different for us. It was way more rocking. Naming the band after an article of clothing seemed rock’n’roll to me-there’s a long tradition of that. I also wanted something sort of shallow. I was tired of bands with really serious names like Statues and Ashes or something. I remember that Kathy had this purple thermal undershirt that she always used to wear. Wearing a thermal shirt with, like, black cut-off jeans and Doc Martens boots was a very grunge look, which obviously had some resonance for us being from the Pacific Northwest. Then I looked it up and a thermal is also a gust of hot air, which was another funny take on the name that I liked, as if the band was a bunch of hot air. Mostly, though, I was into the idea of naming the band after Kathy’s shirt.”

Previously Rejected Names: “I hadn’t thought of too many others, but I remember thinking something like the Blue Jeans might work. I just wanted a name that wasn’t pretentious.”

Best Band Names Ever: “Sleater-Kinney was a really good name. It’s taken from a street sign in Washington State, but the band became such an icon that when you actually see the sign it feels like the street was named after the band and not the other way around. The way the band has two names separated by a hyphen also gives it this stature, like it’s a business or a law firm. I really like that.”

Worst Band Name Ever: “Hoobastank is obviously the worst band name of all time. Mott the Hoople is another bad one. I’d never thought about it before but I guess I don’t like ‘Hoo’ sounds in band names.”