Hutch Harris was scared.
The charismatic frontman of Portland's post-punk power trio The Thermals had been thinking about trying his hand at stand-up comedy for years, but kept talking himself out of it before ever actually making it up on stage. Thoroughly comfortable thrashing around on stage every night directing the high-intensity rock shows that The Thermals have been known for since breaking out on Sub Pop Records more than a decade ago, something about the intimacy of a comedy show freaked him out.
So he stopped thinking about it and just got up on stage one day.
"I had wanted to do stand-up for awhile. For a year and a half I was planning on doing it, but I just kept getting spooked," Harris reveals. "I was preparing a lot and was kind of psyching myself out. When it came to the first open mic, I knew the only way I'd be able to do it was to not think about it all day, then just get up and do it."
Once he finally made it up there, the fear lifted. The same curiosity about the human psyche and social dynamics that fuels his insightful (and entirely relatable) songwriting ended up turning the biggest fear of every young comic into Harris' favorite part of his new gig.
"The things that scare people about comedy—like bombing or silence on stage—have been really fun and interesting for me, because I never experience that with music," Harris says. "Just letting something drop and there being an uncomfortable silence. For me that's been a lot of the fun because I don't really get to do that with The Thermals because our shows are just kind of a loud blast for an hour."
Thermals fans may be surprised to see this comedic streak from a man who's spent a career writing songs about things like death and loneliness, but Harris has been showing glimpses of a lighter side for years. His "Apollo Cats" collages (which are delightfully exactly what they sound like—collages of cats in space) have graced the walls of Portland art galleries, his Twitter account has taken on a life of its own through a series of off-the-wall musings, and he's been writing songs for children's TV shows on Amazon (including one that also boasts contributions from members of The Smashing Pumpkins, Best Coast, and Imagine Dragons).
After originally pursuing these alternative creative outlets with an intention of keeping them completely separate from his music, Harris admits he's become more comfortable on stage with The Thermals than he's ever been and hints at comparatively lighter material coming from the group as they get to work on their next album. The windows of hope that have always so pleasantly dotted the generally heavy subjects of The Thermals appear to be growing larger.
"I'll probably bring some of the songs that Amazon doesn't use to The Thermals because I really like them and these are songs that I wrote really fast but worked really hard on," Harris says. "There's still a lot of dark stuff on the next Thermals record, but you'll also hear a lot of lighter love songs too."
8:30 pm, Friday, June 19 Bite of Bend, NW Minnesota Avenue and NW Bond Street