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A Portland-based supergroup of sorts, the Thermals originally featured Kind of Like Spitting's Ben Barnett and the Operacycle's Jordan Hudson, plus Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster of the twee/folk-pop duo Hutch & Kathy and the All Girl Summer Fun Band. The group formed in early 2002 as a way for its members to play just for the fun of it, but their insistent melodies and punk-inspired urgency quickly won them a local following. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard became one of the Thermals' first fans and got the group in touch with Sub Pop, which signed them within four months of the band's formation. The label released a single with the band in January of 2003, followed by their full-length More Parts Per Million later that spring.

Fuckin A, the Thermals' sophomore effort, appeared in mid-2004. In the midst of recording their third full-length, however, founding drummer Jordan Hudson left the group. Foster and Harris resumed recording and played all the instruments themselves, with the resulting The Body, The Blood, The Machine being released in 2006. Drummer Caitlin Love joined the Thermals just in time for a European tour that spring. Lorin Coleman, of the Portland indie rock act Virga, was added on drums in late summer, and auxiliary guitarist Joel Burrows briefly joined as well. The quartet dissolved in 2008, however, once again leaving Foster and Harris as the band's only members. Following their departure from Sub Pop's roster, the Thermals signed with Kill Rock Stars and released Now We Can See in April 2009, followed by Personal Life in 2010. In 2012, the band's cover of the Malvina Reynolds song "Little Boxes" was used in the opening of an episode of the Showtime series Weeds.

In January of 2013, the group found themselves switching labels once again, this time to the Omaha, Nebraska-based Saddle Creek. Adding drummer Westin Glass, the band recorded and released their sixth album, Desperate Ground, by April 2013. In early 2015, Harris and Foster spent time touring as Hutch & Kathy to celebrate a re-release of their Hutch & Kathy record from 2002. ~ Heather Phares, Rovi