When the Thermals last visited Buffalo in May 2009, Memorial Auditorium was a crumbling, half-demolished mess. That was the lasting impression for drummer Westin Glass, who remembers taking the short walk from Soundlab past the former arena with guitarist Hutch Harris and bassist Kathy Foster.
Fast forward four years and the waterfront is still a hard-hat area, but there’s progress in the form of Canalside, HarborCenter and the former Donovan building.
The band has also progressed on multiple levels. The Portland, Ore., post-pop punk trio most recently jumped from the Kill Rock Stars label to release in April its Saddle Creek debut “Desperate Ground” – a catchy affair crammed with restless tracks that clobber with three chords in barely two minutes.
A 32-date cross-country tour for the new album brings the Thermals to the Tralf on Sunday for an all-ages show with local bands Space Wolves and Red Delicious supporting.
Glass, speaking from Portland in a recent interview, promises a set heavy on cuts from “Desperate Ground” and fan favorites like “Now We Can See,” but also most of the songs from the trio’s 2003 debut “More Parts Per Million,” which reached its 10-year anniversary this year.
“The set that we’ve been playing lately has been just super fun and getting everybody really excited at every show,” Glass said.
And if there’s one word that describes the band it could be “fun.” Its breakneck-speed live show, do-it-yourself indie ethos and appeal to young and old alike all channel together to create the collective Thermals experience.
“If we have any say over it, we always do all-ages because the kids are the best,” Glass said. “They’re so fun to play for. They get really excited. They get really into it. We just love having that energy right up in front of the stage.”
The band manages its tours, creates its artwork and directs its videos for songs such as the new album’s first single “Born to Kill,” which saw Foster and Glass using harsh interrogation methods on Harris. The next video for “The Sunset” portrays Foster as a boxer in roles based on the films “Rocky” and “Raging Bull.”
“In the music industry as it stands today, being as DIY as possible is the best thing you can do because the more you have somebody else paying for stuff the less say you have over your art,” Glass said.
That mentality could explain the relative freedom and latitude Saddle Creek afforded the band over “Desperate Ground,” which was recorded in late October 2012 with producer John Agnello in Hoboken, N.J., as Hurricane Sandy hit.
“The last song that we mixed was ‘The Howl of the Winds’ and it was happening around us – the wind was getting all crazy and the waters were rising,” Glass said.
They fled to Agnello’s house in Jersey City where they hunkered down for five days with no power and listened to their album on battery-powered speakers while playing cards, drinking wine and taking walks.
Glass said he finds parallels between that surreal experience and the record’s themes.
“There’s lyrics like ‘The world we knew washed away’ and it’s crazy to think that happened,” he said.
Fans, however, might have a bone to pick with the band over the story of how the song “Canada” was inspired by its last visit here. But if anyone could buffer a possible perceived slight to make it come off as charming, it’s the Thermals.
“Don’t get us wrong – Buffalo, N.Y., is a swell American town,” according to a press release issued at the time. “But it’s not the easiest city to play, ask any band! So when the Thermals, on a recent tour, found themselves staring down the barrel of a less-than-spectacular night in Buffalo, the Thermals comforted themselves with the thought that the next day they were headed for CANADA.”
Glass promises a more-than-spectacular night this time around.
“We definitely love Buffalo,” Glass said laughing. “It was kind of just tongue-in-cheek.”
What: The Thermals with Space Wolves, Red Delicious
When: 8 p.m. Sunday
Where: Tralf Music Hall, 622 Main St.
Tickets: $12 advance, $14 day of show
Info: 852-2860, www.tralfmusichall.com ">www.tralfmusichall.com