Smile Politely

Saturday really looks good

Pygmalion is upon us! If you don’t know what it is by now, there is no way I’m going to be able to give you all the information you want or need. You know what? If you’re reading this, you’re literally one click away from all of the information you need. So go for it.

So, obviously you’ll have a lot of options over the next couples of days. I talked to Fred Thomas, founding member of Saturday Looks Good to Me, and, in my humble opinion, you should give these folks a gander. Here’s why:

Smile Politely: How did the band get its unique name?

Fred Thomas: The band got [its] name from when I did a two day punk show in 1998. I put up [fliers] all around town, and someone wrote “Saturday Looks Good To Me” on one of them, suggesting that Friday’s line up was a little weak. It looked like it could be another band name on the [flier], and I thought, “Oh! I’m taking that one.” It was just weird and out of context enough.

SP: I like it!

So, who is the band? What’s your origin story?

Thomas: Unlike most bands that start because a bunch of friends get together and jam, this band started as me recording most of the instruments and asking different people to sing or play stuff I couldn’t play. I recorded in my basement for like 2 years straight and eventually started playing shows in a similar way, just asking different people to play when different shows came up. There have been more solid line-ups over the years (we played our first show in May of 2001) but very, very many people have played, sung, and toured with the band. 

Right now I play guitar and sing; Shelley Salant plays bass, drums, and guitar, depending on the song; Josh Bay plays cello; Carol Catherine plays violin and sings; Amber Fellows plays piano and sings; and Scott DeRoche (who has been playing with me since the beginning) plays bass. 

SP: Sounds cool, like a musical co-op or something!

How did you meet your fellow musicians? I mean if you weren’t friends jamming… 

Thomas: Man, the ways everyone met are really varied and complicated. I feel like the answer to that would be too long and not make complete sense to anyone else. We’re all just friends from the same area with similar ideas and a similar aesthetic… 

Everyone I’ve played with has always been a friend or a friend of a friend. My friend Brian Lipson was going to the University of Michigan School of Music for trumpet, so he knew and introduced me to a lot of other horn and string players from his school. Our keyboardist, Scott Sellwood, who played with the band for about six years, moved to Ann Arbor from San Francisco and was already a fan of the band, so he just straight up introduced himself and asked to join!

SP: Ballsy! 

Where do you like to play? And is it the location or vibe…the scenery…?

Thomas: Personally, I like things to be either super big or super small. I played a house show in Lansing, Michigan and I kept on trying to figure out a way to play in the smallest possible place available, like “Could I just play in the kitchen and have people watch from the living room?” I like hyper intimate/almost impossibly small performance venues or enormous stages at big festivals where the people in the band are super far apart from each other. Not sure why. 

As far as geographical places, New York is always such a favorite, as is Detroit (where I have played more shows than could be counted), Berlin (where I have played one amazing time), places in Sweden and the San Francisco/Oakland area, which is always such an amazing party. I once got to play a show at Mr. Quintron’s Spellcaster’s Lounge in New Orleans, and that was one of the most memorable parties of my life. Such an endless stream of vivid personalities, vibes and weirdness there.

SP: New Orleans must be pretty special, because I do hear that from a lot of musicians.

Thomas: New Orleans is a one-of-a-kinder, for sure. Much like Detroit but really different.

SP: You’ve been with the band since the beginning; do you write the songs? 

Thomas: I write all the songs and lyrics for Saturday Looks Good To Me, and they always take on a pretty lonely, searching kind of feel.

SP: What’s your inspiration?

Thomas: Earlier on I always wanted to impart some kind of political perspective, usually rooted in feminist consciousness and anti-consumerism. Unfortunately, I don’t think it really translated and everyone just heard heartbroken love songs. These days I try to get as many words into a song as I can that all say basically the same thing. 

SP: Interesting. Do you mind at all that the messages were getting muddled?

Thomas: I did mind and I do mind, but at a certain point you can’t listen to anyone else telling you what you mean or who you are because you start to believe they’re right and forget who you actually are. Most people aren’t really listening super critically or with that much of a magnifying glass, so they’re just used to hearing love songs.

SP: That makes sense. I mean, at some point, the listener does decide what it means to him or her, and you can’t do much to change that. 

Thomas: Yes! Wouldn’t really want to interfere with anyone’s relationship to music, even when it’s music I made.

SP: Do you all have days jobs, or are you fortunate enough to make music as a living?

Thomas: Everyone is remarkably busy with day jobs, school, other bands, and rich/complex personal lives. It’s amazing how busy everyone is and we don’t make too much money playing shows. It’s just the best, funnest thing.

SP: That seems to be the reason to do it! If you’re having fun, it’s hardly work at all. 

If you could jam with anyone (time and space is no factor) who would it be?

Thomas: Ohhh jam with anyone ever? I’m curious what it would be like to play with Joy Division; they seemed like a really amazingly sloppy live band. Also would be stoked to play with Parliment and/or Funkadellic at their prime, just cause they seemed to be the most messed up party of all time, and they were from Detroit.

SP: Sounds epic. I don’t use that word much…

So tell me about this album you released in May? Time for the sales pitch. What does your new album have that we can’t find anywhere else? 

Thomas: One Kiss Ends It All is the first SLGTM record since 2007’s Fill Up The Room. You should listen to it because it’s a remarkably dense type of pop music that isn’t really getting made by anyone else in the same way. It’s rooted, vaguely, in 60’s pop sounds but gets so fractured and twisted along the way that the sugary sweetness turns into a type of darkness that stands on the edge of nightmares, but somehow stays dreamy. 

That is my sales pitch to you!

SP: Love it.

What’s your favorite track (or is that like picking a favorite child…?) and what is so grabbing about that particular one? 

Thomas: I do love all the songs, but my favorite one is called “The Ever-present New Times Condition“. It’s probably the most subdued track on the album and it’s about the mania and urgency of youth. The hectic feeling that happens almost every year at the end of summer in the college town I live in and grew up in. People moving away in a rush, making big changes very quickly and jaggedly, shooting in the dark but feeling okay about it, too.

SP: I guess I never thought of it that way. We really did just uproot and settle a lot in college. Maybe growing up in college towns made us impervious (or, alternately, ultra-sensitive) to change.

Well, thanks for the chat, Fred. We’ll see you at Pygmalion!


Catch Saturday Looks Good to Me at my favorite haunt, Mike N’ Mollys, on (when else?) Saturday! They’re on just after Stagnant Pools. Too bad I didn’t get to ask them about their band name… 

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