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Fred Thomas - conducted by Alex Goldbeg  

Saturday Looks Good to Me

August 2006

These are the transcripts of an interview conducted with jovially enthusiastic and multi-instrumentalist Fred Thomas of the Michigan-based-band Saturday Looks Good to Me.

MVRemix: Working off of "s" words, your music feels sensual, soft, subtle, how about sexy? Does SLGTM ooze sex?

Fred Thomas: "Ooze" might not be the most appropriate word, but sex and sexuality do play a huge part in our music. It's hard to say too, because I always feel like a lot of our songs are about sex or sexual scenarios, but it doesn't always come through because I've made the lyrics so personally coded or what I think is suggestive that it's too convoluted or buried for the listener to actually pick up on the horn-dog vibe I think prevalent. Our next album has ten songs and at least three of them are explicitly about sex and the complex beauty of sexual relationships.

MVRemix: Introduce yourself, and tell me how this band has saved your life. Something like, Hello, my name is______, I am the ______ of the _______, and this band has saved my life because_______.

Fred Thomas: No way. I hate the ease of the expression, "so and so saved my life." Don't you think that it weakens a person's sense of self-belief or enables them to be always mentally dependent on someone or something outside of themselves to pre-suppose that their entire life was saved from tragedy or mundanity when they heard a song and it led to a series of events? It also pre-ordains that one's life is saved at present, and that any alternative to what's happening now would be worse. Fuck that. Sorry to snap, but I think it's an overused and entirely melodramatic mechanism that people don't really get the weight of. If you knocked me out of the way of a speeding car, you would be saving my life. If you played me a Minutemen record when I was 14, you would be turning me on to some cool new ideas and opening a lot of avenues of thought and perspective that I wouldn't have known otherwise, but someone else might feel the same great feelings by being played a Cecil Taylor record or a Sugar Ray record or learning about Rothko's work or whatever, it's not life or death. [Note to self, never mention the word "saved" to Fred Thomas].

MVRemix: What band or musicians do you hate being compared to?

Fred Thomas: Anything twee or heart-on-sleevey like that. Belle and Sebastian is loved by a lot of twee-loving music fans, but they are not a twee band, you know? I would like to think the same of Saturday Looks Good To Me.

MVRemix: Who would you love to be compared to?

Fred Thomas: Fleetwood Mac. "Tusk" era.

MVRemix: Do you feel you are the 21st century response to Pet Sounds?

Fred Thomas: Not a response as much as an emulative wish/dream. There was definitely a time when I listened to "Pet Sounds" everyday, and I wanted to make a record as beautiful as that record or "Tigermilk" by Belle And Sebastian, and I really tried and it was like a wish you make in a dream that comes true more in color coded facets than actualized events. What was "Pet Sounds" a response to? Nothing. Just a wish to express what really seemed most intense and amazing to Brian Wilson in his head at the time.

MVRemix: How would you respond to someone saying that 'the only thing raunchier than watching transsexual pornography while smoking crystal meth is listening to the band, Saturday Looks Good to Me?

Fred Thomas: I would hug them and ask if they had finished their math homework.

MVRemix: Tell me about Flashpapr and your other work prior to SLGTM. What is it about your earlier projects that set the stage for your work in SLGTM?

Fred Thomas: Flashpapr is a great band. We still play on occasion, but all the members are scattered around the country. I got really lucky to be in Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Detroit and the entire Michigan world because everyone I knew was super smart and easy to learn and share ideas and make cool and fun bands and always do something great that was related to sound.

MVRemix: All Your Summer Songs, Everynight, and Sound on Sound feel like a cornucopia of American musical kitsch moving back and forth between various pop sounds that have both a familiar and distant connection to 60's American pop music. There is, however, something very contemporary about your sound. What is it about American pop music that is both timeless and adaptable and allows for a sound fusion of 60's pop music through the present state of contemporary rock?

Fred Thomas: The timelessness we're finding here isn't based on a time-capsule sort of timeless, but more so a way where time doesn't exist. Arthur Lee could be sitting in a room with a guitar writing some amazing songs on "Forever Changes" in 1967 or someone in 2006 could be sitting in a room somewhere with a guitar writing an amazing song and it doesn't matter what time it is, or what year it is, because human experiences changed sometimes, but there are cores of intensity and joy that are linked to just being alive, and people always have and always will try to express those things.

MVRemix: Making rock music is dangerous. What type of risks does your band take when you put out a record?

Fred Thomas: How is it dangerous? It's a series of choices you make with your life and the choices that all those choices lead to. There's no danger at all, there's no risk. Do you mean one risks that no one will like their record or that it will "fail?" Of course those things will happen. Every great record has "failed" in a commercial sense at least and if the risk is commercial, the music has already failed. It started failed.

MVRemix: This is a two part question: How important are your lyrics? And, how personal are your pop songs?

Fred Thomas: Lyrics are an extremely important part of our music, and I spend a lot of time trying to say exactly what I want to say. I guess to me it's less about the baby and more about the labor because all the songs are super personal and all about things in my life, so I know what the details are saying, where someone else just hears the boy meets girl of it all.

MVRemix: Michigan is an interesting place. On one side you have the immense Motown, soul and garage scene that flourished and is flourishing in Detroit as well as the indie rock scene in the rest of Michigan and on the other side you have the Michigan Militia. What is it about Michigan that allows it to give birth to both a great music scene and a great militia?

Fred Thomas: Michigan is like no other place, to be sure. There's lots of space and wilderness and also very well defined seasons and intense cycles of nature, people, industry and education all around. This segmented way of life is sometimes reacted to conversely by people doing the same thing year-round, or with an intense singular focus like rock and roll or guns, but it can never be escaped from, just rebelled against. This might make for the strange and unique cultural vibe here.

MVRemix: What were you like in high school? What group/clique were you in?

Fred Thomas: I was in with the art fags and drama kids. It was the best and most interesting place to be.

MVRemix: What do you think would be the best decade in the last hundred years to fall in love and have pre-marital sex?

Fred Thomas: Maybe one before severe S.T.D.'s and the AIDS epidemic. The 70's seem pretty awesome and there were a lot of really hot trends in style then, so you had a ton of hot people around to have sex with.

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"Every great record has "failed" in a commercial sense at least and if the risk is commercial, the music has already failed. It started failed."