For about half his life, Fred Thomas—mastermind behind Saturday Looks Good to Me—has been doing what Black Crowes' Chris Robinson has only dreamt of: He makes whatever—and I mean whatever—kind of music he wants. "Robinson used to come into Other Music [the famed New York record store] and talk about Animal Collective," Thomas says by phone. "'If I could do whatever I wanted,' he'd say, 'I'd make music like these guys instead of lame Southern rock.'"
"Maybe he could... in his bedroom," I reply.
"Maybe if he was smart," Thomas laughs.
Inspired by smart music (not smart business), Thomas didn't set out with success in mind. "It wasn't even a strange pipe dream; the dream did not exist," he says flatly. Not aiming to sell a genre, Thomas made up whatever he wanted. Free to roam the vast expanse and experiment with a slew of sounds, Thomas—who claims to have written 200 songs in three months when he was 13—sidestepped fame for a project so interesting it can't sit still.
Seven years ago, Saturday Looks Good to Me began as a recording exercise not destined to leave the basement. The project was just one of many Thomas and his friends started for fun. "Sometimes they were funny, sometimes they were serious, but mostly they were fake," he explains. "I liked the idea of having different fake bands doing different styles—one doing reggae, one doing metal, and another doing Phil Spector/Beach Boys."
When he talks Spector, he's talking Saturday Looks Good to Me. And while SLGTM songs evoke the giddy sounds of the Beach Boys, they also often venture into disparate terrains, including R&B, soul, punk, and hiphop, demonstrating Thomas & Co.'s huge palette for sound. "I was talking to some friends and was like, 'Remember when we used to hate everything? Now we love everything!'"
Thomas admits he was "an annoying, overzealous kid" who was constantly recording. "There wasn't a day that went by that I didn't record something," he said. "I wasn't interested in going to the movies or going on dates. I just wanted to record. Some people like to have a job," he adds. "Some people like to come home at night and drink a beer—I like to record."
He also likes to change. The SLGTM lineup is constantly revolving, their albums are all quite contrasted and, if you were to trail the band on the road, you'd never see the same show twice. "Some girls are very disappointed when they find the bass player isn't there—we tend to have very attractive bass players," he laughs.
SLGTM recently released their album, Fill up the Room. It is like nothing they've done before, and certainly an accomplishment to be proud of. An amalgam of sounds experimenting with a colorful array of styles (ranging from clattering indierock to soulful grooves), Fill Up is, as Thomas calls it, "The most honest recording of all."
"It's like the other songs were snapshots: 'Here I am looking good,' or 'Here I am drinking a rum and Coke,'" he explains with a laugh. "Then these songs are: 'Here I am waking up in the morning looking bad.'"
And at their worst, they're even better than before.
Saturday Looks Good to Me will also play an early show at Lola's Room on Saturday, November 3.