With the gloomy billow of cloudy fall folding over the coast and nestling into the greater Portland city limits, it seems an altogether odd time of year to revel in the sunny-fun jams of local power-pop/punk trio All Girl Summer Fun Band. We're supposed to be sipping soy lattes and rubbing our mittened hands across our cardiganed upper arms, indulging in the frigid, plaintive brood-rock so synonymous with our locale; instead, AGSFB are offering a musical detour rife with the three-part harmonies and four-chord punk-lite indigenous to California's extended summertime season.
The band's first release in five years, Looking into It espouses the quasi-obvious sentiment implied by the band's name itself, tearing into terrifically modest portions of '60s girl group doo-wop, backdropped with the raspy sheen of jangly guitars, driving percussion, and addictive melodies. The dichotomy is refreshing, and, at least to drummer Kathy Foster (also bassist of the Thermals), not very elaborate.
"All of us have grown up listening to pop and girl groups, K Records stuff, Kill Rock Stars stuff," explains Foster. "We all have that background in pop and indie rock. It's that classic combo of writing from the heart, but musically we like to play upbeat."
The three members of AGSFB (rounded out by vocalist/guitarist Kim Baxter and bassist Jen Sbragia) wrote and recorded their newest album in Baxter's basement, with mixing and mastering help from her husband Chris Flanagan. The effort emerged from an entirely organic urge to create something from beginning to end. The group employed promotional and distribution companies on their own—with Sbragia designing all the album's artwork—releasing the album under their own publishing umbrella, and they have even tirelessly undertaken the process of assembling all of the CDs together (in cardboard digi-packs, not plastic!) themselves.
The basement-recording approach, not to mention the five-year hiatus between records while Foster was touring heavily with the Thermals, enabled the band to broaden their ambitions and skills.
"We didn't have any sort of time limitations," says Foster. "I was out of town a lot so it helped us to schedule our time in different ways. Kim and Jen actually started recording without me to a click track, and when I came back I recorded the drums."
AGSFB's last release, 2, on K Records, stemmed from the polar opposite spectrum. "With the second record, we had half the songs written and then quickly wrote the second half of the record, which worked too," says Foster. "I like working under pressure like that, but it's nice when you have time to listen to stuff and rework it. We were able to spend time with these songs. It was cool because we could try to expand on the ideas a bit more and try to get better musically, try to push ourselves to progress."
Expect to see All Girl Summer Fun Band begin to stretch their legs and perform more shows locally to support their new album, as well as some preliminarily planned mini-tours to bigger cities and perhaps even overseas later this year and early next. You might need to tote an umbrella to the club, but the tunes wafting from inside will be nothing but hot, hot, hot.