Fill Up the Room cover For just about seven years now, Saturday Looks Good to Me have been making very good, sometimes quite amazing records. Last week they released their third official album, Fill Up the Room, on K Records. Simply put, it's great. Achingly honest, broken-heart-on-sleeve ballads, careening up-tempo pop tunes and experimental, beautiful near-folk songs combine to make it the richest SLGTM record yet. They might frighten off some of the less adventurous of their fans with the subtle changes they've made to their sound, but it's less a step away from the perfect pop they've always made and more a first step into the world of grown-up challenging pop. Allmusic gives it a rave, Pitchfork digs it, and anyone who loves their indie-pop music with a large dollop of unpredictable genius should either already own it or order it right now. We recently sat down with SLGTM's Fred Thomas for "Five Questions."


Allmusic - So, what prompted the move to K after releasing the last 2 records on Polyvinyl?

Fred Thomas - We were working on Fill Up the Room for a couple of years and when we finished the original rough draft Polyvinyl wasn't totally excited about it. They thought it wouldn't be worth it to have another record that goes down as an unheralded masterpiece, a.k.a. doesn't sell that much. They thought it was good, but knew it would be hard to get behind it and treat it like a breakthrough album. A lot of other labels liked it, though. K right out of the gate said it was the best thing we've ever done. They were like "this song's great, this song's ridiculous, this song's really weird" when do you want to do this" let's go!" They were the most enthusiastic about the record, and that's always a mark of someone I want to work with. When they heard the final version, they were totally supportive and mellow. They didn't care if it sold 1,000 copies or 1, they just liked it, believed in it and that was good enough for me.

Allmusic - Fill Up the Room is the first Saturday record that you sing all the vocals on; (previous vocalist) Betty Marie Barnes only sings one lead this time. What was the thinking behind the change?

Fred Thomas - Betty sang a few songs with the band on record, not as much as she sang live though. She was kind of becoming identified as the representative of the band in a lot of ways. But she wasn't able to tour as much as we do and the reaction of people coming to shows was so strong (when she wasn't there) that they wouldn't notice any other changes or differences which kind of blew my mind a little bit. I thought it was time to make a record we could recreate live and the only way to do that and be sure it would work was if I was the only person singing. People understand if there's no full orchestra, but if it's me grumbling out the lyrics instead of a really talented soprano vocalist"

Allmusic - This sounds like the first SLGTM record where a lot of real life, adult stuff seems to be creeping in.

Fred Thomas - Definitely" I'm 31 now. Once I hit 30, I wanted nothing to do with my 20s anymore. A lot of the time was spent working on Saturday, on songs that sound juvenile and silly in retrospect. I feel like this is very much a grown-up record and some people won't get that. They'll be like, "What's this nonsense fucked up existential bullshit that we're hearing?" I think it's a good thing to mature.

Allmusic - A song like When I Lose My Eyes is lyrically very adult and complex musically but still has a lot of energy, especially the heavy metal breakdown at the end. Where did you come up with the idea for it?

Fred Thomas - I had a bunch of different parts, a bunch of different ways you could imagine the song ending. Instead I thought, "What if it's something so stupid, almost like prog rock metal for a second?" It's a lot like a part from my first band Chore from when I was a teenager. People who've known me since then are like "is that from a Chore song?" It's totally like something you'd write when you were 17. The whole record's about going backward to progress so it worked.

Allmusic - What records were you listening to? Was there anything that really inspired you?

Fred Thomas - When I started working on new songs I revisited my favorite records of all time: Tigermilk, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Animal Collective's Sung Tongs, Pet Sounds. The weird thing is that when I revisited them I had a new, weird relationship with them where they somehow didn't apply as much anymore. I felt like even though I still loved them, I didn't want to use them as jumping-off points or tools for understanding music anymore. So, it was more like I was having a reactionary response to the way I'd always listened to music. When I listened to those records it was like I was going against them, which is weird because you can hear tinges of those influences, for sure. I mean, if there's a song on the record that sounds a little like Belle & Sebastian, it sounds a lot like Belle & Sebastian. There's never a time when there's like an undertone, more like there's a part that sounds exactly like a Neutral Milk Hotel or a part in an Animal Collective song. I was listening to the same records I always do but in a different way to try and challenge myself.

I was listening to Tony, Caro and John a lot too. Nothing brand new. I didn't hear an Interpol song and say, "oh, I love this". I don't think there's a place on the record where you can pinpoint a new trend in music because I just wasn't listening to that stuff.

Extra Credit - We asked for some of Fred's favorite new bands and impressively, this is what he came up with off the top of his head:
Deerhunter
High Places
Pantha Du Prince
The State of Samuel
El Perro Del Mar
Shout Out Louds
Speedmarket Avenue
Car Clutch (described as "violent 2-step/drum and bass" that ends up sounding totally emo)

Be sure to catch Saturday Looks Good to Me as they tour the US through the rest of November. You can find the dates and locations here:
https://www.myspace.com/saturdaylooksgoodtome