One of the most influential figures on Michigan's indie rock scene, Fred Thomas is best known as the founder and leader of the celebrated indie pop band Saturday Looks Good to Me, but the remarkably prolific musician and songwriter has been involved in a wealth of other projects, as well as recording several albums as a solo artist. Following his involvement with groups such as the indie-punk band Lovesick, slowcore ensemble Flashpapr, and of course the retro-pop of SLGTM beginning in the late '90s, Thomas began releasing material under his own name near the beginning of the 2000s. Early albums such as 2004's Turn It Down and 2005's Sink Like a Symphony were more stripped down and confessional than much of his work with SLGTM. Following 2012's Kuma, a set of Neil Young-inspired folk-rock, his songwriting style became much more direct and vividly detailed, while his arrangements became more intricate and expansive on albums such as 2015's All Are Saved and 2018's Aftering.
Thomas was born in Ypsilanti, Michigan on August 6, 1976. He grew up absorbing influences from his parents' record collection, which was dominated by Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan (his folks would take him to see Dylan when he was nine), and after learning to make music from the clatter of various household objects, he took up the guitar at age 11. By the time Thomas was in junior high, he'd started playing in bands with friends from school, and in 1994, the 17-year-old formed a math rock band called Chore, who played extensively in Michigan and launched East Coast and West Coast tours before splitting up in 1996.
After Chore disbanded, Thomas immersed himself in a wide variety of projects — he recorded and toured with Warren Defever's experimental pop ensemble His Name Is Alive, and was a member of emo-punk band Lovesick as well as chamber pop combo Flashpapr. In 1999, Thomas launched Saturday Looks Good to Me as a home-recording project, influenced by his friend Chris Fachini of Teach Me Tiger; featuring Thomas and a revolving cast of friends and musicians embracing an eclectic range of pop influences, the first SLGTM album appeared in 2000, and after playing a handful of live shows under the name — Saves the Day invited SLGTM to tour with them in 2002, and Thomas formed a live version of the group and they hit the road.
Between 2000 and 2007, Saturday Looks Good to Me released four proper albums and several singles and compilations, worked with noted indie labels K Records and Polyvinyl Records (as well as Thomas' own Ypsilanti Records), and toured extensively in the United States and Europe, with Thomas often joined by collaborators Scott Sellwood on keyboards, Betty Marie Barnes on vocals, and Ryan Howard on drums. In 2008, Saturday Looks Good to Me went on hiatus, and Thomas continued to maintain a busy schedule, forming the indie electronic duo City Center with SLGTM colleague Howard, playing guitar with the surf-influenced pop combo Swimsuit, recording the album Mighty Clouds with former SLGTM vocalist Barnes, and serving as producer and engineer on recordings by acts such as NOMO, Tyvek, Beauclerk, and Corpse Kisser. He also started the Life Like label in 2010, which released dozens of limited-edition tapes and LPs by various projects of Thomas and his friends, as well as a zine called Defects Mirror.
Thomas released his first proper solo album in 2002, Everything Is Pretty Much Totally Fucked Up, and a steady stream of recordings have followed, ranging from carefully crafted full-length albums to limited-edition experimental CD-Rs. In 2012, he assembled a new edition of Saturday Looks Good to Me and began recording and touring again under the handle, though typically it was far from his sole musical vehicle — that same year, Thomas also appeared on a new album from Ian Svenonius' band Chain & the Gang, served as engineer and multi-instrumentalist on Hewn from the Wilderness by Calvin Johnson's group the Hive Dwellers, and released an ambitious new solo album, Kuma. Another solo effort, the eclectic and personal All Are Saved, was released by Polyvinyl in the spring of 2015. After getting married and moving to Montreal, Thomas recorded the follow-up to All Are Saved in Athens, Georgia with producer Drew Vandenburg. The album, titled Changer, was released by Polyvinyl in early 2017. This was followed in 2018 by Aftering, which included guest appearances from past collaborators and tourmates such as Anna Burch and Elliot Bergman (NOMO, Wild Belle). ~ Mark Deming