PLAYING DETROIT: Fred Thomas Mourns Former Friendships With “Altar”

COLUMNS|Playing Detroit

As the former leader of Saturday Looks Good To Me and bass player in His Name Is Alive, Fred Thomas might easily be considered Southeast Michigan’s godfather of indie rock. Ever prolific, his third solo record in four years, Aftering, is set to drop this Friday. Ahead of that comes a video for his single “Altar,” a visual representation of conflicting feelings – joy and isolation. Thomas says the song is a “remarkably personal” recount of a time where he felt ousted from a group of friends in a small town. The song’s cutting lyrics paired with the disorienting visual accurately capture the lonely state of not knowing where you belong.

“The song is about a situation where you feel ostracized by people that you know, people that you thought were your friends,” says Thomas. “Where things have switched from ‘everything’s cool, everybody’s my friend’ to ‘oh, everybody hates me.’” In the video, Thomas and his band – Anna Baghina (guitar), Erin Davis (bass), Stefan Krstovic (drums), Emily Roll (synths) – alternate between clean-cut euphoria and dirty catatonia. The scenes are meant to juxtapose that ecstatic time of belonging and community and the dull pain of estrangement. “Every attempt was made to hold on to that dislocated magic,” Thomas sings, acutely recalling what it’s like to hang on to the skeleton of a support system.

For anyone who has felt abandoned or burned by a friend (or multiple friends), this song hits close to home. Thomas’s penchant for conversational lyricism and poignant metaphor has the ability to draw out the deepest buried memories. “Those nights were spent/
Digesting the ashes of a dead friend/Putting barricades in place/Cultivating contradictions/Drinking whispers,” Thomas sings, listing all the necessary ingredients for a burned bridge.

But, however dark Thomas goes in his writing, he always intends to imbue his work with some levity, which the video makes obvious through the band’s outfits and awkward thrashing. “I want there to be humor and absurdity in everything I do,” he says.

Aftering comes out this Friday, September 14th via Polyvinyl. Check out his tour dates below.

09/16 – Austin, TX @ The Mohawk (Indoor) + [SOLD OUT]
09/17 – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall (Upstairs) +
09/19 – Detroit, MI @ Outer Limits Lounge
09/20 – Detroit, MI @ Third Man Records (In-Store) *
10/10 – Cincinnati, OH @ MOTR #
10/11 – Atlanta, GA @ The Earl #
10/13 – Asheville, NC @ Grey Eagle #
10/14 – Raleigh, NC @ Kings #
10/16 – Norfolk, VA @ Charlie’s American Cafe #
10/17 – Washington DC @ Songbyrd #
10/19 – Philadelphia, PA @ Boot & Saddle #
10/20 – Brooklyn, NY @ Baby’s All Right #
10/21 – Portsmouth, NH @ Book & Bar #
10/23 – Montreal, QC @ La Vitrola #
10/24 – Toronto, ON @ Baby G #
10/25 – Ann Arbor, MI @ Blind Pig #
10/26 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle #
11/30 – Seattle, WA @ Barboza +
12/01 – Portland, OR @ Mississippi Studios +
12/04 – Oakland, CA @ 1-2-3-4 Go! Records
12/05 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Hi Hat
+ w/ Owen
* w/ Kat Gardiner
# w/ Anna Burch & Common Holly

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