You may know it as "the gentle letdown. " Or "the soft breakup. " Also known as "the passive-aggressive dump. " It goes a little like this...
You may know it as “the gentle letdown.” Or “the soft breakup.” Also known as “the passive-aggressive dump.” It goes a little like this:
Really, it’s not you, it’s me. You’re great, but I want to see other people. Honestly, you’ll be better off without me, I just hope we can stay friends.
Now, substitute “bands” for “people,” and you have a fair approximation of Sub Pop Records sliding out of its five-year relationship with Rosie Thomas. A small woman with a big voice, Thomas is an achingly sincere indie-folk singer. One of Seattle’s rare talents, she’s also a bizarre stand-up comic.
Her relationship with Sub Pop was “like a high-school sweetheart in a way,” Thomas reflected the other day. Damien Jurado turned Jonathan Poneman on to Thomas, and the Sub Pop owner/co-founder quickly fell for her classic folk voice and poignant songwriting.
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“I’m not sure it’s replaceable,” Thomas said of her relationship with Sup Pop. “I’ll never have that experience back. Jonathan really nurtured me and taught me a great deal about trusting myself.”
As soon as Sub Pop eased Thomas to the curb, they signed Tiny Vipers, the performing name of the very Thomas-like folk singer Jesy Fortino, who is pretty much at the stage of her career where Thomas was, circa 2002. Kind of like breaking up with someone, and dating her younger cousin.
Don’t feel too sorry for Thomas, though, as she has “rebounded” with perhaps her best record yet, “These Friends of Mine.” (Check the beautiful cover of R.E.M.’s “The One I Love.”) Released last month by Sing A Long Records, it features Thomas working closely with fellow singer-songwriters Sufjan Stevens and Denison Witmer. Much of it was recorded at the New York studio of Stevens, who gained critical acclaim with his 2005 release, “Illinois.”
Thomas and Stevens toured together in Europe, just before Stevens’ career took an upward turn.
After her third record with Sub Pop, Thomas called Stevens, saying she was stressed out about the music business. “We spent over an hour talking about it, and then he said, ‘Why don’t you come out here? Let’s record together, just for fun.’ “
Thomas and Stevens started recording together in New York, and it came out so well, she decided to make an entire record there. “No pressure, no deadlines. … We flew kites on breaks, and then we’d take a week off and watch movies.”
The pleasure of recording at a leisurely pace took the sting out of the departure from Sub Pop.
“It was a three-record deal, so I suppose you could say they broke up with me,” said Thomas. “I suppose they could have talked about renewing” the contract when she was talking to Poneman last year. “I was crying. I knew it was coming to an end. I knew it was the right thing to do to move forward. It was hard, I’m very loyal, I have nothing but great things to say about them and the things they did for me.”
Raised in Michigan, Thomas has lived in Seattle for most of her adult life. She stayed in New York while recording her new album, and thought about moving there, but eventually decided to stay in Seattle.
Returning home after touring the East Coast, Thomas plays from her new album at the Triple Door (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, $15).
Thomas also has a comic alter ego, an intensely nerdy gal in a neck brace — shades of Andy Kaufman. (See samples on Youtube.com.)
“I just started doing comedy again and actually opening the show every night on this tour as my character Sheila Saputo … should be pretty fun … scary … terrible? Hopefully all of the above.”
And now, Grand Archives
Two years ago: Horses, featuring Mat Brooke, released a spectacular demo, played a few shows, became Seattle’s biggest buzz band, changed its name to Band of Horses (to avoid a conflict with another band) and signed to Sub Pop. All within a few brain-rushing weeks.
March-April, 2007: Archives, featuring Brooke, releases a dazzling demo, plays one show, becomes Seattle’s biggest buzz band, changes its name to Grand Archives, signs to Sub Pop.
Things are happening so fast for Grand Archives that its second show will be at the Paramount. Brooke’s band opens for Modest Mouse on Sunday night. (See Modest Mouse story on Page 4.)
After touring with Modest Mouse for a few weeks, Grand Archives returns for its first headlining spot, at the Crocodile on April 27. (Band of Horses’ first headlining show? The Crocodile, of course.)
Tom Scanlon: firstname.lastname@example.org