If you're looking for something to do Thursday night that involves happy pop rock, a great venue, and an enthusiastic crowd, we have a show for you. Falls-Church-native-turned-San-Francisco-transplant Thao Nguyen will headline at the Independent with her band, The Get Down Stay Down. Her Noise Pop acoustic show at the Swedish American Hall this year was so sold out that the venue turned away Noise Pop pass holders. We even spotted John Vanderslice behind the bar tapping beers for showgoers.
I had the opportunity to interview Thao for the Noise Pop program guide and it turned out to be one of the most fun conversations I've had with a musician today. On the phone she's spunky but down-to-earth, confident but modest. Here's a snippet from the Noise Pop Q&A:
JH: Did opening for Rilo Kiley and Xiu Xiu in the beginning of 2008 pay off when you went out on your own later in the year?
T: When we released [We Brave Bee Stings and All], if we had gone on our own headlining tour it would have been just a string of shitboxes. But when we did that headlining tour a lot of people showed up who would not have had they not seen us otherwise with these other bands. There's no way that we had any sort of footing or clout. We used to play so many places with "tavern" in the name and it's just not that cool.
JH: Taverns can be tough. Any artists you’d love to play with?
T: I have a very deep affection for Andrew Bird, but I feel like if we shared the same bill I would be paralyzed because I'd feel too inadequate to play. And Mirah, I've always been a really big fan of her.
JH: How much songwriting does the rest of the band do?
T: I would say that I write all the songs. It's weird, I'm not really into control but definitely with songwriting I want it, so I prefer that the guys in the band not even hear the song until I feel like it is complete. And they write their own parts because they're much better at drums and bass than I am. I love that collaborative energy, it's just that the song—I need it to be my own.
JH: How did you find each other?
T: Willis and I went to college together and he was pretty much the first drummer I've ever played with. He's like my first rhythmic love and I think he's amazing. I know that he's irreplaceable because I've tried before and it didn't work out.
JH: And Adam?
T: We dated for a minute a long time ago. They are the best musicians that I have had the pleasure of working with. At the same time, we gel enough personality-wise, and we're of the same ethos and the same goals so it works, for the most part, really well.
JH: Working and traveling with these two guys all the time, do you sometimes crave the company of women?
T: I swear, for every 14,000 men there's one woman. Other bands you play with, the people in crews, the staff at venues—everyone is a dude. I know a lot of great female musicians but for whatever reason there's just less. When you do meet a woman that plays music—a touring musician, which is kind of a weird lifestyle—the camaraderie is almost immediate because we have so much to talk about, grievances and triumphs.
JH: I hear you’re looking for a fourth member, now’s your chance.
T: Yeah, and I would love if it was a woman. Mostly they have to be cool, but think I need that balance. Sometimes after three weeks or two weeks with these two dudes I haven't talked about my feelings in forever.
Down-to-earth as she comes across in conversation, as soon as she gets onstage, Thao transforms into a true performer. She unleashes an amazing energy that, as cliche as this may be, is contagious. Expect lots of dancing and happy faces at the Indy show. If the Swedish American show is any indication, expect the crowd to be full of ladies, too.
If we've piqued your interest, listen to some tracks here: http://www.myspace.com/thaomusic because listening is better than us trying to describe the sound. And, of course, she'll be at the Independent this Thurs with openers Sister Suvi and Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers. Tickets are $15 + fees.