As the Portland pop quartet All Girl Summer Fun Band proclaim in their aptly-titled "Theme Song": "They're nothing big / But they're nothing small / Just four best friends that you'd like to call / With Kathy, Kim, Arirak, and Jen / When you hear their songs / You'll want to hear them again." The group includes Kathy Foster (drums, vocals), Jen Sbragia (guitar, vocals), and New Mexico transplants Kim Baxter (keyboards, vocals) and Ari Douangpanya (bass, vocals). All four have also logged time in other bands, including Baxter's stint with Young Astronauts, Cherry Ice Cream Smile, and One Two; Sbragia with Pretty Face, Kissing Book, and the Softies (a duo with Tiger Trap vocalist Rose Melberg); and Foster with Haelah, Hutch and Kathy, and the one-woman band Butterfly Transformation Service.
The foursome came into being after a Softies show in Portland in 1998, when Baxter approached Sbragia with a cassette tape of her music. She and Douangpanya had recently moved to town from Albuquerque, where Baxter had played a gig with K Records' co-founder Calvin Johnson several years prior. Sbragia liked what she heard, and Baxter introduced her to a couple of like-minded souls: Foster and Douangpanya. That summer, Baxter asked if the women would like to make music together. The answer was an enthusiastic, unequivocal yes. She described the potential results as being that of an "all girl summer fun band" and the name stuck.
Claiming a wide array of pop purveyors as influences, Baxter and Sbragia began to write the band's spicy/sweet material while fielding contributions from the entire group. Their first single was a four-song release on Magic Marker, issued on pink vinyl and featuring a cartoon-style cover by Sbragia (who also designed the band's flyers). Next came a split with Japanese band Photo Jenny on Little Red Wagon, followed by contributions to several compilation CDs. All Girl Summer Fun Band's first full-length album, a self-titled effort on Olympia's K, was released in February of 2002. Comprising 13 catchy, candy-coated numbers about crushes, long-distance relationships, and broken hearts, the record won raves from numerous publications such as The Village Voice and The London Times.
Over the years, the band has played with a number of other independent artists, including Dub Narcotic Sound System (which counts K's Johnson among its ranks), C.O.C.O., Mates of State, Modest Mouse, and James Mercer of the Shins. Upon the release of their first long-player, they traveled around the Northwest before heading to California in March. In September of 2002, they returned to the studio to begin work on another record, followed by an East Coast tour with Johnson in late October. In April of 2003, the girls released the album they had begun working on since the previous year. 2 was another short and sweet summer pop record that expanded the band's following, but Douangpanya bowed out the following year to focus on motherhood. The other members soldiered on as a trio, and the band's third effort, Looking into It, arrived in September 2008.
Kathleen C. Fennessy