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“Late Quakes Is The Best Work We’ve Done”- The Great Fuss

Updated: May 4, 2022

By Will Yannacoulias

photos By Tara McDermott/The Portrait Witch

April 1st was the much anticipated release date for Late Quakes, the third album from Saskatoon’s sixties rock sweethearts The Great Fuss. A fun listen from beginning to end, Late Quakes is a band hitting their hard earned stride, delivering ten new songs in the retro style that’s become their calling card. Singles “Hairbrain”, “Pink Television” and “Get Along” capture the playful raw exuberance of British Invasion rock, tempered and streamlined with a modern songwriting savvy. At the center of this sixties swirl of garage rock goodness is Pete Oldridge, principal songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and founder of The Great Fuss. We spoke to Oldridge about songwriting and self production, offering a glimpse behind the curtain of his band’s newest and most ambitious work.

The Great Fuss has a rotating roster as friends come and go from the project. “Since our 2018 appearance at Ness Creek and through the recording of Late Quakes our main lineup was the same” Oldridge explained. Keyboardist Kat Jones, drummer Eric Sample and guitarist Chris Valleau formed the core of the band during the recording sessions, with bassist Jordan Gyug joining in 2021. Friends such as Brodie Mohninger, Dylan Smith, Dylan Cooper and Matt Joyal will appear onstage or pop up on the odd recording. Oldridge is a talented multi-instrumentalist, and part of the fun of a Great Fuss live show is watching him play keyboard with a guitar around his neck or handing off the sitar as he slips his lanky frame behind the drum kit. In the studio Oldridge will also handle multiple instruments on a recording. “A lot of the first record was me playing” he recalled. “Root Thyself was a full band effort. Late Quakes I would say is about half and half, a collaborative effort between my Great Fuss bandmates and just me doing stuff in the basement.”

The songs on Late Quakes are written and arranged by Oldridge, whose love of sixties rock and experience as a songwriter combine to characterize The Great Fuss’s signature sound. Oldridge values the creative contributions of his bandmates, always striving to balance his vision with the talents they bring. “I write the songs for the most part” he explained. “Kat, Eric and Chris play their own parts and are given free rein to come up with whatever they want, but I often come with a demo or with at least a really strong idea of where I want things to go. The important takeaway is that all three of them bring things that I would never think of, and in the end the music is always stronger for their contributions. Freedom within that space if that makes sense. I can paint a picture what I’m going for, and they’re able to interpret it and express it in their own voice.”

The first single from the album, “Hairbrain”, was released in March 2021, over a year before the album release. The final track listing for the album was reconsidered several times and songs were brought back into the studio as Oldridge patiently tweaked the album. “There's no good reason” he joked about the delay of the Late Quakes release. “I was just being a slacker, maybe a little self-conscious. I couldn't settle on things and feel like they were done. In the end I think I just needed to just give myself a hard deadline.”

All three releases from The Great Fuss have been self produced by Oldridge, who is as passionate about sound engineering and production as he his about the music itself. “I once saw this video about home recording studios that said it really well” he recalled. “It explained that for around $1200 anyone can have the same quality studio that would have cost a million dollars in the sixties or seventies, everything can be emulated on computers without the unreliability. We’re in a renaissance where everyone has access to this technology, the only limits are your creativity.”

After putting so much work into Late Quakes, Pete Oldridge is excited to have the album released, proud of the songs he and the band created and eager for the album to find its audience. “Things are getting more dialed in in terms of the recording process” Oldridge reflected. “People will hear a big bump in the quality of the mixes from what we did on the first two albums, although it still has a very vintage retro vibe. That’s important to me, I’m intentionally cultivating a vintage aesthetic in the songs. We spent more time working in the studio, and it paid off, I feel the song quality and the production quality is better. Late Quakes is the best work we’ve done.”

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