Biography Young Fresh Fellows

Young Fresh Fellows

Young Fresh Fellows
Unsung heroes of the Seattle rock community, the Young Fresh Fellows were one of the first independent bands from the rainy city to earn a nationwide reputation in the 1980s, gaining an enthusiastic cult following and the approval of critics. Few bands were more admired by their peers than the Fellows, and their skewed but tuneful mix of British Invasion-era pop, garage rock, offbeat humor, and pop culture obsessiveness had a long shelf life, with the band still making joyful noise four decades after they began.

Originally comprised of vocalist/bassist Scott McCaughey, guitarist Chuck Carroll, and drummer Tad Hutchison, the Young Fresh Fellows were formed in 1983 and debuted in 1984 with The Fabulous Sounds Of The Pacific Northwest, an understated pop nugget featuring whimsical numbers including “Teenage Dogs in Trouble,” “Power Mowers Theme,” and “Rock and Roll Pest Control,” produced by honorary Fellow Conrad Uno at his basement/garage Egg Studios.

After recruiting bassist Jim Sangster to allow frontman McCaughey to switch over to guitar, the Fellows followed with 1985’s Topsy Turvy (gathering a rave review from Rolling Stone) and their first national tour. 1987’s The Men Who Loved Music was their breakthrough release, with the absurd college radio hit “Amy Grant,” solidified the band’s cult following. The Replacements’ Paul Westerberg considered the Fellows kindred spirits, and the two groups often toured in tandem.

After 1988’s Totally Lost, Carroll left the group. In the wake of his departure, the remaining three Fellows issued an authorized bootleg arguably-titled Beans And Tolerance, before enlisting Fastbacks kingpin Kurt Bloch for 1989’s roaring This One’s For The Ladies (with fan faves “Taco Wagon,” Bloch’s “Lost Track Of Time” and Kinks cover “Picture Book”), followed by a slew of 45s on various U.S. and international labels.

In 1991, producer Butch Vig (during his two weeks “off” between helming Gish and Nevermind), captured the band in full fury on Electric Bird Digest, featuring the exuberant “Sittin’ On A Pitchfork” and the oft-covered “Hillbilly Drummer Girl.” A scattershot team was employed for 1993’s chaotic It’s Low Beat Time, with contributors Vig, Uno, Sonics/Wailers engineer Kearney Barton, and Memphis R&B legends Willie Mitchell, Lester Snell (Shaft), and Rufus Thomas.

In the wake of a Fellows’ hiatus, McCaughey simultaneously started an 18-year run as a sideman with R.E.M., and formed a new project with Peter Buck, The Minus 5, collecting an ever-changing aggregate of all-stars members. (2003’s Chicago showdown Down With Wilco, co-produced by Jeff Tweedy and featuring his band in Yankee Hotel Foxtrot realignment/rejuvenation, is a McCaughey career highpoint, and beginning a long and still-burgeoning relationship with Yep Roc Records.)

But the YFF still had plenty of life in them. Signing a new deal with Mammoth/Hollywood Records, the feisty Because We Hate You appeared (and disappeared!) in 2001, followed eight years later by the rather-essential Robyn Hitchcock-produced I Think This Is from Yep Roc. During the 2010s, the band continued to play a handful of shows most years (often in Spain), and also released their 13th long-player in 2012, Tiempo de Lujo, yet another rollicking return belying the group’s part-time status.

In August 2017, when the members of the Young Fresh Fellows learned that longtime pal and collaborator Conrad Uno was closing Egg Studios, they hastily booked time hoping to record three songs. A few days later, they walked out with 17 tracks, though completion was put on hold when Scott McCaughey suffered a stroke in November 2017. McCaughey had recovered enough to record and release a new Minus 5 album, Stroke Manor, in 2019, and Toxic Youth, drawn from the YFF final Egg sessions, saw its eventual unleashing in a Record Store Day edition in 2020.

In October 2021, the group’s ten-day tour with Wilco ended with two sold-out shows in Seattle — the last song being “Helter Skelter” with both bands wreaking havoc on stage. It would prove to be the last live show with the YFF’s 33-year Scott/Tad/Jim/Kurt line-up, as Tad chose to “retire” from performance thereafter.

Now it’s 2024, the 40th anniversary of that groundbreaking first LP. In celebration, the band will release a remixed Fabulous Sounds Of The Pacific Northwest 1984 (Omnivore Records), and with fan-since-birth drummer John Perrin (of NRBQ!) will play a handful of shows culminating at Wilco’s fabled Solid Sound Fest. LLYFF!!! (from Jason Ankeny’s excellent bio on, mangled and refurbished by Robert Stove, Jan. 2024)

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