Interviewing the Fellows’/R.E.M’s Scott McCaughey

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Other Key Interviews

Scott, like Mark Arm, took a little while to get ahold of.  While he is not a household name, Scott has indeed attained prominence with R.E.M. and other projects, and has played on Letterman and other national stages.  More importantly, though, I had to talk to a member of the Young Fresh Fellows, a band that changed everything for the Seattle music scene.  Up until my interview with Scott, my only contact with the Fellows’ was their defacto manager/producer/record label guy Conrad Uno.

Back in 1984, Seattle music appeared to be dead in the water.  A once vibrant all-ages scene had closed down, and musicians who desired success left town for perceived greener pastures.  For those who stayed, making music became its own end.  With few club opportunities, the music scene moved underground–literally–into University District basements.  It was during this time that new creative forces became unleashed such as the U-Men (then at their peak), Room Nine, the Green Pajamas, the Walkabouts, the Ones, Soundgarden, Green River, and the Young Fresh Fellows.

The Fellows were not grunge, but they inspired a whole generation of grunge musicians.  Back in ’84, the band did something that seemed impossible for an independent Seattle act.  They released a record!  Not a single, not a couple of tracks on a compilation, not an EP, but a full length record.  And it was good.  Further, McCaughey and his brethren were one of the few Seattle bands to focus on lyrics…and they were fucking funny!  “[It was] just an effort to entertain the other guys in the band, really,” says McCaughey.  “It was a very insular thing.  I wasn’t thinking about whether other people would think it was funny.  I think that we developed this sense of humor within the band and I wanted to crack them up.”

Listen to such Fellows’ tunes as “Amy Grant,” about the Christian singer turned pop star, and “Searchin’ USA,” to get an idea.

The band’s live show was unsurpassed.  “In their heyday, I would defy anybody to try to follow the Young Fresh Fellows,” argues the Posies’ Jon Auer.

Further, the Fellows kept acoustic guitars in the mix, which was not the norm for the ’80s Seattle scene.  “We also, [in] those early first couple years,” says McCaughey, “often had a Farfisa organ also, which we used quite a bit until it got too much beer poured in it.”

Then, in 1986, something amazing happened…the Fellows second record, Topsy Turvy, received a favorable review in Rolling Stone.  “Everybody in Seattle thought we were a really big deal because we got a review in Rolling Stone,” says McCaughey, “….Everybody I think thought that we just completely made it.  They didn’t know—as far as we were concerned, we were still going on playing shitty shows for $150.”

The Fellows never actually broke up, and you can catch them on December 3 at Seattle’s Triple Door.

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