After existing solely as an idea for nearly a decade, members of Redwood Fields, Brookside Mall and Faxes have finally come together to make music as Great Danes.
We often refer to music scenes as being cyclical things. High points, sometimes years in length, with lots of activity, new bands and growing audiences always seem to precede an inevitable downturn, leaving the door open for the next wave of bands to eventually roll in and light the next fire. But this way of interpreting the ebbs and flows of a community doesn’t often touch on the musicians themselves, who can just as easily find themselves drifting apart only to reconnect at some point in the future with new ideas, new goals and new sounds. Great Danes are a perfect example of how musicians can also find themselves unknowingly locked in a similar loop.
Bruce Duval and Brendan MaGee were once members of a band called Redwood Fields. Together with Cedric Noel and Heather Ogilive, Redwood Fields’ infectious indie rock, onstage presence and creative output helped usher in a new wave of excitement in Fredericton music during the band’s short run in the early part of the 2010s. MaGee would later team up with drummer Josh Steeves to form the group Brookside Mall, with bassist Dylan Ward eventually joining the fold. And much like Redwood Fields, Brookside Mall’s existence would be a short yet memorable one of no less importance.
Enter Great Danes. A new five-piece group that finds MaGee reconnecting with bandmates from both Redwood Fields and Brookside Mall, while also bringing a new voice into the fold.
“The band is essentially Brookside Mall backing my best friend Bruce Duval, and with his older brother Dave (Faxes),” said MaGee. “Bruce and I have been working on these songs for years, and were encouraged to finally record them at Shiftwork Studio, thanks to an emerging artist grant from Music NB.”
Great Danes’ debut EP That’s Guilt! is a collection of five tracks that tie together much of the band’s lineage through new songs, an instrumental and a previously unreleased song from Redwood Fields.
“Czech, You’re Right, and Stoned are all songs Bruce wrote and the rest of us fleshed out,” said MaGee. “Dave wrote and recorded our intro track, and Spring is an unreleased Redwood Fields song.”
According to Bruce Duval (vocals and guitar), the idea of Great Danes actually predates every other project this collective have been involved in over the years.
“Since even before the Redwood Fields days Brendan and I had wanted to do something like this,” he said. “We’ve had the Great Danes idea in our heads since like 2012, we just never really did much with it. Honestly, it was mostly just talk with very little traction, as we never actually had any songs written. So it was really just a matter of time before we actually put work into it and got something done.
“Once Redwood Fields broke up I put more of my focus into trying to write my own songs rather than drumming,” said Duval. “I’d say the skeletons of these songs have been there for years but it wasn’t until a year or two ago we decided to really start to take it more seriously. The biggest challenge was really finding the sound and direction we wanted to take this in. Once we started recording it seemed those things became more clear. Having my brother Dave, Josh and Dylan come in on this is really when everything kind of tied together. We’re all very happy with the way everything turned out.”
On their debut EP, That’s Guilt!, Great Danes mix familiar indie rock with vocal phrases that draw strength from shifts in pitch and resonance, all while sitting comfortably above catchy, anthemic choruses and nostalgic tones. If you want to get all anthropological about it, there’s a lot to explore on this EP. Elements of the aforementioned bands/projects can all be easily identified. But you don’t have to be familiar with Great Danes’ family tree to pick up on this EP’s energy. It’s just a fun listen – front to back.
Great Danes’ first single, Czech, arrived in February. That’s Guilt! is out today via Bandcamp.