The Great Unwashed to play for the masses

Local band puts new spin on old hits

The Great Unwashed will play on March 6.
Viara Mileva

While The Great Unwashed’s name may raise a few eyebrows, this four-piece Kingston band is making a name for themselves, revamping old hits for modern dance floors.

On March 6,  The Great Unwashed will play at BLUMartini at 10 p.m.

The band name comes from an 1800s term used to describe the lower class. The band named themselves this because their aim was to create a group that made and played music for the masses—no matter their “status.”

The band was formed by bassist Rui Resendes 10 years ago, and it’s undergone major transformation since then. The current line-up consists of Resendes on bass, drummer Eric Brousseau, lead singer April Johnson Di Rinaldo, and guitarist Matthew Woodward. The quartet all come from different musical backgrounds and had never met before joining to form The Great Unwashed.

“There’s no history and I think maybe [that’s] what makes us work so well together,” Johnson Di Rinaldo said in an interview with The Journal. “When we come together, we’re able to get work done pretty quickly without any issues. And we have a lot of laughs and a lot of fun together.”

For Johnson Di Rinaldo, the band came along at just the right time. After graduating from Queen’s drama in 2003, and getting her Bachelor of Education in 2004, the former teacher developed a passion for musical theatre and performance, but never got around to joining a band.

“I suffered my first of two miscarriages and in the throes of that, I sort of gained some perspective on what I wanted in life and how to inject joy back into my life without waiting for it to happen to me,” Johnson Di Rinaldo said.

While working as a teacher, Johnson Di Rinaldo wanted to find something to channel her artistic energy into. She found The Great Unwashed through Band Mix, a social networking website for musicians, and she hasn’t looked back. 

“I walked into this audition with them and I've been with them ever since,” she said.

“It's been really such a happy, joyful ride so far that I can say nothing but great things about what it's done for my life.”

She describes The Great Unwashed as a “dance-floor band,” covering a range of classic Motown, funk, and soul hits from Stevie Wonder to the Rolling Stones. They’ve made it their mission to keep their setlists interesting, pulling from a repertoire of old favourites not often heard on the local scene.

“It's kind of like the best party playlist. Where you're like, ‘Oh my god, like I haven't heard this song in ages and I love it!’”

While the band focuses on crowd-pleasing covers, their plan for the upcoming year is to broaden their scope and dig into their future as a serious band. While they haven’t released their own original content, collaborating on Resendes’ prospective solo album have brought the band members into the studio.

Still, their main focus is getting their audience on the dance floor. Johnson Di Rinaldo says BLUMartini’s welcoming atmosphere is the perfect place for everyone, young and old, to have a good time.

Resendes’ vision for the band was a group that would provide music to the masses, who are otherwise known as “the great unwashed.” 

“Rui is a pretty intelligent guy. He's got his PhD. He's kind of smarter than the rest of us put together,” Johnson Di Rinaldo explained. “The idea here is that we play music for the regular people.”

“But we do shower,” she added. 

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