From college jam sessions to sold-out shows at some of Boston’s most intimate venues, local indie pop rock band Copilot brings a unique energy to the live music scene.
Ryan McDonald (vocals) has always loved playing music and started toying with the idea of playing gigs in 2015, first organizing a solo act and soon adding the voice of Maggie Quealy to the mix. Ry said he remembered Maggie telling him she had failed an American Idol tryout, then hearing her voice and being amazed.
“For me, music wasn’t something that was in my plan,” Quealy said, “it wasn’t until I met Ry and all the guys (the rest of the band in their final form) that it has completely changed for me in the best of ways.”
The two played gigs as a duo for about two years until Jake Machell’s vocals were brought into the band. Machell had been in a band before Copilot, but took a break from performing while he waited for his touring member James Taylor to return, sounding and performing.
“Jake was the first person I met in college,” Ry said. “I remember sitting around a fire and hearing him sing a song he wrote and I was like, ‘How is that not a song?'”
Soon after, the band added two of their close college friends Austin Beveridge (Bev) on bass and drummer Dylan Allwine. The two had been in a band with Jack Snow who joined Copilot as guitarist. In 2018, the groups merged at a friends party called Tansa-palooza (famous among Contoocook New Hampshire locals).
“We ended up playing together there and then again at Rockwood Music Hall,” Ryan said, “Because Rockwood was one of our favorite places, we wanted to put on a great show and we teamed up again. and it locked us in.”
Since then, the group has remained in its final form.
“Six people is probably enough,” laughed Dylan, “we’re one member of the Doobey Brothers.”
Copilot began performing at various venues in Boston, but they accredited their first break into the local music scene for Loretta’s Last Call, a local country music bar that entrusted them with managing their biggest crowds.
“They gave us a really good launch pad in Boston, for a bar that’s a country bar to bring in an indie rock pop rock band and trusting us to handle a Friday and Saturday night crowd was a pretty big bone to launch,” Machell said.
The band had quite the momentum to build momentum and find their space and sound in the Boston music scene before the pandemic hit, which ultimately shut down live music and forced it into a whole new shape. The group reflected on the stark difference between live performances and the live shows they aired amid the pandemic. Machell said the transition between the two was long overdue, but also acknowledged the intimacy of playing their sets together without a live audience in the same space stream after stream.
“Gathering in the little apartment and clearing out the living room, I mean there was something intimate in there, the only place we went. We were rehearsing in Dylan’s room, he had a twin bed in there and he sat in his closet so we could all cuddle together.
While there were positives to the live broadcasts, Ryan recalled the difficulty of ensuring strong attendance.
“The hardest thing about the live stream was you knew it wasn’t going to last,” Ryan said. “I remember the first one everyone was like ‘We’re so excited to have some form of live music’ and then the next one it was like half the audience just dropped off so to be back on stage and being able to not talk to the camera is the best.
After returning to the live music scene, the band’s drummer, Dylan, had an accident that threatened his ability to walk, putting his drumming career in jeopardy. Dylan has since returned to drumming and performing with the band.
“We obviously didn’t plan for something like this to happen,” Bev said, “but it brought us closer together and made us more passionate about getting into the studio and moving forward as a band. .”
Emerging from Dylan’s accident, the band wrote and released their single “Gimme My Mans Back” on June 7 of that year.
“It means even more to me that we’re still the same core members after Dylan’s accident because it’s a bigger testament to our love for each other,” Ryan said.
Copilot has continued to release content, most recently their single “You were Nevah”, October 7. The creation of the song is inspired by the musical creation of Bev and the interesting lyrical inspiration of Ry.
“Bev brought me to her room and had a bass line and a drum loop and then this girl was mean to me on Tinder literally minutes before,” Ryan said, “and then we combined those two things and it was super fun.”
Much of the band’s music is the end result of a combination of minds, with each member contributing a different piece. The band are currently putting the finishing touches to their new album, which should be released in the coming months.
“We’ve been finding our sound for so long,” Ry said, “I think on this album we’re really digging it down and solidifying it.”
To learn more about your friendly neighborhood co-pilot and to stay up to date on releases and show dates, you can check out their Instagram @copilotmusicofficial.