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Norfolk/Wrentham - Local Town Pages

Local Band Copilot Returns to the Music Scene

From left, Copilot band members Ry McDonald, Dylan Allwine, Maggie Quealy, Austin Beveridge, and Jake Machell.

Local Band Copilot Returns to the Music Scene

By Brendan Zimmerman

Copilot has been gigging around the New England music scene for several years now. And now, after the pandemic has sidelined many bands, they’re coming back with live shows and new music. 

Formed several years ago, Copilot features two King Philip Regional alumni from the class of 2010: Ry McDonald and Maggie Quealy. While they both knew each other during their time at KP, they didn’t play music together until several years later when they formed a duo. And after that, Copilot officially formed in 2017 when McDonald, Quealy, and another fellow singer, Jake Machell, were all living together in New Hampshire. 

The band’s current lineup has six members: McDonald, a Norfolk native, who plays rhythm guitar and sings; Quealy, a Plainville native, who sings; Austin Beveridge, who plays bass guitar; Dylan Allwine, who plays the drums; Machell, who sings; and Jack Snow, who plays lead guitar. Together, their combined sound is a powerful, soulful take that mixes beautiful harmonies and gentle acoustics. The band is based primarily in Boston as of now, and they usually play shows across New England and in New York. From 2017 to 2019, the group released two albums and several singles. 

McDonald elaborated on where his inspiration to play music came from, along with the name for the band.

“It came from my dad basically. When I was a kid, he would drive to Florida every year and he would let me stay up late when everyone else would fall asleep in the car and I would get to sit and be his co-pilot for the night. He would show me really good music. That’s where I started listening to the Beatles and all this awesome old classic rock. Then I was like, ‘Oh, I want to do that. I want to be coming out of the radio,’” said McDonald.

The pandemic had an impact on the band’s momentum according to McDonald. Once the pandemic started, the local music scene took a huge hit as venues closed and tours were canceled. They did perform through streaming but found the experience to be jarring compared to the live experience; gone was the electric transfer of energy between performer and audience. 

“The live stream concerts were tough. It’s tough to, it’s just tough to play to a screen. You finish a song and it’s just the most awkward silence in the world,” said McDonald.

Now, as local venues are slowly reopening and admitting larger audiences, the band is looking to continue playing live again and is excited to restore that in-person connection with their fans. 

Copilot’s sound is a great combination of influences. Listen closely and you can hear the variety seep through: a little bit of indie, some folk, and it’s all put together in a seamless mixture across their discography. Each member of the band brings their own individual influences as well (for example, the indie band Bahamas was mentioned in conversation with McDonald; other artists mentioned include Jade Bird, Jack Johnson, and Jacob Collier). With multiple vocalists in the band, they’re able to mix voices well to create harmonies that soar above the instrumentation. This all lends itself well to live performances especially; they have a beautiful, soulful sound that resonates.

Recently the band has gotten back into the studio to work on new material and record again. They went up to Maine to begin recording a new album for this year. McDonald also mentioned that they were going to work with a producer known for collaborating with several folk and pop-rock groups, including Lake Street Dive.

“Everyone has brought their best material to the table. I think everyone’s really excited to do the record and it shows everyone’s just excited. I think our biggest goal is to put the best album we can together,” said McDonald. 

When it comes to recording and songwriting, the process is very collaborative for Copilot. Each member is usually working on something ahead of recording, and the process of putting together their songs is one of experimentation and fleshing out each other’s ideas.

For upcoming shows, Copilot will be playing for the Secret Sounds Boston series on April 2, as well as playing at the Rockwood Music Hall in New York on April 30. They also have one show coming up in Vermont on May 6. On July 3, they will appear on the Hazy Little Stage for the group Nathaniel Rateliff & the Nightsweats. Their music can be found across all streaming platforms, from Spotify to Apple Music, and they are active on Instagram and Tik Tok for social media platforms as well.

Keep your ears open for music releases coming soon; their first new single is expected to be released either late April or early May. Moving forward, the group is excited and grateful for their fans and everyone who supports them in this time.

“I would say just a big thank you to everyone who is from our hometown, who has supported us and made it possible for us to do this stuff, from all of our hometowns,” said McDonald.