It’s weird to imagine the normal way of life we knew before being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, but one big, funky band in St. John’s is determined to continue to bring music and fun to sold-out crowds at popular Downtown bars.
Cabot Power is a local band consisting of currently 12 members with a wide range of instruments and talent. The band, formed in 2015 by members Josh Chancey and Chris Davis, is always growing and changing. With members over the years coming and going, their love of creating that funk stays the same. Filling the stage, they take over the downtown music scene with their fun presence, and their overall goal to make sure everyone in their audience forgets about the stress of our pandemic lives by dancing and sharing a love for music.
I sat down with one of Cabot Power’s vocalists Jody Lear and got the inside scoop on how the band works; from dealing with multiple artists in one ensemble, to how COVID-19 has affected them.
Jody Lear, she/they, is a multi-talented musician from Gander, Newfoundland, now living in St. Johns, who has been surrounded by music their whole life.
“I was one of those kids who was singing and dancing all the time (still am) so my mom put me in voice lessons, piano, guitar, dance classes, anything she could.”
Lear studied classical singing at Memorial University of NL, which they enjoyed, but said nothing felt like the feeling of being in a band. “I love opera so much – the orchestra, costumes, drama, and it feels amazing to sing that way, but I definitely come alive when I’m with the band.”
Lear joined the band in 2018 and their addition fit like a glove. “Before I was a member of Cabot Power, back in 2015-2016, I was at every one of their shows. My parents are kinda hippy-dippy, so I’ve always been into old school tunes and was excited to know there was a band playing stuff I listened to. I didn’t hesitate when they asked me to join.”
Lear’s addition to Cabot Power enabled her to be able to sing some of her favorite songs, including incredible tracks by Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, and Lear’s incredible rendition of Love on Top by Beyonce, which is always a crowd favorite.
“How can I not feel like a badass when we do Lizzo’s Juice, or Crazy in Love?” Even with multiple vocalists, Lear said that it’s just as fun when they are not the lead on a song. “We have a lot of great singers in the band and I love when we get to harmonize together.”
Working with a group isn’t always easy, but for Cabot Power, even having 12 members doesn’t stop them from cramming onto a stage to do what they love most. Lear says the hardest thing for them is scheduling, but beyond that, the group has created a friendship that makes the work feel more personal and fun.
“Squeezing us all on stage can be a challenge depending on the venue,” Lear said. “But every rehearsal feels like a hang sesh because we all have such a good time together and there are so many personalities.
There’s no question that working within such a large group can cause some artistic frustrations, but Lear says even with the cons come many pros, especially for their music.
“We have 12 different perspectives at all times so it keeps the music interesting, even in rehearsals when you’re playing it over and over again.”
As for their work process, Lear says the range in how individual musicians work within Cabot Power allows more growth of their material. “We all have different strengths and work through music differently, but it always comes together – probably better than it would have if we all worked through it the same way.”
The COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on the band’s funk, however, which was especially hard for Lear.
“As an artist with underlying health issues, I’ve had to choose between my health and my passion, which I didn’t really expect to have to do this early in my life.”
When we look at the arts community in Newfoundland and Labrador and look at the culture in our province, interactions with the community are imperative to create that audience-performer bond, and when COVID-19 landed in NL, it put an immense strain on all art forms, and groups were forced to figure out how to still see their audiences, but also make sure they felt safe. It is a hard equation to solve, especially because audiences command the energy of the show; how do you keep that magic while keeping everyone safe?
“We knew we could put off a good show but so much of the fun comes from the energy you get back from the crowd,” said Lear. “When dance floors opened back up, we were a little hesitant but the weather was warming up so we were able to do some outdoor gigs like Best Kind BBQ.”
With the fluctuation of COVID-19 waves, artists are forced to roll with the punches and be able to alter their shows, sometimes on the spot, which not only means less funk time for the audience but less work for the band.
“With the wave we’re experiencing right now, it meant cutting from our usual two-nighter to just one show to limit our risk and give everyone time to isolate if they did present any symptoms.”
With fewer shows, more precautions, and more flexibility within a group of 12, Cabot Power really says “mess around, and find out” when faced with COVID-19 challenges, showing that their love of music, and their band members, shine through to bring their audience a night to forget about the stress and just dance.
When you’re feeling safe and healthy, make sure to check out a Cabot Power show! It is important for everyone to continue to support our arts community, especially after artists have spent the past two years, not only dedicated to their craft, but dedicated to keeping audiences safe, healthy, and happy.
Cabot Power, according to Lear, is 3 words: funky, friend, and fun!
Cabot Power Band Members (2022)
Christian Berglander -trumpet
Mark Brennan -trombone
Josh Chancey -tenor sax
Tyler Chard -drums
Chris Davis -percussion & vocals
Jenny Hutchinson -alto & bari sax
Jody Lear -vocals
Don Mackey -keys
Hunter Madden -bass
Dylan McIsaac -vocals
Ryan Sheaves -guitar & vocals
Jordan Thorne -guitar & vocals
Feature photo by Andrew Boyd
Follow on Cabot Power instagram @cabotpowernl