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Cougar Beatrice on new adventures post-grad

The former student band has kept busy developing their new sound and traveling for gigs, and is looking forward to dropping their new single “Yours or Mine?” Oct. 27

In advance of returning to their old stomping grounds, the band reflected on how much playing for the Charlottesville community still means to them.
In advance of returning to their old stomping grounds, the band reflected on how much playing for the Charlottesville community still means to them.

Plopped on the couch of their Fairfax, Va. apartment, the four members of Cougar Beatrice — all of whom graduated from the University in 2020 — detailed the highs and lows of the live performances, original music and friendship that color their post-grad lives. 

Since leaving Charlottesville and evolving past their former student band status, the group has continued chasing the “thrill” of live performance, booking shows up and down the East Coast. These big city shows certainly provide more exposure than The Biltmore or Crozet Pizza, but they also come with their own challenges — the band learned this lesson first hand in July in New York City. 

Upon returning to their car Sunday morning the night after a show, the band was bummed to find a parking ticket on their windshield. 

“As we consider what to do about this parking ticket, I walk around the back and see all the glass on the ground,” drummer Matthew McDonnell said. “Turns out the ticket was the least of our problems.”

The back window was smashed, and all three of the band’s guitars had been stolen, according to lead guitarist John Gordon. 

“We were about, you know, five grand in the hole,” Gordon said. 

With the future of the band in jeopardy, the boys were at a loss and turned to their community for support by starting a GoFundMe page. Family, friends and fans raised over four thousand dollars for the cause, covering the expenses of the guitars and putting the band back on its feet. 

“We are extremely thankful for everyone who participated in that,” bassist Jimmy Lord said. 

The list of donors was long, including old friends from home with whom the band had lost touch, Lord said.

“[It] included our middle school math teacher, who we used to terrorize,” Gordon said. 

Now, with the help of old friends and new instruments, the band is back to creating new music and traveling for gigs, balancing the long-term importance of exposure and pay with their fervent desire to play their own music. 

“There’s these private events, which pay better, but it’s kind of that trade off between…getting paid more and playing covers or potentially, like in the case of New York, sometimes not getting paid at all, but playing our own stuff,” Aguto said.

While booking shows usually presents the band with these tough decisions, returning to their “home base” seems like it's always a no-brainer. The band will be circling back to Charlottesville to play in The Southern’s annual “Mock Star’s Ball” Oct. 28., covering one of their main musical influences, Red Hot Chili Peppers, with costumes and all. 

In advance of returning to their old stomping grounds, the band reflected on how much playing for the Charlottesville community still means to them.

“For every ‘Freebird’ you hear chanted, there’s also somebody who afterwards is like, ‘wow, you guys are really good,’ and actually listens… When you find them it makes you feel a lot more appreciated,” Aguto said. 

Gordon, at the ripe age of 26, half-jokingly imparted wisdom to current University students. 

“Kids are hilarious, god bless them, just don’t do anything stupid, okay?” Gordon said. “Drink responsibly… They’re my kids now, you know? We’re talking to the youth now, they’re not our peers anymore.” 

Building a respectful discography, Cougar Beatrice has put out nine singles, their debut album “Colors of I” in 2021 and their latest EP “The Blind Hunter” in the beginning of this year. Flirting with genres ranging from indie rock to heavy metal to rap and pop, their sound is a unique blend of the themes that define modern alternative music. 

This sound is always in the works, and ever-evolving, according to Gordon. 

“I don’t know if it's ever gonna be like ‘Oh. It’s done — this is our sound,’” Gordon said.  

While the band felt held back by the limited “weapons at [their] disposal” during their early days, as their array of instruments has diversified and their skills have advanced, so has their sound. 

“Being free of that limitation I think has opened up some cool sonic doors,” Aguto said. “We can not only push the limits of what we can do live but also … in a recording setting.” 

Whether it's getting to show off their developing sound to rowdy college kids, or booking private gigs throughout the East Coast, at the end of the day Cougar Beatrice values every time they get on stage. 

“As long as there's one person [in the crowd], that means a potential person … that gets to experience all the work and all the hours of practice that we've put in,” Aguto said. “I love playing music. I'll do it for anyone that will listen, you know?”

Students can look forward to seeing Cougar Beatrice perform in Charlottesville this fall, where they plan to debut their new single, “Yours or Mine?” dropping Oct. 27.  


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