© — Star photo by Cory Hurley
Sherman Downey and Andrew Ross scan through their cellphone messages after Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case were named winners of the CBC Searchlight contest Friday morning.
CORNER BROOK It wasn’t so much a feeling of thievery for Sherman Downey and his bandmates as much as they have been given the opportunity of a lifetime.
The five members of Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case sat around the living room of bassist Neil Targett Friday morning, listening for the radio announcement that they had won the CBC Music Searchlight contest.
The band’s song “Thick as Thieves” progressed through the stages of the online voting, outlasting British Columbia’s The Good Ol' Goats. The Corner Brook band has been the topic of social media conversation throughout the several weeks of competition.
Downey gave full credit for the win to his fan base.
“They won it really,” he said, in between fielding cellphone calls and answering emails, texts, and Twitter messages at every opportunity.
“It is really overwhelming. The support that has come in, with the fan page and any social media, kind of took a life of its own. At a certain point, it just felt like we were along for the ride.”
The newfound fame and notoriety is expected to open some opportunities for the band, a group that say they never considered leaving Newfoundland to explore their music careers. Even during the interview, Downey answered a call that turned out to be a gig request.
“If we are careful about it, it will help support the longevity of the band and what we are doing,” he said. “That is the ultimate goal, to establish yourself and exist within the music industry.”
Sherman Downey, Andrew Ross, Paul Lockyer, and Neil Targett have been together for about four years, with the addition of Bill Allan coming in more recent years. Downey put a hold on his teaching career to explore music as a profession. Ross gives music lessons and works in a retail shop, Allan is an elementary school substitute teacher, Lockyer also gives lessons, and Targett does finances for his father’s trucking company.
But it’s music that is the priority for each.
The band will now be featured in a CBC Music video session, paid to perform at the CBC Music Festival in Toronto, Ont., and will receive $20,000 in Yamaha Canada music equipment. They also have the chance to perform at the Evolve Music Festival in Antigonish, N.S.
The prizes for winning the contest have been secondary to the journey, said the band members. As reality set in Friday morning, Ross couldn’t help but think about the possibilities.
“I have always looked at those Yamaha monitor speakers for studios,” he said. “I always wanted the bigger ones, and thought in a couple of years I might be able to afford the smaller ones. Now, I’ll go for the bigger ones.”
Meanwhile, congratulations to the band overtook Twitter feeds for some time after the announcement and continued to trickle in throughout the day.
Jacqueline Carey of Corner Brook, who quickly became known as super fan, sat with her family listening for the announcement with bated breath. She was thrilled to tears.
“They have something really unique and special to share,” she said. “I think when they play people get happy. It is great we get to share them with Canada now, and people will get to be a part of that joy and happiness — and good tunes.”
She had encouraged fans to post pictures of themselves or their families online with captions or signs to encourage voting. She was happy to help, but believes they would have won the contest without her.
“When a community rallies together for something like this, it gets a different sense of itself,” Carey said. “You feel you are power, you have the ability to sway the Canadian vote to support Newfoundlanders.”