As one of Minnesota’s most widely celebrated and well-traveled rock singers of the past decade, Channy Leaneagh has a hard time clarifying to people outside the state why she’s been laid up for most of 2019.
“It’s hard to explain ice dams to people not from here,” she lamented.
“But then everybody here in Minnesota knows exactly how it could’ve happened.”
What happened is this: The frontwoman from the pulsating electro-rock ensemble Poliça — who also made a name for herself in the groups Roma di Luna and Gayngs — broke her back at the end of February when she fell from the roof of her Minneapolis home while trying to clear ice dams.
Leaneagh’s ladder gave way as she stretched to reach a troublesome patch of ice threatening to damage her roof and ceiling.
To add to her bad luck, she had cleared the sidewalk beneath and fell on the hard concrete instead of the surrounding mounds of snow.
“I’m a total busybody when I’m at home, and I suffered for it in this case,” she said.
Lucky for her fans, though, Leaneagh got busy creating music in recent months even while she has been too fragile to perform live.
She not only finished working on a new Poliça album during her downtime (look for its release early next year), but also took up an invite from Walker Art Center to form a new group exclusively for its Avant Garden party.
Leaneagh’s first performance since her injury will be at the museum’s Sept. 21 shindig. Her new project, a one-off band dubbed Ringing Bell, also features neo soul/R&B singer Mina Moore, dance DJ and producer Alex Nutter and experimental beatmaker Mark McGee of Marijuana Deathsquads and MAKR notoriety.
She described it as “sort of a dark and industrial but very danceable” project that has been in the works for months now.
“The idea came up about a month or two after my fall, and it was the perfect kind of bright spot I needed at the right time,” she said.
Finding her groove again
Leaneagh couldn’t do much of anything that first month after her injury. She then spent the next several months going through physical therapy and wearing a body brace. All the while, she kept up her duties as a mom to a toddler son and fifth-grade daughter as best she could, but she couldn’t make any money performing nor return to her part-time job as a nursing assistant.
At least the latter gig gave her some perspective, she said: “I work with people who are paralyzed, so I’m very aware of how lucky I am it wasn’t worse.” Also, she was grateful for a GoFundMe campaign that circulated around the Twin Cities music community and helped offset her medical bills and lack of income.
Still, she hated being sidelined: “I’m the type of person who can’t even watch much Netflix when I have the flu. I like to stay busy. So I was feeling pretty desperate.”
Toward that end, her husband, Ryan Olson — a producer and musician who crafts the basic tracks on Poliça’s albums — gave her a bundle of new tunes to comb through. Poliça’s sound engineer, Alex Proctor, also came over and set up a makeshift home studio for Leaneagh to essentially write and record from her bed.
“Music came through again,” she declared. “It helped me rethink my situation, and move on and let go.”
‘One goal at a time’
Adding to her personal momentum in more recent months, Ringing Bell has been getting together to write and rehearse for its Walker gig.
Leaneagh admitted the project “felt a bit daunting at first,” because only a couple of different pairs of the members had worked together before — which is more or less the M.O. from the Walker for the Avant Garden gig. In particular, she and Moore both sang on last year’s buzz-generating album by Los Angeles R&B vet Swamp Dogg, but they didn’t really know each other.
“We’re really hitting it off and complementing each other’s strengths, which are very different,” Leaneagh said. “And just to get to sing with another female vocalist has its own unique strength, I think.”
Among the original material that the new group has created, she described a few of the songs as “very structured in the traditional verse-chorus-verse way,” while several others are “more experimental and instrumental.” For the latter tunes, Leaneagh will play violin again (which she often did with Roma di Luna) while Moore uses her voice “more as texturing, almost like it’s another instrument.”
Asked if Ringing Bell will really be a one-night-only affair, as the Walker advertises, Leaneagh simply said, “We’ll see. One goal at a time.”
As for Poliça, the quartet will preview its new tunes with a short string of gigs in November, including two instantly sold-out hometown shows Nov. 26 and 27 at 7th St. Entry in Minneapolis. Those performances also will be a test to see how well Leaneagh can stand up to the rigors of touring again. She already sounds confident that she can make nearly a full recovery, though.
“I just can’t be lifting anything heavy and need to be more careful about not injuring my back, because there’s less padding there now,” she said, and added with a laugh: “Oh, and I’m a little bit shorter now because my vertebra was essentially crushed.”
Hey, more room in the tour van.