Bottles & Cans. Its one of the more cryptic band names in the area, and while one might likely suppose that since the majority of the groups gigs take place in bars and nightclubs that hawk libations, its a reference of some sort to alcohol.
But after more than a year with the popular blues combo, even drummer Jason Gecik isnt sure about that. In fact, he makes no assumptions about the genesis of his bands moniker.
You know, its funny, he says. Ray wont really say. I think they were just being sarcastic or something. He says dont ask, dont tell. (laughs)
Frontman Ray Lundy chuckles when told of this exchange.
(laughs) Well, thats just me having way too much fun with poor Jason! When I first arrived in town and put a band together, everybody told me I had to come up with a name like The Blues Bangers or The Blues Boys. I didnt want to pigeonhole us, and I figured since I was using so many different people at the time, Id call it Bottles & Cans, cause there were so many coming in an out. Now, were still Bottles & Cans, but theyre all the same brand. (laughs)
The name itself is one of many aspects of the group which defy easy categorization. For one thing, the group (which also includes bassist Mike Walker and harmonica player Marty Lockjaw Ellis) plays as much if not more than any other local blues combo, yet their rough sound and carefree stage demeanor is in marked contrast to most local blues acts.
Living in Savannah has had a big impact on the way I play, explains Lundy. When I saw a lot of the other bands in town were playing really similar shows, I thought, man I cant do that. I gotta come up with a different angle, you know?
The band, which plays between ten and fifteen gigs a month under their own name, also does double duty as another high-profile Savannah R & B unit, Too Blue. That group primarily a vehicle for frontman and guitarist Jeff Beasley and Ray Lundy to perform as a duo often swells to include drums and bass when the size of the venue allows.
Bottles & Cans repertoire is currently nearing eighty songs, which Walker says makes the experience much more fun.
A lot of bands have to play everything they know each night, and it gets old real fast. Theres a lot more freedom to mix things up this way.
The concept of artistic freedom comes up frequently in conversations with the bandmembers all of whom seem to relish the unpredictable nature and freewheeling dynamic of the group.
Our show is really high energy, says Gecik. Ray calls the songs out, and we rarely use a setlist. Its all in his head.
Walker says the band has to work hard to maintain that happy-go-lucky attitude.
Weve gotten so tight on some of the tunes that were having to backtrack and slop em down, make things loose on purpose. (laughs) When things get too slick it takes the spontaneity out of the show, and thats the most unique thing about us.
Its also a by-product of the quartets rehearsal schedule.
I dont think weve ever practiced in this band, offers Gecik. Weve just played. From the very first day I was in the band. Rayd give me the feel, and Id just follow him. Weve learned on the job.
Developing a good chemistry in front of paying crowds might be a tall order for some bands, but not the current lineup of Bottles & Cans, whove played together solidly for over a year now.
Everybody in this lineup has a great sense of camaraderie, beams Lundy. We all love working together. I think its safe to say that were always entertaining each other. (laughs) The club could be empty, and wed still be having a good time onstage! I think that translates.
I think weve got a good, tight friendship going in this band, which Ive never had that before in any group. Theres always one or two people where you wonder when theyre gonna quit. Mike is serious about this. Its his life. Marty is just a big kid who loves to play, and every night, Ray reassures us hes happy with the way it all sounds. We all care about whether or not the rest are having fun.
The group continues to carve out their own niche in the local scene, reveling in such decidedly atypical (and indie-rock) influences as The Cramps, Hasil Adkins and The Black Keys. Its that non-traditional attitude that has helped them to play a punk venue like The Jinx in addition to more standard blues-oriented rooms.
All the better, says Lundy.
When we played The Jinx, I figured those people would hear us and realize that we werent the same old thing, and get a kick out of it. It went well, and were hoping to go back. If only because none of the other blues bands would even think about it.
Bottles & Cans plays Wednesday night at Savannah Blues and 10 p.m. Friday at The Mercury Lounge.