Not your typical electric blues band 

Bottles & Cans. It’s one of the more cryptic band names in the area, and while one might likely suppose that since the majority of the group’s gigs take place in bars and nightclubs that hawk libations, it’s a reference of some sort to alcohol.

But after more than a year with the popular blues combo, even drummer Jason Gecik isn’t sure about that. In fact, he makes no assumptions about the genesis of his band’s moniker.

“You know, it’s funny,” he says. “Ray won’t really say. I think they were just being sarcastic or something. He says don’t ask, don’t tell. (laughs

Frontman Ray Lundy chuckles when told of this exchange.

“(laughs) Well, that’s 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 didn’t want to pigeonhole us, and I figured since I was using so many different people at the time, I’d call it Bottles & Cans, ‘cause there were so many coming in an out. Now, we’re still Bottles & Cans, but they’re 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 can’t 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. There’s 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. It’s all in his head.”

Walker says the band has to work hard to maintain that happy-go-lucky attitude.

“We’ve gotten so tight on some of the tunes that we’re 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 that’s the most unique thing about us.”

It’s also a by-product of the quartet’s rehearsal schedule.

“I don’t think we’ve ever practiced in this band,” offers Gecik. “We’ve just played. From the very first day I was in the band. Ray’d give me the feel, and I’d just follow him. We’ve 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, who’ve 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 it’s safe to say that we’re always entertaining each other. (laughs) The club could be empty, and we’d still be having a good time onstage! I think that translates.”

Gecik concurs.

“I think we’ve got a good, tight friendship going in this band, which I’ve never had that before in any group. There’s always one or two people where you wonder when they’re gonna quit. Mike is serious about this. It’s his life. Marty is just a big kid who loves to play, and every night, Ray reassures us he’s 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. It’s 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 weren’t the same old thing, and get a kick out of it. It went well, and we’re 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.


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Jim Reed

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