Let’s clear this up right now: Turtle Folk, playing Saturday at the Live Wire Music Hall, isn’t a folkie/acoustic band. There aren’t any Joan Baez songs in the set list.
Having said that, this perennial Savannah favorite does bring out the acoustics every once in a while, but that’s part and parcel of the band’s nature: Just when you think you know what they’re up to, they’ll do something different.
Turtle Folk, which has been around since 2003, is a spirited, mostly-original rock ‘n’ roll outfit, with tendrils wrapped firmly around psychedelia and trance music, and most definitely in the jam-band spirit.
The versatile band includes Michael McCormick on lead vocals and guitar, Jamie Shanks on guitar and vocals, Joe Pelliccione on lead guitar and vocals, Zack Vogtner on bass and vocals, with drummer Sean Pelliccione and percussionist Ross Sparks.
The moniker was arrived at shortly after McCormick signed on, when everyone knew the proper chemical balance had been reached.
“Turtle Folk means, really, Turtle people,” says the 35-yearold McCormick, a Savannah native who’s the oldest member of the group. “The guys in the band are like my gang. We’re thick as thieves.
“I was doing open mic nights, and had offers to join a couple of bands. Years later, they told me they’d named it after me so I wouldn’t join another band.
“They said they waited to tell me so I wouldn’t get a big head.”
So how did McCormick – owner and operator of the Habersham Street Laundromat The Bubble Room – get his nickname?
Connect Savannah: Why do they call you Turtle?
Michael McCormick: It was a college nickname I got. I lived in a dorm room with two other guys named Michael, and I had a green book bag and a green corduroy hat. The name just kind of came from that.
Why don’t you play around here more often?
Michael McCormick: We play regionally, mainly the southeast. We’re on the road a lot. We play in Atlanta a lot. We’re kind of weekend warriors – we all have day jobs, so that’s basically where we’re at. And members of the band live in Savannah, Atlanta and Nashville, Tennessee. When we get together – when we get the opportunity to play – it’s pretty special.
You put out an EP in 2006, Yard Art. Are you thinking about getting organized, pulling things together and making a real record?
Michael McCormick: We definitely lean towards that, it’s just the reality of the music business kind of holds us back. We’ve created a lot of new songs that are originals, and it’s finding the time for each of us to go into the studio and put down new tracks … and after we do that, we think we’re planning on doing an actual tour in support of the album.
We have had offers presented to us of a contract, a tour bus and money, but there hasn’t been enough money for us all to give up our jobs and do it.
But really, our chops have gotten a lot better and we play a lot tighter than we used to. We can feel that, and people that have watched us over the years appreciate that.
How would you describe what Turtle Folk does to someone you’ve just met?
Michael McCormick: Basically, I describe the band as “Southern Rocktronica,” but really we’re more broad than that. We play Black Sabbath covers. We play real heavy stuff, and then we’ll do light country songs that we’ve written. We kind of scan the spectrum of music. We don’t like to stick ourselves in any one genre; we like to play everything, pretty much.
We’ve even tried to write a few rap songs, but you’ll probably never hear them! We don’t like to limit ourselves.
On the road, what kind of clubs do you play?
Michael McCormick: We play dark, dirty clubs that have nothing but music, all types of music. We’ve played with heavy punk bands and we’ve played with a lady who played a kazoo and a fiddle. We really get out there and play wherever we can … and whenever we can get together.
Where: Live Wire Music Hall, 307 W. River St.
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 29
Artist’s Web site: www.turtlefolk.net