Jack Shannon has a tongue-in-cheek word of advice for venture capitalists looking for their next investment.
“VCs should really pay more attention to bands that are hanging out after their shows,” Shannon said, laughing. “Because the creative juices for stupid business ideas are really flowing at that point.”
It was on one such post-show evening that Shannon and five of his fellow bandmates in local yacht-rock cover band Three Sheets To The Wind hatched the idea for their latest venture, Steely Can Wine.
The new wine brand launched last week, selling canned wines online with names that pay homage to songs by Steely Dan and other soft-rock bands of the 1970s and 80s.
The brand is unaffiliated with Steely Dan, and is owned by Shannon and the other five members of Three Sheets To The Wind: Gregg Brooks, Marshall Norton, Micah Berry, Jay Calabro, J.C. Kuhl, as well as the band’s former percussionist Adam Stockton.
The group started Three Sheets To The Wind in 2009, much like Steely Can Wine, as a joke.
“We said, ‘Hey let’s put this set list of yacht rock together and we could wear blazers and sunglasses,’ Shannon said. “We thought it’d be a bit of a laugh.”
But over the years Three Sheets To The Wind has played in 15 states around the country, most often at gigs in the Mid-Atlantic. Shannon, who’s an entertainment manager by day, said they’ll usually play between 25 and 50 gigs a year, including weddings, fundraisers and other shows.
Last year after a stop in Pennsylvania – to which they drove in their tour bus, Steely Van – someone in the band pondered what yacht rock-inspired wines would be called.
“We started throwing out ideas and making each other laugh,” Norton said.
The idea of a yacht rock wine brand was particularly resonant with Brooks, who works by day at Ashland-based Wine & Beer Supply.
“What I do with my job, I’ve got access to wine. I buy wine in bulk, and sell it to customers and create brands for hotels and restaurant groups,” Brooks said.
The band connected with a California winery to supply wine for a test run last winter, selling Steely Can Wine at a handful of local shops and restaurants like Barrel Thief and Kuba Kuba.
“We did that to gauge interest and we sold out of those pretty quickly,” Brooks said. “That kind of put the wheels in motion to get some more varietals and take it more seriously.”
In between playing shows and working their day jobs, the band finalized the branding and concept for Steely Can Wine this year. The first three offerings are Rosé Darling, Kid Chardonnay and Deacon Red, a blend. The wines are in roughly 13-ounce cans.
They’re storing the wine at the same 1,000-square-foot space along Hamilton Street in the Westwood area where they rehearse, and sell it primarily through SteelyCan.com. Brooks said they’re delivering it themselves in a 15-mile radius around town and would like to eventually expand their offerings.
Despite being founded as a joke by a band that started as a joke, Brooks said they take the quality of Steely Can’s product seriously, just as they do the music they play.
“It’s great wine. It’s not just a gimmick. We’re not throwing some crappy stuff in a can,” he said.
Added Shannon: “We all still think it’s hilarious that we get to play this soft rock music. We take the music seriously, but the difference between us and a lot of other groups of friends who have silly ideas, is if something makes us laugh enough, we really do follow through,” he said.
“We get ABC licenses and bank accounts and make it legit. This is just one more story in our friendship history where we’ve taken a joke way too far.”