Jack Shannon has ironic advice for venture capitalists looking for their next investment.
“VCs should really pay more attention to bands hanging around after their shows,” Shannon said with a laugh. “Because the creative juice for dumb business ideas is really flowing at this point.”
It was during one of these after-show parties that Shannon and five of his bandmates from local yacht-rock cover band Three Sheets To The Wind came up with the idea for their latest adventure, 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 not affiliated with Steely Dan and is owned by Shannon and the five other members of Three Sheets To The Wind: Gregg Brooks, Marshall Norton, Micah Berry, Jay Calabro, JC Kuhl, and former band percussionist Adam Stockholm.
The band started Three Sheets To The Wind in 2009, much like Steely Can Wine, as a joke.
“We said, ‘Hey, let’s get this rock yacht list together and we could wear blazers and sunglasses,” Shannon said. “We thought it would be a little fun.”
But over the years, Three Sheets To The Wind has played in 15 states across the country, most often at gigs in the mid-Atlantic. Shannon, who is in charge of daytime entertainment, said they would typically play between 25 and 50 gigs a year, including weddings, fundraisers and other shows.
Last year, after a stopover in Pennsylvania — which they traveled to in their tour bus, Steely Van — someone in the band wondered what the yacht rock-inspired wines would be called.
“We started tossing around ideas and making each other laugh,” Norton said.
The idea of a rock yacht wine brand particularly resonated with Brooks, who works daytime at Ashland-based Wine & Beer Supply.
“What I do with my job, I have access to wine. I buy wine in bulk, sell it to customers, and build brands for hotel and restaurant groups,” Brooks said.
The group connected with a California winery to supply wine for a trial last winter, selling Steely Can Wine at a handful of local stores and restaurants like Barrel Thief and Kuba Kuba.
“We did this to gauge interest and we sold them out pretty quickly,” Brooks said. “It kind of set the wheels in motion to get more varietals and take it more seriously.”
Between concerts and daily work, the group finalized the branding and concept of Steely Can Wine this year. The first three offerings are Rosé Darling, Kid Chardonnay and Deacon Red, a blend. The wines are in cans of approximately 13 ounces.
They store the wine in 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 deliver it themselves within a 15-mile radius around town and would like to expand their offerings eventually.
Although it was founded as a joke by a band that started out as a joke, Brooks said they take the quality of Steely Can’s product seriously, just like they take the music they play.
“It’s a great wine. It’s not just a gimmick. We don’t throw shitty stuff in a box,” he said.
Shannon added, “We still think it’s hilarious to be able to play this soft rock music. We take music seriously, but the difference between us and a lot of other groups of friends who have silly ideas is that if something makes us laugh enough, we really follow,” he said. .
“We get ABC licenses and bank accounts and make it legit. It’s just another story in our friendship story where we took the joke way too far.