The members of The Can-Do Attitude know what they look like while loading their gear into a venue for a rock show.
“Who the hell are these nerds?” they imagine other bands think upon seeing drummer Brian Wilson in a loon T-shirt, the word “Loonatic” printed under the aquatic bird graphic, or watching singer and guitarist Lee May, wearing a Dolly Parton shirt, sling a colorfully painted acoustic guitar and pink guitar strap over his shoulder.
The perception isn’t necessarily wrong—“we are a bunch of nerds,” says May—but The Can-Do Attitude couldn’t care less what other bands think. “What’s more punk than not giving a fuck?,” he asks while drinking a glass of rosé at the downtown Charlottesville wine bar where he works. Plus, he says, “I like the challenge of surprising people” with the energy and sass of a Can-Do Attitude show.
“People do not expect the sound that comes out,” says Wilson.
The music isn’t exactly punk, but it’s not not punk. May might play an acoustic guitar, but everyone else is electrified; the music is quick and catchy, and there’s a certain amount of social commentary in the lyrics. But, The Can-Do Attitude doesn’t play love songs, and May, who writes most of the lyrics, isn’t interested in rehashing what anyone else has said about love, and claims he’s not capable of finding new and interesting ways to talk about these things.
May, Wilson and lead guitarist Colin Steers formed The Can-Do Attitude after their previous band, The Common School Movement, splintered into different directions. They linked up with bassist Ryan Gilchrist and officially formed the band, choosing the name partly because it’s May’s life philosophy (he’s an optimistic guy who “likes to get shit done”), partly because it’s a good band name, and partly because there were (somehow) already about 100 fans of “can-do attitude” on Facebook, so when they started the band’s social media page they wouldn’t be at zero.
The Can-Do Attitude released its eponymous debut album in October 2017, and while everyone is happy with the songs, the band laments the fact that the energy of its live show—and there’s a lot of energy in a Can-Do Attitude live show—isn’t fully captured in the recording.
“This band never slows down. The entire show is fast beats fast beats,” says Wilson.
Shows are why the band exists in the first place, says May. “I love to party. I love getting down. I love to dance. I love going to a rockin’ show. I love to stay up all night. Because, maybe, I wasn’t getting as many of those nights as I’d hoped, I want to be able to offer them.”
May doesn’t take himself too seriously (the songs are silly, he knows), but he isn’t satisfied with saying just anything. The self-deprecating frontman insists that he’s “an objectively poor singer,” and has to make up for his lack of skill “by saying things that are honest, that I genuinely care about and want to say.” (Wilson wants it to be known that May isn’t as bad a singer as he claims to be.)
“Big Fuckin’ Cowboy,” is about a cowboy dying in the hot sand, too proud and too manly to accept that he needs water, picking fights with everyone as he dehydrates. “Obviously metaphorical; I’ve never been a cowboy,” says May with a sarcastic sigh, pouring more rosé into his glass, but he feels the statement—about what manliness is, or isn’t—is an important one to make.
The band embraces heckling…and even starts it from the stage sometimes. Before launching into “One Hundred Fallow Acres (Augusta National),” May asks his audience, “Who likes to play golf?”
With its verses about golf courses, landfills and cemeteries, it’s a song about how these playgrounds for the rich destroy the land the game is played on, and how that pisses May off.
May sings the chorus: “I’ve never been to Augusta National. I’m never going to Augusta National. It fills me with disgust and alcohol to watch these fucks go out and smash a ball; I’m never going to Augusta National.”
Wilson laughs as May takes a well-timed sip of wine before saying, “so, that one’s fun!”
They’ll have to change it a bit for their family-friendly Fridays After Five set this week, but, as usual, they’re ready for the challenge.
If the members of The Can-Do Attitude look familiar, it could be because you’ve seen them on television. Lee May was a contestant on a January 2014 episode of “Jeopardy!,” while Ryan Gilchrist can be seen installing a wind turbine in ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” Colin Steers was a contestant on Bravo’s “Make Me A Supermodel” in 2009, and Brian Wilson was an extra in Kid Rock’s “I Am The Bullgod” music video.