Nantucket's House Band: Buckle And Shake Hitting Its Stride In Year Eight

Lola Piuggi •

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Photo Chris Holmes

Doug Cote, lead singer the island band “Buckle and Shake,” knew Nantucket would thrive with a country band, and a foggy Wednesday afternoon at Cisco Brewers is all the proof you need.

Cote screams to the crowd, “Want to go faster?” as the tempo of the song increases and rises with the smiles in the audience as arms start to raise and feet start to bounce. Buckle and Shake is a band to celebrate with, whether it’s a random Saturday at the Gaslight or late afternoon at the brewery, or wherever they happen to be playing across the island. After eight years playing together on-island, Buckle and Shake has cemented itself as Nantucket's house band. 

Buckle and Shake includes Cote, the lead singer, along with Floyd Kellogg, occasional guitarist when he’s not on tour, as well as Nantucket natives Collin Harrington on drums, Lucy Rose VanArsdale on bass, and Caleb Cressman, pedal steel and fiddle player.

“I always try to be what I would want to see if I walked into a bar, and I knew nothing about the band,” Cote said. “Like, ‘yeah! What the hell is going on up here’?”

Doug moved out to Nantucket in 2014 after living in New York City and playing in his band, The Sweet Ones. Doug described the switch from moving from New York City to Nantucket as being a positive one.

“I just played a lot more music out here,” he said. He felt that while he was playing in New York he was filling a void to some extent. Originally Doug started playing at Cisco Brewers and the Chicken Box, and then he started Buckle and Shake in 2015. “I met Caleb and Lucy who were in (the band) Coq Au Vin that was out here, and then kind of morphed together into Buckle and Shake.”

Cote said the backstory on how they created Buckle and Shake’s sound includes Pete Arsenault, who was one of the original guys Doug started playing with. Doug, Lucy, and Pete started playing together as a trio at Cisco Brewers.

“This was back when they had the bands right where the beer bar was,” Cote said. Soon Floyd joined in on the drums, and then they added Cressman. Caleb learned the pedal steel for Buckle and Shake, which is “kind of the defining sound of country music,” he said. “So then it kind of became a band… word of mouth got spread, people seeing us playing at Cisco and the Gaslight, and just playing out, and we got lots of inquiries. I always knew that a country band would do well out here, and it has.”

“The island has been good to the band,” Cote emphasized.

Buckle And Shake at the Gaslight. Photo by Holly Rae Estrow

In the summertime, the band plays at numerous venues across the island, including the Dreamland, bars, restaurants, and even some private events and parties.

“Offseason is cool because it's just you know everyone in the crowd, you know all the faces,” he said. In the summertime, Cote described it as being more of the band that happens to be there that night. However, Cote said it’s been amazing to see that over the past few summers, people have come to know Buckle and Shake, becoming more familiar with their songs and their sound. One summer some girls who knew one of their tunes - “Parking Cars” - requested it by writing it out on their phones to show the band from the audience. “For whatever reason people gravitate. I mean, I don’t know how much more you want out of music to write a song people want to hear,” Cote said.

This summer they are playing a lot of private parties and weddings as well, and the band has really enjoyed doing wedding welcome parties. “Those are awesome because that’s the Thursday or Friday people get in,” Cote said. “And it’s less stressful than a wedding itself.”

On Wednesdays, you can find Buckle and Shake at Cisco Brewers all summer from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Most Saturdays throughout the summer they will be at the Gaslight from 10:30 p.m. to close.

Within the last three years, getting hired to play those private events has become a boon for the members of Buckle and Shake to complement their regular gigs. Cote said it’s been a win-win because when people want live music or a band for a party, they don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting a band to come over from the mainland. “We have all just been pushing, all of us are full-time musicians, I work with my wife, she has a gardening company but most of my time is spent [rehearsing] right now,” he said.

Buckle and Shake’s name came from sort of poking fun at bands’ names like “shovels and ropes, etc.”

“There were a couple of other bands that had these funny names that I liked, and it was going to be shaking something, and buckle and shake sounded kind of like a cool name,” Cote said. “It worked for the style of music we were doing.”

Cote said he always thought about the name this way: when someone gets punched, their knees would buckle, and shake was the leftover weed at the end of a bag. “It’s whatever you want really,” he said.

This time of year they play more covers than originals, but they do have five or six original songs that they work into a set while trying to keep a good balance for the crowd. Buckle and Shake fans can soon expect five new tracks that will be debuting on Spotify.

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Photo by Lola Piuggi

The band has a lot of fun playing covers for the crowds, Cote added.

“We do them so differently too that they’re sometimes even unrecognizable from the original [song],” he said. For example, the band plays “Always Alright” by Alabama Shakes, and it “doesn't necessarily sound like the way that it is…I think it always kind of has a little bit of a different twist.”

It adds some authenticity of originality even though it is a cover. The tricky part about them playing out here in a resort town is having to find that balance between originals and cover songs people want to hear. But their audiences seem to prove they aren’t doing much wrong.

In the summertime, “Cisco could be hit or miss, it could be awesome, everyone’s paying attention and then there's other days where it can be totally background music” he said. “That's the nature of any place that you play a lot.” At the Gaslight and the Chicken Box, people tend to be there more for the band, and it's more like trying to get the crowd on board and saying ‘Let’s do this’.

"It's been a long time since I've been playing in a band… So I think that just I don't know, I think you're always growing. I think you're always learning. If you're not, it becomes boring” he said. In the last couple of years, he has focused on guitar playing, because he just wrote songs before.

The band’s stage presence is strong and energetic. Their sound electrifies and is made of rasp and twang, along with heart and soul. It is often difficult to translate the artist's emotions to the audiences, but they do it and smiles and sing-alongs are the evidence.

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