Words by Nick Hodgins
Not many bands can say they trademarked a genre, but in Yacht Rock Revue’s case, that is exactly what they did. While it may not be the whole story, there’s no arguing Yacht Rock Revue’s success in the scene – trademark or not. The band formed in 2007 as a side project, taking the soft rock of the 70’s and 80’s on the road, playing everything from Toto to Blue Swede. Since then, they have headlined cruises, had John Oates join them on stage, released an album of originals titled Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, and established a devoted following of sharply dressed fans ready to party, known as Anchorheads.
“To me Yacht Rock is more of a vibe and a mood than a technical music description,” frontman Nick Niespodziani explains over Zoom, calling in from a friend’s lake house in Indiana. Sporting a straw hat complete with palm trees and some cool shades, the 43-year-old encompasses the vibe well as the band gets some last-minute vacation time in with their families before beginning tour in July.
Yacht Rock is most definitely a vibe, and the nine-piece band are masters of bringing that vibe on tour. With 41 stops between New York and California and 15 years of experience under their polyester shirts, they are no strangers to the road. So how do the ups and downs of touring compare to a month long family vacation with a 3 and 6 year old?
“Man honestly they’re kind of similar,” Nick reflects. “Similar in that half the time it feels like really hard work, and the other half of the time it’s the most amazing feeling ever. There’s kind of a weird balance in that way.”
From 2007 to 2020 Yacht Rock Revue was exclusively a cover band. During that time the band trademarked the term ‘Yacht Rock’ as a live music performance after disputes with a promoter led to him attempting to recreate their show under the same name.
In February of 2020 the band released their first original album, Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, with goals of tackling the genre from their own point of view – embracing the vibe or mood rather than the confines of “soft rock made on the west coast between 1976 and 1984 by elite musicians” as Nick puts it.
“It was definitely a challenge,” he recalls. “Because every other song we play is one of the best two or three songs by one of the best artists from an entire decade – so to put your own songs up against those is pretty intimidating.”
Fortunately, the band had had help from an old friend and fellow Atlanta native Ben Allen, who produced the record. Allen has produced and mixed albums for Animal Collective, Walk the Moon, Washed Out and many others – back in the day he and Nick played alongside each other in different indie rock bands.
“He’s made so many super cool records,” explains Nick. “Ben has immaculate taste, when it comes to music, he knows exactly what’s cool and what’s not. For a band like ours, we’re all really experienced and incredible players, but having never made an album together we needed someone else who could bring that perspective of taste and Ben was amazing in bringing us together in that way.”
He continues, “We’re working on the next album right now and it’s much easier to just get into that zone now that we’ve got one under our belt.”
In writing this next record, the band has been putting focus into what Nick refers to as the core of their sound and how the songs will translate when played live. Not necessarily from an instrumental standpoint, but continuing that theme of capturing the Yacht Rock essence.
“To me, the guy at the center of the sonic picture for us is our keyboard player Mark Bencuya,” says Nick. “He’s a real muscular kind of keyboard player, his pocket is so deep, so we just lean on him really heavy when we’re filling out the instrumentation. I always feel like a good song is a good song no matter what, it can be a whole orchestra or a dude and a guitar, but it needs to translate either way.”
Nick is no stranger to the idea of ‘a dude and a guitar.’ As someone who always played and wrote songs on guitar, he admits that performing without it was a bit of a challenge at first.
He went on to say, “I always played guitar when I sang. I had to learn how to commit to being a front guy who dances and sings and emotes with his hands when he’s singing. It’s a different thing but it’s been a really fun journey to learn how to do on stage.”
The band also has plans to perform Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads in full on their two Georgia dates this tour, which would see Nick return to the stage with a guitar in hand.
“We’ve done that show a few times and it’s so so fun,” recalls Nick. “We do it the same way, where I start out by myself with an acoustic guitar and do ‘Psycho Killer’ and then we add the members of the band on as the show goes on and coordinate it with our lighting director. It’s super fun.”
15 years ago, Nick might not have come across as enthusiastic towards tackling other people’s music, admitting feeling a bit conflicted initially at the idea – something he’s since came around on.
“It’s definitely been a journey for me,” remembering feeling ‘angsty’ about it at first. “Now, I’m making people happy every night. My job is to go out and just share good times with people and spread good energy in the world. What could be better than that?”
Catch Yacht Rock Revue at Pier 17 in NYC on 7/7, and at the Stone Pony Summerstage in Asbury Park, NJ on 7/8. Visit www.yachtrockrevue.com for details!
TheWaster.com | YRR