Man plans, and God laughs. So goes the Yiddish adage, and that proves no truer than with the career trajectory of the Hawaiian shirt-wearing, sea captain hat aficionados of the Yacht Rock Revue.
Since 2007, the seven-member-deep outfit has specialized in covering artists and songs one might hear a cheerful woman on a radio station ad promoting as the best easy listening from the '70s, '80, '90s, and today to get you through your workday! We’re talking only the finest selection of cheese, including the Bee Gees, Steely Dan, and of course, the masters themselves, Hall & Oates.
By their own admission, this was never supposed to happen. Yacht Rock Revue started on a lark, a joke, but soon enough, they had themselves damn near a cult following. Dad rock, yacht rock, or soft rock – call it what you will, but the fact remains that YRR are smart enough to recognize their strengths and savvy, and to capitalize on them. For the first time in their decade-plus history, the Atlanta-based group is set to release a record of original material, Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, perhaps one of the most self-aware, perfectly titled albums in recent memory.
New Times spoke to frontman and lead singer, Nick Niespodziani, as he was blowing bubbles and bouncing whiffle balls off of an overhead projector at a restaurant. A sign of madness, it was not, but visual experiments Niespodziani was conducting for one of Yacht Rock Revue’s next music videos, “The Doobie Bounce,” a song as goofy, lively, and quirky as its name suggests.
We discussed YRR’s past, their resume, and all that’s led to this important turning point in their history. The band regularly draws some pretty impressive crowds for a tribute band, and really, for any band. But there have been several pinch-yourself instances where they thought, Holy crap — this is, like, a thing.
“The first time we did a big revival show in Atlanta and it was thousands of people and Ambrosia and Little River Band we’re opening for us. That was a moment like wow, this is kinda crazy,” Niespodziani says. “Last year was the first time we sold out Chastain Amphiteatre, which is almost 7,000 seats, and we’re up there playing Wings songs with Denny Laine, so that’s definitely a moment.”
Rocking the stage with Laine is just one of a series of appearances for YRR alongside their yacht-rock heroes. Although Niespodziani tells us that one of the funniest encounters was backstage with a lovable Eddie Money barreling through stage curtains, pleading for a Tums, the most surreal was playing “She’s Gone” with the band’s greatest influence, John Oates of Hall & Oates.
“I got to be Daryl Hall with John Oates,” he says. “That was really fun. We didn’t know for sure that he would agree to play with us and like an hour before he did it. It all happened so fast.” This dream pairing came on a music festival cruise hosted by Train. Niespodziani’s favorite memory from that day? An unlikely mistake.
“That video is online and if you watch it, John Oates takes the guitar solo and he kinda botches it, but the camera is on our guitar player, Monkey Boy, and it makes it look like our guy is screwing up,” he says laughing. “I love rubbing that in.”
Over the years, the borderline comedy / tribute band has received comedic “accolades" ranging from Best Place to Get Drunk With Your Dad to Best Place to Start an Extramarital Affair. But the vibe that suits them best is unpretentious. They may not take themselves too seriously, but it’s all business when it comes to entertaining audiences.
More so, this certainly isn’t an overnight sensation story. Niespodziani says there hasn’t been one big break that “opened the floodgates.” Instead they ground their way through small clubs, many corporate gigs (“there have been corporate events where there were almost as many people on stage as in the audience”), and quite a few weddings. In fact, he jokingly told Entertainment Weekly that at the start, he felt like “a glorified stripper,” and that the band described itself as a really expensive wedding band.
But now, all that hard work — including playing an extravagant private show on a beach in Costa Rica, alongside fire eaters and girls dancing on bars, for the owner of Estrella beer — has come to this: ten delightfully original tracks with titles such as “Big Bang,” “You’re Welcome, Baby,” and “Bad Tequila.”
We were privileged to get a sneak preview of Hot Dads in Tight Jeans, and it’s good. Really damn good. Better yet, YRR aren’t simply aping their heroes. In fact, the first single, “Step,” is simultaneously catchy and soulful, as infectious as anything their predecessors wrote during the heyday of feathered hair and big mustaches.
And though time will tell where the album will fit in the pantheon of yacht rock, the prospect of another tribute band bringing things full circle and covering a YRR song has crossed Niespodziani’s mind.
“That would be so incredible. I’m pretty good friends with Robbie Dupree and I’ve talked a lot about this kind of stuff. If I could have one song that makes other people feel the way “Steal Away” makes me feel – that’s a song my wife and I danced to at our wedding, and that was before I met Rob Dupree or knew anything about him – if I could have a song that means something to someone like that, that would be the best for me, even one song.”
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Angel Melendez is an unabashed geek and a massive music nerd who happens to write words (and occasionally take photos) for Miami New Times. A graduate of Florida Atlantic University and an accomplished failure at two other universities, Angel is a lush and an insufferable know-it-all, and has way better taste in music than you. His wealth of useless knowledge concerning bands, film, and Batman is matched only by his embarrassingly large collection of Hawaiian shirts and onesies.