Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our new feature, Mic Check.
Yacht Rock Revue was in San Francisco, touring behind their first album of original material, when the coronavirus pandemic swept through the Pacific Northwest.
The Atlanta based-band, beloved for its faithful and fun recreations of timeless head-bobbers from artists such as Hall & Oates, Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald, had just landed in Rolling Stone with a story about “Hot Dads in Tight Jeans,” their longtime-fan-awaited collection of new songs. Fresh merchandise was in venues, radio was sniffing around one of their songs, “Step,” and then momentum crashed.
“That same day we had our story in Rolling Stone was also, oh, and the world is about to fall apart. It was the weirdest two different time lines,” said Nick Niespodziani, YRR’s frontman and co-founder.
Yacht Rock Revue is a full-time enterprise, with 15 full-time people among band, staff and touring crew (along with Niespodziani in the band are Peter Olson, Mark Cobb, Greg Lee, Mark Bencuya, Mark Dannells, and David Freeman).
Like many of their peers, YRR has stayed active online. Their “Thursdays of Summer” series will continue at 9 p.m. June 11 on Facebook with an “‘80s Night,” while band member Olson and wife Alyssa entertain on the YRR Facebook page at 4 p.m. Sundays. A Venmo account for crew support has been set up @yachtrockrevue.
The band’s tribute to Prince’s “Purple Rain” has also been rescheduled for Oct. 24 at the Coca-Cola Roxy.
In addition to steering YRR, Niespodziani and Olson opened Venkman’s, a restaurant, bar and music venue in the Old Fourth Ward, in 2015, which balances a staff of 35. A reopening date hasn’t yet been established.
A few weeks ago, Niespodziani checked in to tell us about his time home the past few months and plans for the rest of the year.
What have you been doing?
Running a pre-school for a 1-year-old and 4-year-old! We have a Labradoodle who is 5, so we have, like, three crazy kids running around. As soon as you finish cleaning up one meal, we’re on to the next one. I’ve been really enjoying my studio. We have an old Victorian house in Midtown and I have a big studio room. I’ve been doing Facebook Live broadcasts and making music videos. I want to try to work my way out of any challenge. It feels good to have all the people reacting on Facebook Live. It makes me feel like I’m taking some action. But the one thing I’ve made my whole career doing - getting people together and making them happy - it’s the one thing I can’t do. (The music industry) will be back, but it’s gonna be awhile. I don’t know how long this is going to take, but when it reopens it’s not going to be back like it was three months ago. I thought we had the ultimate job security; that people are always going to want to hear these songs. I never took it for granted, but you never pictured this.
What do you miss?
I miss the adrenaline of a real, live show. That feeling, I’ve compared it before to Mickey Mouse in “Fantasia” directing the sea. A lot of times onstage I feel like that. Before all of this, I felt performing I could take or leave because I love being in the studio, but with performing not being an option, I realize how much I miss the adrenaline and the vibe that I get from being on stage. I don’t miss being away from my family. I’m so lucky that’s getting filled up. If we get to the end of this thing and I’m not out of savings, I’ll be ecstatic. It’s made me realize, worst case I lose everything, but does that really matter?
What are you listening to?
A lot of my own voice! I like the new Strokes album and Tame Impala. I’m excited about new Shadowboxers and (Dutch pop artist) Benny Sings. I’m listening to stuff from when I first moved here like The Secret Machines. I’m also listening to “Pacific Breeze: Japanese City Pop.” It’s a compilation that reminds me of our music, like ‘80s with a little more modern yacht rock. Also my 4-year-old is obsessed with “Lunchlady Land” by Adam Sandler. She has broad taste in music. She loves Tame Impala and then she’s into “Frozen 2.”
What made this year the right time to release original music (“Hot Dads in Tight Jeans”)?
It felt like our fans were ready for it. We didn’t set out to be a Yacht Rock band, it just developed from the way people reacted to it. The last few years, our fans treat us more like artists - we’re not just some dudes in a cover band. Their loyalty, the way they want to interact with us. They were ready for it WAY more than I expected. I was thinking people would get up and go to bathroom when we played new songs live, but we would get some of the biggest applause of the night… When we can go back out (on the road), it will be the “Hot Dads in Tight Jeans Part II” tour. If the worst thing that happens from (the pandemic) is our album was injured by the timing, fine. We’ll be OK. We’re already writing songs for another one. It’s been encouraging. We got in Rolling Stone, Billboard and Entertainment Weekly. It was real and we can do it again.
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