The tides have recently returned smooth music from its ’70s and ’80s island outpost to an eager and growing audience. Steely Dan and Hall & Oates are hot again. Jazz bassist Thundercat recently released a song with guests Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins. The resurgence of so-called yacht rock was given a Crescent City twist by the dapper band Where Y’acht, masters of musicianship, neckerchiefs and piña coladas.
“I had the name for four years and was trying to put the band together,” said founder and drummer Eric Rogers. “We rehearsed hard for about three months and played our first show in August 2015. It was a no B.S. kind of band. I wanted to play the songs like the record. It wasn’t gonna be a joke per se. We like to keep ourselves on our toes—strive to play some ambitious stuff.”
Lead singer and keyboardist Adam Campagna added, “We really like the music. It’s good, complicated, and fun to play.” Rogers continued, “We have just under 60 songs right now. We’re starting to expand the boundaries of what is considered yacht rock.”
So, what exactly is yacht rock? What does it sound like? Are there any definable attributes?
Rogers clarified, “If Michael McDonald had anything to do with the recording, you might have a yacht rock song. There’s a lot of saxophone. Wurlitzer or any electric piano with a chorus or phaser effect. It’s got to feel smooth.” Campagna noted, “There can’t be too many rock ’n’ roll guitars in it. You need to be able to put a flute solo in there.”
As far as an era, Where Y’acht navigates mainly in the late ’70s to early ’80s, stretching as far back as 1972 with “Brandy” by Looking Glass and forward to 1986 with “Higher Love” by Steve Winwood.
Crowds run an age range well beyond most rock shows, whether at home base One Eyed Jacks or elsewhere. “It’s a much older crowd. There’s a large percentage of our audience over 40 years old. Young people come out because it’s a fad right now and that’s great. A large percentage of our audience show up dressed the part and ready to have the time of their lives. Not to quote another song!” said Rogers. “Every show is pretty packed, people are getting down, closing their eyes, and losing it,” said Campagna.
Of course, the band itself must have a certain visual style. “We want people to look at the band and feel like they’re time warping into the ’70s,” said Rogers. “We’re not trying to go over the top like silly guys wearing costumes,” emphasized Campagna. Expected dress includes blazers, jaunty hats, white jeans and deck shoes. Rogers added, “Facial hair was very important in the ’70s and ’80s, and we’re all on board with that—no pun intended. Check out Doobie Brothers photos from the late ’70s, or whatever Donald Fagen was wearing is pretty much spot on.”
“Or Michael McD,” said Campagna, which leads to the discussion that blue-eyed soul singer Michael McDonald is considered the patron saint of yacht rock. High regard for his vocal timbre, range and phrasing has returned from the dry dock. Rogers stressed, “Michael’s music is the hardest stuff to play. Not just the music. To replicate his vocal range is nearly impossible, but we do our best.” “His voice is basically a synthesizer,” said Campagna. “You’re not trying to mimic it.”
Where Y’acht’s set at Bayou Boogaloo will be the first time the band has played next to a body of water and they plan to pull out all the stops. Rogers noted, “We’re trying to put together a way to get a sailboat on Bayou St. John for that show. We haven’t reached our full potential yet for people who know about us.” Campagna added, “Hopefully a flotilla of hardcore fans who will come in on the water. There will be a lot of references to sailing. We will play ‘Sailing.’”
Where does the band see themselves in the future? Will New Orleans hold onto the trend when pop culture moves on? Does Where Y’acht look to branch out?
Rogers said, “We aim to take over the Southeast, the casinos on the Gulf Coast, and every yacht or lake scene party—see how hard it is for people outside of New Orleans to understand what it means. We were playing a casino in Vicksburg, Mississippi and they announced us as Where Is Yacht.”
Campagna added, “It’s a weird moment right now where it’s become a pop culture thing over the past year or so. The web series that coined the term yacht rock was from 11 or 12 years ago. It’s hitting a chord with people.” Rogers retorted, “It’s striking a minor 7th chord with everyone.”
Where Y’acht is Eric Rogers on drums; Adam Campagna on lead vocals and keyboards; Jon Harris on guitar; Khari Allen Lee on saxophone, flute, keyboards, and vocals; Charles Lumar on bass; Anthony Cuccia on percussion and synths; Cory Schultz on trumpet, keyboards, guitar, and vocals; and Andy Plovnick on synths.