Yacht Z is an all-star band of SEAsoned Austin, TX musicians who, between them, have played in more bands than there are fish in the ocean.* Discovering that they all had a mutual love for the smooth, melodic, and sometimes funky genre commonly known as “Yacht Rock,” they decided to band together like a musical Voltron to become a powerhouse yacht rock machine.
As with most genres, exactly what is “Yacht Rock” can be a contentious subject, which ironically feels decidedly not Yacht Rock. How can you feel contentious listening to the smooth grooves? But we digress. The term was coined in 2005 by the makers of an online comedy video series called “Yacht Rock” which features actors portraying musicians like Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Jimmy Messina, Steve Porcaro, and Daryl Hall & John Oates. It generally refers to music from around 1975-1984 which was usually referred to as “Adult-Oriented Rock” or “AOR,” as well as “Soft Rock” and “West Coast Sound.”
The creators of the term have a pretty strict definition of the term and have been critical of the overly expansive definitions that have broadened over time which they refer to as “Nyacht Rock.” The originators set forth these guidelines:
- High production value
- Use of “elite” Los Angeles-based studio musicians and producers associated with yacht rock
- Jazz and R&B influences
- Use of electric piano
- Complex and wry lyrics
- Lyrics about heartbroken, foolish men, particularly involving the word “fool”
- An upbeat rhythm called the “Doobie Bounce”
In 2014, AllMusic’s Matt Collier identified the “key defining rules of the genre” as follows:
- “Keep it smooth, even when it grooves, with more emphasis on the melody than on the beat”
- “Keep the emotions light, even when the sentiment turns sad (as is so often the case in the world of the sensitive yacht-rocksman)”
- “Always keep it catchy, no matter how modest or deeply buried in the tracklist the tune happens to be.”
Yacht Z does tend to lean toward a more lenient definition, as it allows us to bring more great music possibilities on deck. Some of the crew are fans of Yacht Rock Radio on SiriusXM radio, and use that as a source as well. In the end, we use our nautical, musical hearts. Does it “feel” appropriate to us? Does it fit in? Does it groove, but oh so smoothly?
As a bunch of music nerds, we love and invite discussions, suggestions, and opinions, but just as with the music, always keep it smooth, and the emotions light.
* Accuracy of actual numerical value not guaranteed.