Stories of Yesterday and Today3/16/2016
For more than four decades, Y&T has been plying its trade, peddling its specific brand of guitar-driven rock and roll across the country. The band that takes the stage now is very different from the one that found success in the mid ‘80s with songs like “Summertime Girls” and “Contagious.” Not only are the men on stage older and wiser, they’re also almost entirely different. Y&T has had two extended periods of hiatus as the band struggled to replace members for one reason or another. Now, guitarist and founder Dave Meniketti stands as the lone holdover from the band’s 1980’s glory days. And while just about every band experiences a certain level of turnover, the longer a band’s history — and the deeper its catalog — the more important the selection of new members becomes.
“It’s really about having the same sensibilities as far as how they play,” Meniketti explained. “Drummers are really tough because you need someone who can play the same patterns, or at least very similar patterns to what your previous drummer played. That can be difficult to find.
“It’s also a relationship thing,” he continued. “Can you hang out with them for six months on the road? A lot of it is how you get along, just day to day.”
The drummer spot had been particularly difficult for Y&T to fill permanently, as Jimmy DeGrasso and founding drummer Leonard Haze had bounced back and forth between the job a number of times since 1987, with Steve Smith serving as a session drummer along the way. But after the band added current drummer Mike Vanderhule to the lineup in 2006, Y&T seemed to find its stride again, which led to 2010’s “Facemelter,” the band’s first new music in 13 years.
“Once we got Mike, it was like, ‘OK, this is the band. Let’s do something with this now,’ ” Meniketti said. “We had been basically touring on our previous dozen CDs. That would be fine for the fans, but we’re artists, and we want to create. Once we knew that we had the lineup secured, it just made sense that we got back to business and started writing again.”
The album proved popular with critics, being hailed as a return to the band’s hard rocking ‘80s form. And it proved that Y&T was not content to live out the rest of its days as a simple nostalgia act.
“The creative process has got to move on,” Maniketti said. “To feel fulfilled as a musician, it makes you feel better when you know that you can create new material. Now, we also have all four of us who have contributed to something together, as opposed to tracks that we’re playing that people haven’t recorded.”
And they are not done there. Maniketti says that a new album is in the pipeline, with the band looking to take some time off in the summer to write and record, a method that worked well for it with “Facemelter” and one that fits Maniketti’s songwriting methods. Never one to feel completely comfortable writing from the road, Maniketti appreciates having a time period dedicated solely to fostering the creative process.
In the meantime, however, Y&T is back on the road. The most popular material may be well worn, but time has done nothing to diminish the band’s passion for getting in front of a crowd and letting it all out.
“It’s all about the venue and the fans,” Maniketti said. “We’re always so excited to play every night. When you get a bunch of fans in front of us who are into the band, it’s always fun and great to do.” CV