In my 37 years as a musician, I’ve personally known hundreds of other rock players. Having run Cover Band Central for 6+ years now, I know thousands more. And of all of those people, I can safely say that most of them have played a Rush song at some point. It’s also a good bet that many have not played them all that well.
Rush is one of the few rock bands that you can’t just “get by” replicating their material. With odd time signatures, soaring tenor vocals, complex arrangements, and highly technical musicianship, you have to know your shit to pull off most of their songs.
There are many Rush tribute bands out there, and while not technically falling into that category, the cleverly named YYNOT (inspired by the virtuoso instrumental “YYZ” from Rush’s breakthrough 1981 album Moving Pictures), is one of the few that does the prolific trio justice.
According to their website, YYNOT was created by guitarist/songwriter/producer Billy Alexander and bassist Tim Starace just five short years ago in 2015. They quickly recruited singer Rocky Kuner—a young female vocalist who at the time was still in high school. There is no mention of the drummer on the website. It appears that they’ve gone through more than one in their short history, but current drummer Mike Hetzel replicates the masterful percussion of Neil Peart as well as anyone can.
As a bass player myself, the immediate stand out of this band is bassist Tim Starace, who clearly has studied Geddy Lee’s style and parts with care. Now, I can play a bunch of Rush tunes note-for-note, but I’ve never come close to achieving that tone. When you watch this video, and others on the band’s YouTube channel, just listen to that tone! Incredible.
Many musicians would guard the secrets to the magic of their sound, but not in this case. Starace generously filmed a breakdown of his rig, both studio and live, in this YouTube video. He also reveals how he constructs and operates the keyboard parts on each song. So if you’re looking to learn how to do things right, watch that video.
Speaking of tone, we need to talk about vocalist Rocky Kuner. Many singers can hit pitch, but what makes Kuner shine is her tone. Geddy Lee’s vocals were largely in a higher range—with some considering that he sounded more feminine—so it’s only fitting having a girl cover Rush songs. She comfortably nails every Geddy note, and comes frighteningly close to matching his tone. If you just listened to some of the audio without watching the video, you might be hard pressed to tell the difference at times between Kuner and Lee.
Much like Alex Lifeson, guitarist Billy Alexander quietly holds things together to round out the instrumental trio. What sets him apart is his wizardry in the studio. The recorded videos display a level of expertise that not many are able to match.
As if all of this weren’t enough, YYNOT doesn’t limit themselves to Rush covers. The band has completed two full albums of solid original material, which shows just how ambitious this group is. Pre-pandemic, the band was busy playing live shows and making videos, and they haven’t stopped working during the lockdown.
Once discovering this band, it was difficult to select which video to choose for this feature. They have many of the Rush favorites covered—some of them live—showing just how good they are. Although many artists have been producing patched together studio clips since the quarantine, YYNOT has been doing this for a few years. This particular video was uploaded in early March, just before everyone’s gigs were put on hold.
With the tragic passing of Neil Peart in early 2020, we will unfortunately never be able to see Rush perform live ever again. Thankfully though, there are musicians like YYNOT who will carry the torch.
“Fly By Night” is a Rush song that you don’t hear covered often. And if you do, you definitely won’t hear it played with this impeccable precision. Watch the clip below, and share this to anyone who would enjoy a group of players who know what they’re doing, and show respect to one of the greatest rock bands in history.
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