by Steven Ashford
As a band, YACHT is a paradoxical influx of electronic pop music created from the abysmal chasm-minded duo of Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans. With their feet properly binding to the gravitational pull of the Earth's surface, their explorative minds are constantly orbiting the possibilities of inspiration that stretches the vast sectors of science, religion, unity and rock 'n' roll. To say it bluntly, Bechtolt and Evans are soul-searchers. They are transients, they are troubadours, they are students of the universe and teachers of expressional creativity.
On the cross-country sweep of their current tour, I caught up with Bechtolt and Evans on the road via phone to talk about their endeavors regarding the release of their latest album, Shangra-La on DFA Records. Tonight, they play the main stage of the Bourbon Theatre alongside Brooklyn's Youth Science and local acts Bad Speler and Powerful Science.
The release of their "breakthrough" album, See Mystery Lights in 2009, primarily centered on the ideals of spirituality, rituals, esotericism and mystery. YACHT was adamant about pursuing fresh, unchartered routes to engulf the meaning behind their latest release in 2011, Shangra-La, and the central theme of "utopia."
After traveling the world, playing shows and having conversations with people about the topics of See Mystery Lights, YACHT tried to turn these ideas into something they consider to be more pragmatic by "walking the walk." To move forward with the belief system of YACHT, the idea of "utopia" became a practical implementation of the band's philosophy.
"The album is kind of our way of working through the process of researching ideas, talking with people, exploring the notions of utopia as they apply to us, and ultimately what we discovered through that process was that utopia wasn't possible," Evans says, pondering her research and worldly journeys. "We've found out that any creative utopia in the history of mankind has fallen apart, whether it be the Soviet Union to Jonestown to the many, many ghosts of Socialistic and transcendentalistic communities that have littered this country... it doesn't seem like it ever worked out."
Evans thinks that this falling out of the primordial idea of utopia failed due to the individual's separation from other people living in their own ideological bubble because it isolates oneself from challenge and change and the opinions of others, which Evans finds vital.
In this day and age, YACHT finds the idea of utopia more of a "temporal" movement, especially for artists.
"Being musicians that work in a very 'time-based' medium, we found that concerts can be utopia," Evans says. "Simply being with loved ones can be utopia. But when you try and live inside a moment forever, you basically become fucking stuck in time. So, the idea is that you can bring one moment of utopia along with an exponent as long as you're willing to jump from one moment to the next."
Communication among fans has definitely played an integral part in the formulation of YACHT. Reaching out to the masses allows YACHT to gain spiritual enlightenment, by allowing any individual to join the YACHT family.
"Essentially any person that wants to be a member of YACHT is a member of YACHT, and that can be a very personal choice," Evans says. "If we had to estimate our membership, it would be somewhere between four and four million."
By embracing fans to an extent to call them their own and a member of a personal organization, social media has played a key role allowing YACHT to achieve its own notoriety by catapulting it to a worldwide audience of people willing to partake in its endeavor.
"We're big fans of engaging in social media as a band," Bechtolt says. "Social media is a great tool that allows us to engage directly with fans but not so much as a personal, day-to-day level."
"But being what YACHT is and the large communication we have with fans, building alternative bases is what we try and do," Evans says, reassuring the importance of social media. "I would say a large percentage of our day is concerned with maintaining and reaching out to people through social media."
"Yeah, I guess we just like to use it differently than most bands," Bechtolt says. "We don't like to 'market' ourselves through social media."
Whether they believe it or not, social media has had a profound impact on the success of YACHT. Social media was the predominant threshold that launched YACHT's See Mystery Lights album into mainstream success in 2009, along with the addition of Evans into the group.
"Claire was a big part in shaping what YACHT is today," Bechtolt says. "But we like to think that YACHT is a different band with every release. We don't ever want to make the same thing twice, and we're uninterested in making records that sound similar to each other."
"Yeah, or making experiences or having shows or really doing anything that is repetitive," Evans says. "I mean, it was once a one-person band, then when I joined it was a duo, and now it's a collective of four people playing live shows. All we hope to do is expand and change and evolve as much as possible."
As the conversation of Evans and Bechtolt ran back and forth, I felt that they were sincerely engaging and assisting one another in formulating their ideas. Through the tone of their voices, it was obvious that these two artists are deeply passionate in what each another has to say, and they never hesitate to shed more light or backing up each other's opinions.
Another ever-evolving dynamic of YACHT is their live shows. They swear that each performance is unique. Given the wide array of shows they perform, from large, outdoor music festivals to smaller, intimate club settings, the dynamics of the audience and the venue are consequently factors for a performance will turn out.
"It's a big chaotic crapshoot every night; you just never know what's going to happen," Evans says.
"We're blessed to play the whole spectrum of venues," Bechtolt says. "We prefer places that have less of a theme or less of a character that has an open space that just allows us to just take over."
As YACHT embarks on this winter tour, it is hard not to notice that their route focuses a great chunk of its time playing smaller, Midwestern towns.
"I was actually born in Madison, Wisconsin, but moved away when I was a baby," Bechtolt says. "I definitely have a special place in my heart for the Midwest, and for me, this tour kind of feels familiar and it tells me that this is where I should go to."
"There are definitely different tones around the world, depending on where you play," Evans says. "The Midwest is very generous and kind and has never failed us in feeling welcome to play shows."
One dynamic that is constant throughout YACHT's endeavors on the road is their attire of solid black-and-white harnesses, which can leave spectators guessing the purpose.
"Performing in black-and-white uniforms is a very integral part in our show," Evans says. "We like the idea of separating our street clothes from our performance clothes and making an effort to prevent ourselves from the most attention variety as we can."
Given the constant, hectic schedule of touring, promoting Shagra-La and brushing up on their starvation for philosophical thirst, current events did come into play during this conversation. Both Bechtolt and Evans have seen Madonna's halftime Super Bowl special. I was curious as to what these theorists had to say regarding the event.
"Well, I think that the fascination of the dark occult has been prevalent in American society forever, and people want to have a tendency to believe strange things in mainstream culture," Evans says.
"So we say yes!" Bechtolt says, interrupting Evans with a positive, joyous tone in his voice. "We say yes, and everyone should look into it. We should create a joint effort to look into Madonna's free time."
"She shouldn't look that good in her age!" Evans says.
Steven is an editorial intern at Hear Nebraska. If you want him to be your father, he will be your dad. Reach him at email@example.com.