Back Issue__ YACHT: See the Light
Claire, the leading lady of Yacht, says her heart is in “outer space” and for the past two years she has read exclusively science fiction novels. We caught up with her while she was home in Portland to talk all things Yacht.
Everything about the new indie dance commotion, YACHT, is calculated. They only wear black and white in their publicity image, their tweets are formulated to all look the same, and their preferred nomenclature is Y∆CHT. Control freaks that they are, they're probably scrutinizing this article right now.
“We’re very vigilant. We look at everything that’s written about us,” Claire says over the phone. “And try to get a sense if what people are thinking is true about us and try to correct that if possible.”
YACHT engages in what a lot of celebrities and musicians shy from—constant communication with their fans, and more importantly communication with the people who critique them. “People never think about the fact that the band might actually see what they say about them and question that.” YACHT sees criticism as an open forum for communication, an opportunity to discuss and address misconceptions about the band. This means YACHT's required reading ranges from write-ups in The New Yorker to Rolling Stone Magazine to Pitchfork, all of whom seem to have nice things to say. Needles to say, the “damage control,” as YACHT calls it internally, conducted by the YACHTrust (a group of friends that help them manage the task), is, at this point, probably pretty limited.
YACHT is co-captained by Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans. Both grew up in Portland Oregon, but the pair didn’t meet until 2004. “People always say the cool thing about Portland is the weather," explains Claire. "[It] is always so miserable that everyone is so creative, and there’s no way of making it through the winter if you don’t hunker down and have band practice.” So Claire and Jona hunkered down. Perfected their sound. Perfected their look. Their hair, cropped short, rests upon lean, androgynous bodies, giving Claire and Jona an interchangeability they embrace. One of their MySpace photos, for instance, shows boyish Claire in a cut-off t-shirt with her arm slung around a rather delicate-looking Jona, his pout enhanced with bright red lipstick.
Yacht recorded their recent album, See Mystery Lights, in Marfa, Texas, home of the eerie Marfa lights phenomenon--mysterious, persistent glowing orbs with no apparent source. Coincidentally both YACHT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, (with whom YACHT spent last summer touring) spent the beginning of 2008 recording their respective albums a mere 2 hours away from each other in the Chihuahuan desert surrounding Marfa. Claire believes the bands have a cosmic relationship, but it seems they are star-crossed, as Claire and Jona initially missed a connection by staying home on the one night the Yeah Yeahs Yeahs went out on the town in Marfa. “There was already sort of this weird psychic connection between us and we always thought, ‘Oh man we could have met the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and we never did.’ And then of course we were in Marfa again last year just visiting our friends on vacation and we got the call to do the tour with them like the week afterwords so we feel like we have kind of a weird sort of long standing cosmic connection with those guys,” Claire says. “We have kind of the same things going on in our brains; they’re really cool and nice people.” Her admiration is palpable. “Everybody on their staff, everybody that they tour with, all their managers and their roadies they’re all cool and helpful and nice. It’s so great to see people that are successful like that that haven’t lost whatever the essential humanity of being a person in a band.”
Most bands on tour will recycle the same material for a while. If Milwaukee hasn’t seen it, they haven’t seen it and the band has no problem going through the motions. But YACHT doesn’t rehash. “Jona and I both have this thing if we do the same thing for too long it feels inauthentic, it's really difficult to keep that level of enthusiasm and energy up for a long time and still feel like you’re doing something that’s real and fresh, especially if you’re doing it every night.” So they recently welcomed three new members to the band for the "live incarnation" of YACHT. Rob "Bobby Birdman" Kieswetter, Jeffrey "Jerusalem" Brodsky, and D. Reuben Snyder, of Rob Walmart. They new members as a collective are called, The Straight Gaze (intentionally meant to sound like "straight gays").
All five are currently on tour with LCD Soundsystem, hitting spots like Paris, London and Los Angeles, spreading the YACHT messages. “Accordingly, YACHT is and always will be what YACHT is when YACHT is standing before you; YACHT believes that to all people have a right to Free thought, Free expression, to write their opinions freely and to counter, utter, and write upon the opinions of others; and YACHT believes "Free Wi Fi" is not an advertisement of services, but a political statement.” You can even join the team. But don’t confuse YACHT with a cult. Something their website makes clear. Claire says, “We don’t want people to think that it’s a gimmick and we don’t want people to think that it’s a cult or something. It's more about providing an alternative community that is meaningful to people and you can take it how you want to take it.”
There’s a very visual component to a YACHT show. They consider it 50% of the performance. “People love seeing something that has theatrical element to it; it’s the whole point really.” Claire and Jona have a unique chemistry on stage—everything seems to be in sync. But Claire swears the routines aren’t choreographed. “There’s no dance practice. Everything that we do on stage is kind of spontaneous direct channeling of what’s going on with the music. We don’t have band practice at all.”
Claire lets me know she and Jona live together. When I ask if it’s tough touring with someone and then coming home and living together nonchalantly she says, “It’s been a cool experiment in how well you can know another person.” But it’s not until 20 minutes later when I ask if it was awkward that they made out for a half an hour in a video does she inform me that the are a couple--something they haven’t found necessary to advertise like Sunny and Cher.
This summer Yacht is going to take a break and record the next record. The new members will probably play on the album but as far as input into the production, that’s still up in the air. “I don’t know Jonah and I are pretty intense about making everything ourselves. I don’t if were emotionally ready to let new people in to that part of the process.” They’re deciding on a location, Portland, Los Angeles and even the desert were thrown around as considerations.
Jona and Claire believe they “live in an era of great access to tools, we have an ability to make our identity exactly the way we want it to be.” They have an easy time making their websites and staying in control of their images because their hobbies and passions are complementary. With Claire’s writing background (she used to be a journalist), Jonah’s passion for design and video and a select group to back them up, they’ve kept this identity focused. And even though they run a tight ship, you're welcome to put in your two cents. “We try and communicate with people as much as possible. Our email address is out there and totally available. People write us and we try and write back to as many people as possible in a thoughtful way, because we try and make YACHT much more of a community or a culture than just a band.”