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YACHT Interview : Live tonight at The Hoxton!

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YACHT Interview: Live tonight at The Hoxton! – PICK OF THE WEEK! – Interview below

Who: YACHT w/White Fang & Digits
Where: HOXTON, Toronto ON
When: Friday Sept, 26
Event Details and Tickets $14:

The psych-dance cult band YACHT is just one of the many creative outlets that keep bandmates Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans busy throughout the year. Self-described ADD-types, they divide their days between making music, playing with computers, writing scripts, or in Claire’s case, nurturing her deep appreciation for Science Fiction via her ever-insightful blog, Space Canon, where she’s been deconstructing the genre and its literary relics since June 2008.

The two kindred spirits, who became fast-friends and partners after bonding over mutual fascinations with all things mysterious, phenomenal, and occultist, are erudite souls with a thirst for knowledge. As a precocious teenager, Jona went as far as to forgo a proper high school education, favouring instead a self-education consisting of a pre-adolescent Tommy Stinson-esque rock & roll trajectory with his trouble-making older brothers. Nevertheless, without attending a single day of high school, Jona earned his G.E.D at 16 years old.

Some time ago, when asked by Spin Magazine about the genesis of the name YACHT, Jona offered that the name is in reference to Y.A.C.H.T., an alternative school in Portland, Oregon. “It stands for Young Americans Challenging High Technology. It refers to an education program that was held in Portland, Oregon. I was enrolled when I was 16, back in 1996.” While this may be less than true, as Jona reveals below, both he and Claire, respectively, were spiritual valedictorians of the hypothetical learning institution in their missions to channel an array of concepts from technology to the communal elements of religious ceremony, which they’d eventually unite to achieve through highly danceable performance art.

Such a ceremony takes place tonight in Toronto at The Hoxton, where YACHT will be supported’ by Burger Records’ whimsical psych freaks, White Fang, an opening act attendees are privileged to have on the bill. In honour of the event, The Scene offers an interview from my back pages. I had the pleasure of conversing with the infatuating pair a while back in Idaho, where YACHT were taking a break from their recent time-off to play a one-off show at Boise’s glorious Treefort Festival. Jona and Claire, chilling in the extremely stylish hotel room provided by the fest’s promoters, spoke freely of their youth, their music, their love of science fiction and their compulsion towards mystery.


How would you describe yourselves as high-schoolers?

Jona: I was a very traditional and classic drop out. I didn’t attend a single day of high school. I was playing in a punk band with my older brother, starting in the end of 7th grade and all through 8th grade and my brother somehow convinced my parents it would be a good idea for me to not go to high school and for us to pursue this dream of being like this pop punk protégé band of, you know, like brother and younger brother band.


So you didn’t even make it to day one?

: No, not even day one. I was doing a correspondence course thing where I would take classes through Portland State University and they would mail the transcript of those courses to where my family was growing up in Astoria, Oregon two hours away.


Tell me about the courses you took at the alternative school Young Americans Challenging High Technology (Y.A.C.H.T.) ?

Jona: That actually never happened.


Ah! A myth!

: Yeah, it’s a beautiful myth. That place existed… but yeah, I never attended it.
Claire: Wow, breaking down the walls already.
Jona: So yeah, I did the (correspondence) courses for a year but the high school stopped accepting the credit from the college. There was like a weirdness where I still don’t understand what happened. I think it’s because both of my older brothers were horrible high school students so the school had it out for my last name. “Oh, another one of these kids, fuck that!” So, I did that for my freshman year and then as soon as it was legal to drop out, I dropped out and took the GED when I was 16.
Claire: You had better things to do. I was a pretty traditional high school goody two shoes / searcher. I’m an only child so I didn’t have any siblings to tell me what was cool and I didn’t really have a lot of cool friends either. I mean, I love my friends from high school… I was just trying to figure out who I was, you know? A lot of it was like, one year I wore JNCO pants and one year I was really preppy and then one year I’d like… when I discovered Weezer, I became like a nerd rock kid, and that was kind of like my major identity in high school.
Jona: Mixtape clubs…
Claire: Yeah, I had a mixtape club that I think was probably the reason I got into college because it got a lot of local press at the time… I went to a lot of shows…
Jona: Wait, how did it get local press? How did your mixtape club get press? That’s so weird!
Claire: I actually don’t know… It was like someone’s older brother’s friend heard about it and then they wrote for the local newspaper.
Jona: So, it was a puff piece? What are the high school kids up to?
Claire: Yeah, it was the front cover of the Living section in The Oregonian… but it was a huge deal for me at the time.


What kind of stuff were you listening to in the really embarrassing years – when you didn’t know any better?

: I mean, like my favourite music in the world up until I discovered independent rock music was Frank Sinatra, show tunes, and like old standards and musical soundtracks. I’ve always kind of been into the classic songwriting of like The Rat Pack, which is so, so lame. I remember I used to dance around in my parents’ living room doing the greatest hits of Sinatra. But then in the early years… you know, you name it. I came of age musically when Napster happened so it was like that thing where you find that one song you like and then like everything you could possibly find that was connected to that in any way; just searching through the web, through connections until you find that thing you really love. Like I heard a Weezer song on the radio and from there it was like, The Pixies, The Replacements, you know…
Jona: But also Fountains of Wayne
Claire: Also Fountains of Wayne… and like Nerf Herder. So it was like everything at once and finally I whittled it down to the right choices… but it took awhile.

Jona, how about you?

Jona. At 6 years old I was listening to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer on repeat and other Beatles things. All my musical influences of my early up bringing came directly from my two older brothers. They were first into break dancing, then into skateboarding, so all of the music around that – early hip hop and like punk and all that stuff… I think the most embarrassing stuff was like the mid 90s pop-punk. I was super into NOFX (laughing) which I think still kind of holds up.


Being really into music growing up, what were some of the most memorable shows of your teenage years?

: My first show that I got to go to of my own choosing was for my 13th birthday. I saw Nirvana, The Breeders and The Melvins… It fucking blew my mind.
Claire: Pretty early in the game I started volunteering at an all age rock club in Portland called the Meow Meow – which definitely doesn’t exist anymore and it’s taken many forms since then – so I was always going to see super local bands. I was really into like indie rock when I was a teenager, like I loved (laughing) Death Cab for a Cutie and stuff… Jona is a little older then me and so he was like playing in all these local bands in Portland when I was a teenager going to shows… so weirdly, we were at a lot of the same shows but like 15 years before we met.


Were you aware of him?

: I remember like, (to Jona) I’d heard of your bands. I’d heard about (name of old band) when I was a teenager.
Jona: What?! Really?? You’ve never told me that!
Claire: Yeah, I’d heard the name. Anyway, also like Built To Spill and Modest Mouse. That was my scene.
Jona: Also The Microphones…
Claire: And The Microphones. I loved all that K Records stuff.
Jona: We’re going to go see Calvin tonight in L.A.
Claire: Yeah, with The Hive Dwellers


Wicked! What are the bands these days that you cannot miss?

: I highly recommend you see Hot Chip if you can. That’s, I think, maybe one of the best high production value concert experiences now.
Jona: I wouldn’t say high production. That sounds like Britney Spears or something.
Claire: It’s just an impeccable show. It’s beautiful!
Jona: It’s not about lights or the visuals. It’s truly about them being a radical band that takes risks and makes awesome mistakes.
Claire: Yeah, they’re the best band in the world. We toured with them last year and every night was like church.


Would you watch every show?

: Yeah and I never do that, but it’s one of the greatest bands of all time! I’ve never watched a show every night, all the way though, as a fan.


So, having been deeply into musical awesomeness, at what point would you say you discovered that you too, could be awesome?

: Still trying man…
Jona: I’ve never truly owned or felt ‘being awesome’ once in my life.


Is that so?

: Yeah, I can vouch for that.


Why do you think that is?

: I don’t know. Because I’m never satisfied with anything that we do. I always think we can do it better and that’s why we keep making new things.


But what about when you’re performing to a packed, sweaty room where the audience is just so clearly feeling it?

: Right, no that’s happened before, yeah.
Claire: Yeah, that happens all the time.
Jona: It happens all the time.
Claire: I mean Jona is a purist and sort of OCD and a super hard worker and he’s never satisfied, which is the reason that we are able to have enough energy to move forward and change and not get stuck in our ways. I tend to live in the moment a bit more. I don’t think we’re the most awesome band in the world but there are moments when things go well where I’m like, “This is life, I get to do this, I’m so happy and grateful”, you know?
Jona: We’re totally grateful, that’s not what I mean.
Claire: Yeah, he wants to push himself… and I do too.


What are the highlights of any given tour?

: All of it is the best part. Just being able to go on tour. Like even when a promoter gets us a hotel room, I’m like, “What?! We get to stay in a hotel?!” The house we rent right now in L.A. is pretty nice but still, we get to stay in places that are nicer than where we live, which is a trip. And just like meeting people. The best part is meeting people… truly.
Claire: When you’re at home, when you’re not on the road, you don’t get much feedback other than the Internet in terms of what people are feeling or how your work is resonating with other people, so going on tour and actually talking to people and hearing personal stories about how they’ve come to like your music and the experiences they’ve had with it or what they think it means and how they want to share it with their friends and who they think you are and who they want to be based on who they think you are… There’s so much there! It’s such a give and take so it’s really beautiful and constant and tactile in a way that you really don’t get unless you’re out there on the road.


Of all the places you’ve called home, it seems like L.A. is your Shangri-La…

: Yes.
What is it about L.A.?

: I fell in love with it when I was in a punk band with my brother. We toured and played in LA a handful of times and yeah, for me, it always seemed like a place I was never allowed to live, like I didn’t get the privilege to be able to live there. So living there now is like a weird abstract dream, I guess.
Claire: It’s lovely. I think it has a really bad reputation probably but it’s a vast intensely chaotic city that has so many options and possibilities contained within it. Of course, there are the negatives but there’s this obvious thing about it being really accommodating climate wise. You never feel depressed by where you live physically, which is a weird major thing.
Jona: You know. I mean, you live in Toronto
Claire: Sometimes when you live in a place like Portland or Toronto or New York, where you leave your house and it’s like you’re being bullied by your environment and in L.A. that doesn’t really exist. You just leave your house and inside and outside are the same. Everywhere you go there’s no limitation. We live in a beautiful home with a fir tree and flowers in the garden… it’s just like idyllic.


And it’s obviously a great film city. I know you two are pretty into film…

: Well, we’re both really big Science Fiction heads. Like all time favourite movies for me are 2001 and Blade Runner. And they’re doing a Science Fiction retrospective at the L.A. Museum.
Jona: We just saw a movie at LACMA called Phase 4, which came out in 70-something.
Claire: It’s by Saul Bass (title designer for Kubrick among many others) and he only directed this one movie in his entire life. It was like this really weird psychological Sci-Fi thriller that was about all of the ants in the world becoming, as if each ant was its own single cell in an organism, like one massive intelligence organizing themselves against humanity. So, it’s like this creepy dread… kind of like an Acrophobia style insect-terror but you only ever see like little tiny ants.
Jona: …Two scientist set up shop to try and study what’s happening and it becomes this amazing psychological warfare between the ants and the two scientists. There’s an alternate ending that we got to see that wasn’t part of the movie. Have you seen Altered States?

Hell yes.

: That kind of visual effects stuff happened in the alternate ending of this movie… such incredible, beautiful, analog psychedelics.


What are your favourite sci-fi novels? Besides Hilton’s Lost Horizon, the source material for your album, Shangri-La?

: Oh, well, Phillip K. Dick, JG Ballard…
 Ursula Le Guin
Claire: Also William Gibson is a living hero… there’s so many but if you want just one name it’d have to be Phillip K. Dick. I was trying to do a tally recently, cause he wrote like 60 books. I was trying to figure out what percentage I’d read. I’m working through the cannon. I think I’ve read half.
Jona: Claire actually has a blog called Space Canon that reviews only Sci-Fi books.


What is it about religion and ceremonial rituals that fascinate you so?

: I grew up Catholic, so… that’s the origin for me. Just wanting to know why I’m doing all these things as a kid.
Claire: And maybe trying to recontextualize it as an adult into something that is actually meaningful to you instead of just scary.
Jona: Right!
Claire: I think there’s a lot of overlap between religious ritual and culture and music ritual and culture, at least in our eyes. There’s this idea of going into a prescribed space with a group of strangers in order to experience a thing that’s sensibly transcendent. Together as a community or unit. Obviously, there’s the musician, or preacher, above and looking down at the congregation, or the audience, translating mystical creative, or mystical spiritual, thoughts into language or art in order for the audience to understand it and communicate with it directly. All that stuff… there’s a lot of common ground. So we always like to play with the language of it a little bit and try to recreate rituals that might allow the secular community a glimpse into what it might be like to participate just sort of culturally in the community of religion without any of the dogma or the bad stuff. All the good community, good feeling, sharing, transcendent people things without any of the lies.


To touch on the bad stuff… what are some of the historically darker cult occurrences that fascinate you?

: Oh, all of it!
Jona: Yeah. Jonestown, number one.
Claire: Jonestown is fascinating. I was super into Heavens Gate. I love Heavens Gate because they were web designers. Did you know that? They made their living designing websites. They had a design company called Higher Source.
Jona: Higher Source too is like the most genius name… of all time.
Claire: Marshall Applewhite! The back story of that cult is unreal crazy. Like they all castigated themselves because they believed that sexuality was evil. It was really interesting.
Jona: The Rajneeshees…
: Yeah, The Rajneeshees in Oregon were really interesting too.


The fact that Heavens Gate happened essentially because a guy couldn’t deal with the fact that he was gay is just so mind-blowing.

: A lot of weird things happen cause guys can’t realize that they’re gay. Honestly. Or that they have sexual desires outside the realm of ‘normalcy’. That was the case with Jim Jones. It was the same thing.


Are you guys still having as much fun in YACHT as you always have?

: Yeah! I think we’re having more fun honestly.
Jona: Yeah, I think we are having more fun. There’s a new freedom that has fallen upon us.
Claire: We have a nice band that we like so much. And we all like to hang out.
Jona: And now that we all live in the same city. That really makes it special for me.
Claire: We’re having a lot of fun because we always have our fingers in a lot pies. We’re all very short attention span type people so…
Jona: Now that we’re like shifting focus to a TV show pilot, playing rock shows feels totally crazy.
Claire: Yeah, it feels fake. My head is somewhere else sometimes, you know? And we get back to playing shows and we’re like, “What? Who are these people?”


When did you first feel like YACHT was getting somewhere?

: I mean putting out a record on DFA records changed our lives.
Jona: Even before that. Just going on tour with LCD Soundsystem. That was like the real turning point. DFA opened new doors. I never thought that we’d be able to afford having a band. It was always just an economical choice to be a laptop dude. And then to be able to expand to including Claire… that was a turning point.
Claire: I think with DFA, just having that stamp on the back of our CD made people see us in a different light, or at least understand where we were coming from more and it re-contextualized us in a way that has been helpful. But I still just think we’re fortunate to be able to make a living doing this. I’m happy to just pay my rent.


How did you adapt to getting bigger?

: Well, we’ve all been playing and touring in bands for 10 years. So for us it just feels like every day is one foot in front of the other and slowly accumulating enough of an audience or an ability to do what we do – a practiced ability to do what we do economically and efficiently. It just feels to us like we’re getting better at it. And it’s all been really gradual.
Jona: Yeah, like incrementally changed.
Claire: Everyone we meet, it’s just like one more in the clubhouse. Lets keep going.


According to your website, when Claire joined YACHT (which until then consisted of Jona as “laptop dude”) and the two of you became a unit, there was some sort of inaugural ceremony. Are you able to describe it?

: It was just a major change. We were living in Texas at the time. We lived in West Texas in a town called Marfa, which is known, among other things, for having an optical paranormal phenomenon called the Marfa Mystery Lights and Jona and I went out there together. Curiosity drove us. And we saw this said optical phenomenon, which our record is named after: See Mystery Lights. I wouldn’t say that it was ‘knock it out of the park’ transformative or magic but it was this thing where we both just stood face-to-face with a very real living mystery. No one really knows what the lights are. There’s been various forms of investigation but there’s no real concrete answer. And there’s no solution. We’re both like really self-taught computer-fiending, information hungry youth. We are used to having answers. So, just coming across something in which there was no way to really know, and that we would just have to live with that, it was something that really changed the way we think about both art and music. That art has this value that is similar. That there is no real answer. Art is mysterious and it shines a light on the world that is interpreted differently by everybody, so we kind of made a vow at that point that that is what we would officially do and decided that we were both going to be feeling these themes in the same way so why not join forces and make it a cohesive vision that we would call YACHT. We pretty much just always record there now. It reminds us of what we’re trying to do.


YACHT play Hoxton in Toronto tonight!  Sept 26, 2014  w/White Fang and Digits

By: Zach Gayne



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