YACHT: Mystery Lights Over Shangri-La Exposed

Rob yaks with Jona and Claire of YACHT

YACHT perform at Emos Tue., April 19. Jona Bechtolt has been working his warped pop magic for over a decade as a former member of The Blow, and founder of YACHT. While Jona's music always had it's sugary pleasures, it wasn't until the addition of longtime collaborator Claire L. Evans that the band truly took off.

YACHT, which stands for Young Americans Challenging High Technology, reached new artistic, critical, and commercial heights with the release of 2009's See Mystery Lights, inspired by the strange light phenomena in Marfa, Texas. Now, all eyes are on them, as they get ready to release their new album Shangri-La, June 21 on DFA Records and set off on their Road to Utopia World Tour.

From Portland, Oregon, one corner of what they call the "West Coast Utopian Triangle" (see below) we spoke of new directions, LCD Soundsystem, and advice for young bands. They were clearly having fun in being obtuse (and I was more than willing to play along).

Austin Chronicle: What are you up to in Portland?

Jona: We’re rehearsing and finishing up everything associated with getting the album out.

AC: Tell us about the new album?

Claire: Well we spent the last six months of our lives working on it… It’s …

Jona: It was recorded in what we call the West Coast American Utopian Triangle of Marfa, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Los Angeles, California. There are songs on it. And we made all of the songs ourselves. Claire and I did the bulk of all the recording, mixing, producing, all of that. We had members of our band come in and do little things here and there, but Claire and I play most of it ourselves for the most part.

AC: So what kind of new inspiration or new direction do you take on the new album?

Jona: The direction of the new album is definitely forward. Onward, upward, and forward.

Claire: Yeah, we spent the last two-and-a-half, three years, traveling around the world with See Mystery Lights and the ideas contained within See Mystery Lights, and having endless and countless discussions with fans and audience members and members of our community about those ideas and now were coming out of that with a lot more concrete philosophical view…

Jona: More of a plan of action.

Claire: More of a plan of action. So it’s all very um, much more physical and progressive.

AC: What label is it on?

Jona: DFA.

Claire: The same label of our last record. We're happy to stay in the family.

AC: Speaking of DFA, any thoughts on the end of LCD Soundsystem?

Claire: It's a tragedy, but also they're going out in style and that's James Murphy’s way.

Jona: And yes, that name may come to an end, but James the person is not coming to an end and we'll see him all over the place in many different ways.

Claire: Making incredible stuff I’m sure.

Jona: Yeah.

Claire: They're a class act; they’re going out classy and will be remembered as a very classy band which is rare nowadays.

AC: What were you listening to while making the album?

Jona: We were listening in to a lot of Purple and Green which aren't just 2 colors, but a musical project of a friend of ours who also has another band called White Rainbow. We've been listening to a lot of Jeffrey Jerusalem, and Bobby Birdman and a band called Key Losers.

Claire: When we were making the record we were not really listening to anything, it's kind our way to isolate ourselves as much as possible from any outside influence and make something that's coming as much as possible from the inside of our spirits.

AC: So you left your iPod on the shelf for the recording process, at least you did Claire?

Claire: Yeah yeah, we didn't really have time to listen to music; it was just 24 hours of work every day.

AC: For someone who hasn't seen your live show, what can one expect? Do you find that your show gets bigger as you gain popularity?

Claire: We've been going for increased physicality. It used to be one person, then two, and now it's five people and something of a production…, multimedia, interactive elements. We hope to one day be a band that include the entire population of the earth singing in harmony.

AC: So what kind of setup does your live show have? Is it mainly electronics or live instruments?

Jona: We have both live and electronics instruments. Robots and humans will play together in harmony. Computers, electric, guitars, amplifiers, synthesizers, analog and digital synthesizers.

Claire: …analog and digital drums, human voices.

Jona: …computer voices. drumsticks, drum keys,

Claire: …Guitar pick!

Jona: …Hi hat!

Claire: …Video screens, video projector screens.

Jona: …HDMI cable, USB cable, USB2 cable, USBA cable, USDB cable.

Claire: …Sort of Macintosh power adapt cable.

Jona: …Quarter-inch guitar cable!

AC: You guys are blowing my mind.

Jona: …Road case!

Claire: …Bottle of water, two small towels.

Jona: …8-inch pillar candle white and color, unscented and fragrant.

Claire: Yeah, it also changes a lot, we're not so sure since we're still practicing, but it'll be logistically and technically complex, I’m sure.

AC: Do you have any advice for up and coming bands?

Jona: Yes! Work hard

Claire: "Laughs" Yea. Yeah

Jona: We’ve been a band for almost 10 years, nine years, and five months, and it’s never been easy. And it never will be is easy. And nothing is easy. And you should work hard as a young person, as a young band.

Claire: Yeah, just because we live in this amazing digital age where everything is accessible doesn’t mean you can slack off. You know, you have to be really true to your vision and really persistent for a really long time in order to achieve a level of self respect and success.

Jona: And, also success is defined by the user.

Claire: Totally, yeah. You don’t need to be a mega-rock star. As long as your means are simple then you could live off music, if you’re super persistent.

AC: Do you have any special memories of Austin?

Claire: Well we love Austin, we love Texas. We spent a lot of time over the years living on and off in Marfa, Texas, which is kind of like, I feel like a spiritual cousin to Austin, and a lot of Marfa people go to Austin and vice versa. In fact, we went to Marfa because someone in Austin recommended it to us. So we love Texas; Austin has a very beautiful spirit and is a place we love to visit often.

Jona: Yeah, it’s sisterly. Austin and Portland feel very sisterly to us. I think it was a really important moment when a kid told me about Marfa and the mystery lights in 2004. So yeah, Austin felt like a place for magic to happen.

AC: Any special places you like to visit while in town?

Claire: In Austin? Hell yeah, Um… we like to go to Bouldin Creek and get the sexy delicious, tofu scramble. We go to Wheatsville and get the vegan Frito pie.

AC: Do you have any special messages for your gay fans?

Claire: We love you.

Jona: We deeply love you.

Claire: We deeply love you.

Jona: We love you, and we're in love with you.


Claire: That’s it! (Laughter)

YACHT perform at Emos on Tuesday. Opening acts include live band member Bobby Birdman and Austin's Loveinks. Tickets are available here. Texans have 2 other chances to see them, on April 17th in Marfa, and on 4/20 in Houston.

Finally, download a free mp3 of Dystopia (The World Is On Fire), the first single off the new album here and check out their nifty li'l tour intro below.

Road to Utopia Tour Introduction from Jona Bechtolt on Vimeo.

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Music, YACHT, Jona Bechtolt, Claire L. Evans, Interview, See Mystery Lights, Shangri-La, Dystopia, Austin gay, LGBT, DFA, Bobby Birdman, Loveinks, Emos

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