YACHT rocks

Pub date August 5, 2009
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features


SONIC REDUCER The path of true love — even the healing, heartfelt, pathologically curious, perpetually vision-seeking path of Newest Age, dance-punk, pop-mantra true love — is never smooth. Nor bruise-free, when reality — and task of where exactly to place those four feet — meets calamity.

"There were kinks to work out when Claire joined the band," says YACHT’s Jona Bechtolt on the inclusion of kindred spirit and soul mate (and writer, artist, and musician) Claire L. Evans in his once one-man project. "We didn’t know how to work in each other’s space."

"We still don’t," Evans cheerfully interjects.

"I stepped on Claire the other night!" exclaims Bechtolt, 28. But like so many other things in the curiouser-and-curiouser whirl of YACHT (Young Americans Challenging High Technology), what might seem like an issue — or grounds for a major band or couple’s squabble — is actually a point of modest, optimistic pride.

"We are incredibly paranoid," he continues. The couple first met four years ago while playing the same basement noise show in Los Angeles. "We don’t want to play the same show twice. I’ve played in countless rock bands before, so I know what it’s like to play the same memorized parts again and again. That sort of thing doesn’t work for me as a human being, though I’m not putting those bands down at all. We want to provide an alternative to rock performance, using PowerPoint, video screens …"

"We want to make it a two-way performance where the audience is a part of it," adds Evans, 24.

"We want to break the rules of honoring personal space," Bechtolt says, laughing. "We want to enter people’s personal space physically and emotionally and visually!"

To that end, YACHT wants to take its performance to the audience floor, through the crowd itself, into caves and high schools, or onto a barge boasting a sustainable geodesic dome and drifting down the Hudson River — just as they did the other night under the aegis of WFMU. Space and all the physical and psychic mysteries, conspiracy theories, and belief systems, within and without, are a preoccupation for the pair, who, over the phone from NYC, come across like wonderfully wise, fresh-headed, and all-American enthusiasts — wild-child music ‘n’ art makers in a persistent state of evangelical high energy.

Marfa, Texas’ mystery lights made their way, for sure, onto YACHT’s new album, See Mystery Lights (DFA): the otherwise-Portland, Ore.-based couple relocated to the town for an unofficial residency to study the phenomenon and expand on the seeds of the LP: eight minute-long mantras. "We gave the first version of the record to DFA and asked them for notes, and they were like, ‘Whoa, this is really weird.’ It was eight minutes long," says Bechtolt. "They were freaked out and said, ‘It’s really good, but how do we put it out?’ They gave us the challenge to turn those mantras in pop songs."

(Though never fear, those mantras aren’t lost to the ages: the pair plans to release them on 100 lathe-cut copper discs, as well as a slew of companion works including a "bible" of sorts and software that will allow followers to keep tabs on YACHT. "We’re really into objects right now," confesses Bechtolt.)

And what pop. Lights twinkles then zigzags with all the frenetic future-boogie ("Summer Song," "It’s Boring /You Can Live Anywhere You Want") and raw pop hooks ("I’m in Love with a Ripper") of a so-called DFA combo, as well as nuggets of life-and-death wisdom ("Ring the Bell," "The Afterlife"). YACHT appears to be making music that harks to less than widely referenced sources like Art of Noise, Malcolm McLaren, and other awkward yet insinuating, conceptually-minded pop experimentalists of the ’80s — and those final seconds when the pop charts seemed to skeptically embrace the musical musings of so many art school refugees.

"There’s a repetitive nature built into pop and dance music, so for these atonal mantras we were working on, it turned out to be a better way to disseminate our message," Evans explains. "We’re excited that you can hide a lot in pop music. You can appreciate it on two levels." Two true. *


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Party with us, punkers, for la causa. With Bar Feeders and Fucking Buckeroos. Sat/8, 4 p.m., $8–$20 sliding scale donation for the SF Tenants Union. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com


Sunn O))) worshipers might appreciate the Portland, Ore., foursome’s black atmospherics, anarchic electronics, and love o’ the heavy. With Barn Owl, Squim, and Oaxacan. Sun/9, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com