Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans are YACHT, the band. But YACHT is something bigger – it encompasses a much larger set of ideas. When the two discuss this ideology, they speak earnestly; it’s clear that they really do believe in everything they stand for. There are no gimmicks here only conviction. The pair of musicians behind YACHT aren’t messing around when it comes to these things.
Shangri-La, the fantastic new album from the duo, explores the concept of utopia. Yesterday, June 20th, Consequence of Sound sat down with YACHT in New York City for a highly educational interview.
I’ve seen you describe YACHT as a three-part idea: a band, a business, and a –
Jona Bechtolt: A belief system.
The band and business aspects are easy to understand, but without oversimplifying things, can you summarize what the belief system is?
Claire L. Evans: We have a lot of texts about our ideas, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s dogmatic and could easily be boiled down to certain points, but in general the YACHT belief system revolves around the idea of self-empowerment to a radical extreme, essentially the idea that any single person can dictate their own reality on a neurological level. We all perceive the world differently; we all have different types of reality tunnels, that’s what Robert Anton Wilson called them, and that you could be in total control of those reality tunnels. If we want to we can sort of reprogram ourselves. We believe that every major human pursuit: religion, spirituality, music, art, science… those are all essentially the same thing, although we take too much of a small view to understand that most of the time.
It’s all about trying to understand our place in the universe. It’s about an initial reaction to the kind of supernatural feeling of awe that we have in ourselves in the context of a much larger, chaotic, dispassionate thing. We try to articulate and understand that in different ways. We either try to re-codify it into religious beliefs and make sense of it in that way; or we try to understand the universe in a rational, more empirical way, as a scientist; or we try to have more of an interpretive understanding of what the universe is and our role in it if we’re artists. All of those impulses are the same, and once you realize that what we’ve always considered to be the great, dividing lines between all the major cultural ideas on our planet are essentially the same thing, perhaps that there’s no ultimate reality, no god. All there is is this massive, impersonal chaos in the universe. If the universe is an infinite space then we’re all equally part of it, then we have equal rights upon it. We can all kind of be our own gods, there’s no limit to what we’re capable of if we just realize that we are as relevant a part of the universe as any other human being or any object. So that’s the idea.
JB: [laughs] Simplified.
CE: But that translates to autonomy, performance, anarchy, living in the moment, direct connection to other people, and compassion.
You described the three cities you recorded the new album in [Portland, OR; Los Angeles, CA; Marfa, TX] as a Western American Utopian Triangle – can you describe what connects those three cities?
JB: Well, for us, it’s personal. Those places have a deep, personal meaning and symbolism to us: Los Angeles being the golden era of Hollywood –
CE: We also met in Los Angeles.
JB: Yes, the first time.
CE: Portland was the city where we both grew up, so that’s a deep connection for us. And Marfa, that’s kind of the place…well, let’s put it this way. Portland is where we came to have identities as human beings, Los Angeles is where we met and developed our identity as partners, and Marfa is where YACHT was born, essentially. YACHT existed for several years before Marfa, but YACHT as it exists today was born there, because it’s a place where we had a profound, paranormal, catalytic experience that brought us together creatively.
And that also worked itself into the title of your last album…
CE: Yes, See Mystery Lights.