Of Its Own Design
By Tamara Vallejos
The nature of humanity, reality and the universe are huge themes for the average band to tackle—but nothing about Portland-based electronic duo YACHT seems at all average. And though casual fans may not pick up those deep-thinking nuances while grooving on the dance floor to the band’s irresistible disco-electro-punk aesthetic, Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans aren’t shy about what drives their creativity as artists, or the beliefs that propel them through this life.
In fact, they have outlined on their website tenants such as “YACHT believes ‘Free Wi-Fi’ is not an advertisement of services, but a political statement” and “YACHT believes art and spirituality are inseparable.” Some make immediate sense and some are stumpers, but the common theme is one of self-empowerment.
“A big part of YACHT is encouraging people to design their own world and design their own projects,” says Evans. “If people walk away from YACHT feeling like they want to do something of their own, that’s what it’s all about, and whatever we can do to help is really important to us.”
When YACHT began a decade ago, it was as a project designed by Bechtolt, who decided to move away from being in bands in favor of going solo.
“I’d been listening to a lot of electronic music,” he says, “but I’d never really messed with electronics. Before YACHT, I was mostly in punk and rock bands. So the goal was to make music completely on my own, using the limited resources I had—which, at the time, was a computer.”
His earliest creations were experimental efforts of blips and tones that are far removed from the fully-formed narratives on more recent records, like last year’s eminently danceable Shangri-La. It probably helps that Shangri-La was the second YACHT record to include Evans, who turned the solo project into a twosome after she joined following her work on 2009’s See Mystery Lights. She and Bechtolt met at random a few years earlier when both played the same bill of a show at a Los Angeles art gallery, and “it was like and love at first sight,” according to Bechtolt. (He and Evans are careful to downplay the romantic aspect of their partnership, though. “People tend to diminish bands [made of couples],” Evans says).
The new union was also ideal because it helped mix things up. “One of the goals of YACHT is to never make the same thing twice,” says Bechtolt, which applies to both the work in-studio and the live show. Evans has helped with that, and so has the live band that’s been put together to expand the sound and physicality on-stage. There’s also been an uptick in scientific and spiritual themes in YACHT’s music, which makes sense considering Evans’ outsized curiosity.
“I was a literature student in college and I realized I was completely immersed in an intellectual culture that had nothing to do with science,” says Evans, who writes on the topic for her own blog and has contributed to various other websites. “Yet science is constantly reimagining boundaries and definitions of the universe in huge ways that have significant impact for everybody.”
All this deep thinking isn’t to say that YACHT is any less of a party. Hit up its gig on Friday at The Glass House and expect to wear out your boogie shoes. But maybe, when you’re swaying to a song like “Paradise Engineering” (on which Evans monotones “The future exists first in our imagination/Then in our will/Then in reality”), you’ll also reevaluate your world and your existence in the process.
YACHT at The Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; www.theglasshouse.us. Fri, June 15. 7:30pm. $12-$14.