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YACHT on DFA Records: "Total Creative Freedom, We've Never Been Told What to Do"

A second summer with YACHT.
A second summer with YACHT.
Photo by YACHT

Since 2002, Jona Bechtolt has been churning out tunes under the name YACHT. But it wouldn't be until six years later, when Claire Evans turned the solo project into a duo, that the band became a DFA classic.

Mixing symbolism and religious iconography with catchy hooks, YACHT fits well with the DFA dance-punk aesthetic. However, this is taken further by the twosome's Jonestown-meets-club-party vibe, punctuated by Evans proclaiming, "I will be your god!"

A YACHT live performance is weirdly reminiscent of a religious revival meeting -- something Bechtolt and Evans seem acutely aware of. They throw their arms into the air, bless the crowd, and shimmy across the stage as if they were singing hymns. And since the release of See Mystery Lights, and continued through Shangri-La, the triangle has served as the band's idol, always incorporated into their live shows.

The twosome, who will be in town for Desperados' invite-only #SeizeTheNight event, spoke with Crossfade about the importance of symbolism, the latest string of singles, and being on the DFA label.

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Crossfade: YACHT has performed in Miami quite often. Why, despite South Florida's unbearable humidity, do you keep coming back?

YACHT: The longer we tour around the U.S., the more cities seem to blend into one another. From the vantage point of the road, we see so many of the same chain restaurants, the same increasingly homogenous urban landscapes. The same cannot be said of Miami, which is like a shot in the carotid artery.

Religion and iconography is a big part of YACHT's aesthetic. How important is it for the band? Who comes up with the ideas and symbolism?

In many ways, religious symbols are like punk band logos: they are simple, visually striking, and often worn on the body. They serve to advertise, without words, an ethic. They identify a tribe. We don't place much of a distinction between our aesthetic and our ideology. Symbols, design, logos, these are all ways of expressing our ideas in a visual shorthand. In our case, the words, images, and sounds all emerge from the same computer.

"Party at the NSA" is perhaps your most overtly political track -- before, in tracks like "Dystopia," you only slyly hinted at it. What pushed you to be a bit more literal in the delivery this time around?

We decided to make an overt political statement with "Party at the NSA" because, frankly, we looked around and didn't see anyone else doing it. Among our peers, there was a general sense of desperate lassitude that was beginning to calcify into indifference; people just seemed overwhelmed by the issue of government surveillance. We couldn't just sit on our hands. The Internet is our holy ground, an ineffable analogue of the punk clubs and DIY spaces we came up in; the idea of uninvited parties monitoring and controlling that space is antithetical to everything that formed us.

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You've been releasing a few standalone singles lately -- "Party," "Plastic Soul," "Second Summer." Do you just enjoy releasing standalone singles? Or do they play into an upcoming full-length YACHT release?

It's difficult for us to finish a song and then have to wait months to release it. We move quickly, at the speed of digital life. We want to share things as we go, creating little moments, online and offline experiences, connecting with people in an immediate way. It's always really interesting for us to release music and watch it percolate around the web--to see what sticks and how people respond.

Speaking of full-length, when can we expect a new album?

We're working on it.

You've been on the DFA label for quite some time now. What makes DFA a great label to be on?

DFA is a family label. Its legacy is rooted in community and mutual admiration between its artists, who are actually very different from one another. It's also a site of total creative freedom -- we've never been told what to do, only encouraged to follow our own weird path of multimedia experimentation.

What else can we expect from YACHT in the near future?

We're always working on a variety of projects at once. We just launched an iPhone app called 5 Every Day, which is a minimal suggestion engine that proposes five interesting things to do in Los Angeles every day. It has no calendar, no archive, and it's new every single day: it's designed to encourage spontaneous exploration of the city. Meanwhile, Claire is the Futures Editor of the Vice technology site, Motherboard, writing about science fiction and the places where the future bleeds into the present.

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Yacht. As part of Desperados' #SeizeTheNight. With Juan MacLean, Jeremy Ismael, Otto Von Schirach Atrain, Louie Arson, TM Sisters, Ess + Emm, and others. Friday, June 13. The event is by invite only.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.


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