DFA signings YACHT on spiritual inspiration, the new album, and 'holistic' art

Skiddle caught up with spiritual recording duo YACHT to talk about supernatural inspiration, being signed to DFA, and the new album Shangri- La.

Jayne Robinson

Date published: 25th Jul 2011

The second offering by spiritual duo YACHT is a holistic journey into the centre of your mind. A place buried deep beneath the lists and traffic, the smog and congestion, it’s the utopia where triangles and pseudo- hieroglyphics reign.

For some it may seem a little convoluted, which is why they thank label DFA for deciphering it and delivering it to those who listen through their radio speakers or on that crowded dance-floor of the weekend club. Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt are YACHT. Second release Shangri-La is their wonderland, and they’d like to invite you along to a party where sight and sound are absolute.

YACHT has always put great emphasis on stage aesthetics though it seems things have become very much about performance art since Claire Evans joined the band. Was this a conscious decision?

Claire: YACHT has always been a visual band. When it started in 2004, with just Jona, the essential idea of the project was to try and create electronic performance that was worth watching - to use the computer like a rock instrument, to invert it, to kick it around the stage. There was a great deal of video projection, set design, and interactivity. Now, seven years on, YACHT is a five-piece band with a core creative duo nestled inside of it, and the emphasis on visual aesthetics has evolved to reflect natural changes in the dynamic of the music, as well as our own creative evolution. Now, we like to play with the inherent duality of YACHT; there’s a rich visual language in the classic interplay between black and white, male and female - the sacred Chao.

Do the visuals and the music compliment one another?

Claire: Absolutely. YACHT is a holistic project -- we make and execute everything ourselves. The music is engineered, written, played and recorded by us. We design our own websites, merchandise, texts, visual projections, and music videos. Everything that you see in the world associated to YACHT came directly from us, and so everything is related to our larger psycho-spiritual worldview, just by virtue of shared emergence.

What made you feel that YACHT was lacking before Claire’s arrival?

Jona: Claire “joined” YACHT in 2008, after we shared a profound supernatural experience in the Far West Texas desert - the “Mystery Lights” that inspired our album “See Mystery Lights.” I say “joined” in quotes because the pre-mystery lights YACHT was completely different than the YACHT of today. It’s more like YACHT was reinvented, or born again, in 2008 as a duo. The experience was simply so radical that our fundamental approach to the world, and by consequence to our work, was forever altered.

When YACHT began it was very heavily computer oriented, do you think your direction and expectations of the band have changed since then?

Jona: Computers are tools, just as traditional rock instruments are tools. We have always had a Buckminster Fuller-inspired mentality of doing as much as possible with as little as possible. Maximum synergy. As we grow and evolve as people, our approach to the tools we use grows with us.

Explain the recording process of Shangri-La. Was your environment an important element?

Claire & Jona: We wrote and recorded Shangri-La in what we call the “Western American Utopian Triangle:” Portland, Oregon, Marfa, Texas, and Los Angeles, California. These are three places that have had a long-lasting impact on us as people - places where we’ve come closest to experiencing Utopia, or total happiness. Historically, YACHT has recorded in living spaces with borrowed equipment and a single condenser microphone; this time, we used a recording studio, as an experiment. Our approach was almost certainly non-traditional. We lived in the studio for several weeks and wrote the entire album as we recorded it, drawing directly from the experiences we were having in the Triangle of places we chose to situate ourselves in. We did a great deal of reading, writing, conversing, and trying to implement new philosophical ideas into our personal lives. The album is essentially a direct document of those experiences - a place made of songs in which we lived.

Lyrics seem to eventuate at the most unexpected of times. What’s the weirdest place you’ve come up with lyrics?

Claire: For us, lyrics come from gruelling work and intense research. Many, if not most, of the lyrics on Shangri-La are elaborate semantic “easter eggs,” the products of manually arranging text into historical-cultural-spiritual-referential packets.

Jona: That said, the chorus of the song, Shangri-La, very traditionally came to me in the shower.

You’ve always been affiliated with DFA but what has signing to the label meant for YACHT?

Jona: DFA is a golden key. It allows us access into the stereos, record decks, and dance clubs of people who may not ordinarily pay attention to YACHT. We often feel like we’re slipping under the door into as-yet-untrodden musical properties; however, DFA are extremely accommodating, creatively. We have total freedom to design our music and our larger identity as we please. The only expectation is a high standard of thoughtfulness and quality.

Did your environment have a big influence on the writing of the album?

Claire: Yes, we’re obsessed with place. We largely write and record in Marfa, Texas, because it’s a spiritual place for us, our centre - and our music comes directly from the experiences we share there. I often joke that Marfa is real life and everything else is just shadows on the wall, like Plato’s cave.

[Finish this sentence] Playing on stage is like…

Claire: A profound vulnerability that can, on occasion, reach so far into either anarchy or archetypal history that it reaches some approximation of transcendence.

Festival season is underway and you’re currently on tour. How many hours of sleep are necessary for you to function the next day?

Jona: 0-24.

The things that are always in your festival knapsack?

Jona: Water, candles, and a copy of Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages.

Interview by: Jasmine Phull

Join YACHT's spiritual journey at The Ruby Lounge tonight.

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