"Let’s make that perfectly clear, we are going for the gold."

YACHT, art by Melanie Coles
YACHT, art by Melanie Coles

Yacht is—at the very least—an electronic dance band started by Portland’s Jona Bechtolt in 2003. Bechtolt, who has also played in the Blow, added Claire L. Evans to the band in 2008. Their latest album, See Mystery Lights, was released by DFA last year. They spoke to Duncan M. McHugh on his show Duncan’s Donuts just before their Canadian tour started. This is an excerpt from that conversation.

Discorder: You guys have been touring forever it seems. You went all over the place in 2009 … four continents?

Claire L. Evans: I don’t know. I think we were in 17 countries last year. Is that what we came up with?

D: Next up you guys are going to be doing a tour of Western Canada. Why did you want to do a tour through here?

Jona Bechtolt: We wanted to come to Canada for a long time and it hasn’t happened for us. It just made perfect sense. We have been asking our agent to bring us to Canada for a long time and finally people asked us, and we have a policy of saying, “Yes” to doing shows. … Yeah, we’re huge fans of Canada. It’s just been the earliest we could come up.

D: You guys do know you’re coming during the Olympics here?

JB: Yeah, that part is strange for us.

CLE: That was maybe not the wisest scheduling. Although, it might be kind of exciting to be in Vancouver during all the Olympic madness, make us feel like a big exciting moment in time that we’re a part of.

D: [Your visit] will be a little ray of sunshine for Vancouverites, ’cause a lot of us are feeling kinda bummed out about all the craziness that’s going to be happen.

JB: Yeah, I can imagine, but we are going for the gold. Let’s make that perfectly clear, we are going for the gold.

CLE: I’m going for silver to be honest.

D: You’ve added some members for this tour? Tell me about the Straight Gaze, who are they?

JB: They are close friends of ours: D. Rueben Snyder … we have Bobby Birdman … and Jeffrey Brodsky. Every six months or so, we get crazy and we have to change Yacht in some major way. And past changes and revisions have been adding Claire, making all kinds of performance rules like never touching the computer or only touching computer or touching audience members or invading personal space using Powerpoint, focusing a lot on video at the show, and interacting with people. Yeah, we have to make major changes or else we go nuts.

D: Your website is exhaustive in documenting what you’re doing. What inspires you to be so diligent with keeping it up?

JB: I think it started with just having a pretty bad memory and wanting to reference it as a resource for myself so I could go back and be like, what’s that ice cream place in San Diego that I really like? And then I have that part documented that I can always reference. But also it came out of … wanting to always keep up with not just playing music but doing everything else. We consider ourselves generalists.

CLE: We see Yacht as being kind of evolutionary entity if you will, and in the evolutionary ministry of animal and human kind, over specialization is what causes extinction. We don’t want to go extinct.

D: Do you do all the web design and video stuff yourself?

JB: Yeah, we do almost everything all ourselves. We’re control freaks.

D: And your mission statement [ed. It’s up on their website. If you don’t have the means of checking it out think of a cryptic modern Ten Commandments based on open-mindedness and triangles among other things.], how did that come about?

CLE: Well, uh, there’s lots of reasons for it. Mainly it’s because we try to build as much community as possible around Yacht and our peripheral activities … We make a point of talking to people about our various projects as much as possible and shaping it to their ideas and needs … It’s like the Ten Commandments, if you will; people like having that foundation to build on, but it’s not set in stone.

JB: We live on the Internet so it’s not set in stone. It’s a living document that can breathe and change, and that’s something we’re really excited about, especially going to places like Canada. We want to meet new people and hear new ideas and change the document based on that.

D: You recorded this album in Marfa, Texas. Why did you choose Marfa?

CLE: Marfa kind of chose us; Marfa has this phenomenon that’s not unknown in others parts of the world, but it’s quite rare, a mystery light phenomenon … It’s a paranormal optical phenomenon that happens called the Marfa Mystery Lights and every night, we’d go out in to the desert and see these paranormal unexplained light happenings … It profoundly spoke to us as being a very rare example of a modern mystery, because we live in an age where there isn’t much mystery left. We live in a very scientific age, where even the most tiny and incomprehensibly small working aspect of this universe has been rationalized and explained with profound mathematical theories. And where we have access to information that would have taken our parents weeks or decades to find, we have it at our fingertips. So, as sort of self navigating people, we never sort of experienced a real mystery, we never felt like something was both unqualifiably real and unknowable and mysterious, and so the first time we saw the lights, it really had a huge effect on us and we decided we wanted to go back to Marfa to live and to know what it was like to live with that phenomenon day to day, what it was like to live with mystery.

JB: We hadn’t intended on making an album of music. We just intended on living there and meeting everyone we could in the town. And later, we just found an album before us. We don’t know how it got there or how it was made, but apparently we made it.

D: Between recording the album in Marfa and being on the road and such, do you still feel a strong affinity with Portland?

JB: Yes and no. I feel closer to Marfa almost, and I know that Marfa will be a place that we’ll return to our whole lives. I think that one of our major goals right now, as a band is to try to put up shop in Marfa, some kind of shop that will be like a community shop where people could come and gather. But I mean, all of our equipment is in Portland.

CLE: And we both grew up here.

JB: And we have a huge connection to Oregon and Portland.

CLE: It’s hard to know, we’re kind of like temporary, autonomous zones that walk around and everywhere we go has to be virtue of the necessity of our lives, has to be home to us otherwise we would be totally addressed and alienated all the time. So Portland is home for us in a more profound way than other places, but the world is kind of home to us too.

D: Yeah, great, I think that’s about it. Anything else you’d like to add?

CLE: We’re very excited to see you, Canada. Thank you for having us.

—Special thanks to Camilla Keen for her help with this story