YACHT is a band, a cult, and a multimedia extravaganza. It's also inclusive, meaning anyone can venture into its quirky musical world riddled with subversive messages and danceable pop hooks. The group's live show is a layered experience that includes immersive video, audience Q&As, and other interactive elements. Performances include "a lot of physical touching," YACHT founder Jona Bechtolt confirms. "We like to break personal space barriers." With the taste-making label DFA releasing YACHT's new album, See Mystery Lights, the groundswell is likely to spread with renewed persistence, splintering the traditional band-fan relationship along the way.
For the record, YACHT is mainly the one-time Blow collaborator Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, a guest who last year became the band's permanent second member. The Portland, Oregon–based duo landed on DFA after penning "Summer Song," a cheeky nod to YACHT's national tour opening for the label's flagship act, LCD Soundsystem. Bechtolt and Evans created the track in half an hour and immediately posted it online.
"I thought that was its lifespan," Bechtolt recalls, "but it's had a third and fourth life now." Released last year as a vinyl DFA single after existing as a free download, the song has surfaced once more on See Mystery Lights, YACHT's full-length outing.
Like YACHT's prior albums, including 2007's I Believe in You. Your Magic Is Real, the new release is an unlikely fusion of punk spirit, homespun electronics, and insistent pop refrains that criticize rampant consumerism. Evans has played with several L.A. noise projects, and Bechtolt once drummed in a punk band with his older brother. Those rebellious roots show through on See Mystery Lights. The standout "It's Boring/You Can Live Anywhere You Want" features a chugging bass line, charred distortion, and lyrics chanted with a deadpan defiance.
Evans says that anti-establishment attitude is inherent when you're raised in the Pacific Northwest. "Even if it's not literally traditional punk, the spirit of punk is very rich here," she says. "We can't really imagine making music any other way."
Recorded on an iMac with a $60 microphone, See Mystery Lights is musically elastic and lyrically brittle, spiking danceable rhythms with brainy meditations on heaven, hell, and the meaning of ownership. It's filled with handclaps, chopped vocals, and an array of fleeting sounds. The track "I'm in Love with a Ripper" features GarageBand's Auto-Tune plug-in. Bechtolt calls it an homage to the rapper T-Pain's fortune-making use of a tool anyone with a computer can access.
When the duo handed DFA the first version of See Mystery Lights, it was a minimal eight-minute record built on the mantralike repetition of lyrics and music. The label challenged YACHT to wrap those ideas in a pop structure, which led to the album as it stands today. Though it's just nine songs, including alternate versions of "Psychic City" and "I'm in Love with a Ripper," it's long enough for the band's purposes.
"Brevity is really important when you're trying to push heavy concepts," Evans says. She calls pop structure "the sugar-coated pill" for transmitting ideas, adding, "We like that people can get into our music on a couple different levels."
To that end, Bechtolt and Evans are about to release software they've developed that will be a single portal to all of YACHT's activities and interests. For now, their Web site, www.teamyacht.com, is an eye-popping resource littered with first-person posts and links to download remixes. "I don't even know how to describe it," says Bechtolt of YACHT's new technology, "but it's the foundation of everything we're trying to do."