YACHT are artists based in Los Angeles.
YACHT’s figureheads, Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans, are opposing forces. It’d be generous to call Jona a high school dropout: he never attended a single day, choosing instead to literally “bang on the drum all day” as an outpatient in the teenage art ward. Claire was born in England, raised in France, and moved to Oregon to be watched after by the Intel corporation in the mid-1990s, during the height of the microprocessor boom. But the unlikely pairing is the source of their power.
YACHT’s new album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler, is a sweeping and visionary critique of the 21st century. It reveals the band at its most self-assured: critical, funny, tough, and musically diverse, crafting an infectious and hyperactive conceptual pop that seems to seep through the walls of an alternate universe. YACHT’s knowing references to technology, feminism, and media are layered in complex arrangements in songs about holograms and phones, police violence and identity, sex and the future.
This is the first YACHT album that Bechtolt and Evans didn’t create in a vacuum. Starting from the ground up, the pair wrote the album with their longtime collaborator and bandmate Rob Kieswetter, who also produced the album with Bechtolt (a first: Bechtolt has been YACHT’s sole producer since 2002). The result is a surprising and heterogeneous collection of songs that only YACHT could make. Grammy-winning Irish producer Jacknife Lee (REM, Bloc Party, Robbie Williams, Taylor Swift) stepped in as a hypercolor shaman of sorts, creating his own album-wide credit of “objective overseer and structural mechanic.” The album’s title track was co-produced with Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, M83, Tegan and Sara) and its string arrangement was put together by pop polymath Jherek Bischoff (David Byrne, Caetano Veloso, Parenthetical Girls). The album was recorded over two years in Los Angeles at a handful of studios (Jacknife’s technicolor compound in Topanga Canyon, Meldal-Johnsen’s studio in Atwater Village, Red Bull’s studio in Santa Monica, and YACHT’s home studio) as well as in a former cavalry bunker in Marfa, Texas, at the Marfa Recording Company.
I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler draws from a weird well of ADD influences: 80s Japanese electronic reggae (Sandii & The Sunsetz, Haruomi Hosono), 70s and 80s post-punk and no wave (Family Fodder, The Waitresses, Suburban Lawns, Killing Joke, A Certain Ratio, Devo), Norwegian disco (Todd Terje, Lindstrøm, Prins Thomas), Grand Royal Records-era alternative music (Cibbo Matto, Luscious Jackson, Money Mark).
YACHT was first created in 2002, as a design studio operating under the acronym “Young Americans Challenging High Technology.” As technology became more evenly distributed, YACHT transformed into a word representing everything Jona and Claire touch, each medium informing the next. More traditional artists tend to compartmentalize their efforts, but like an adolescent trying on identities, from 2002-2015 YACHT have shapeshifted: from solo laptop performer to wacked-out performance artists, from harsh electronic comedians to composers, from a two-piece avant-garde karaoke group to a four-piece a no-wave broken disco band, all while working as commissioned artists, writers, editors, and speakers for organizations like TEDx, WIRED, MoMA, Rhizome, VICE, and more. The common thread: Claire and Jona’s distinct amalgamation of cynicism, optimism, and attention to the special details that keep their work interesting and idiosyncratic.
If you’re confused by YACHT, either look closer or zoom out. There’s a decade-plus of work to sift through: joke websites, videos somehow seen by millions, subversive design projects, texts, one-time-only events, and more live shows around the world than should be counted at this point.