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Published: 2014/09/30
by Zach Gayne

YACHT’s Enduring Mystery

The psych-dance cult band YACHT is just one of the many creative outlets that keep bandmates Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans busy throughout the year. Self-described ADD-types, they divide their days between making music, playing with computers, writing scripts, or in Claire’s case, nurturing her deep appreciation for Science Fiction via her ever-insightful blog, Space Canon, where she’s been deconstructing the genre and its literary relics since June 2008.

The two kindred spirits, who became fast-friends and partners after bonding over mutual fascinations with all things mysterious, phenomenal, and occultist, are erudite souls with a thirst for knowledge. As a precocious teenager, Jona went as far as to forgo a proper high school education, favoring instead a self-education consisting of a pre-adolescent Tommy Stinson-esque rock & roll trajectory with his trouble-making older brothers. Nevertheless, without attending a single day of high school, Jona earned his G.E.D at 16 years old.

Some time ago, when asked by Spin Magazine about the genesis of the name YACHT, Jona offered that the name is in reference to Y.A.C.H.T., an alternative school in Portland, Oregon. “It stands for Young Americans Challenging High Technology. It refers to an education program that was held in Portland, Oregon. I was enrolled when I was 16, back in 1996.” While this may be less than true, as Jona reveals below, both he and Claire, respectively, were spiritual valedictorians of the hypothetical learning institution in their missions to channel an array of concepts from technology to the communal elements of religious ceremony, which they’d eventually unite to achieve through highly danceable performance art.

Such ceremonies are currently taking place throughout North America on YACHT’s fall tour, which they’ve titled, “Where Does This Disco?” YACHT are supported’ by Burger Records’ whimsical thrasher-freaks, White Fang, an opening act attendees are privileged to have on the bill.

In honor of the event, here is a conversation with the infatuating pair that took place a while back in Idaho, where YACHT were taking a break from their recent time-off to play a one-off show at Boise’s glorious Treefort Festival. Jona and Claire, chilling in the extremely stylish hotel room provided by the fest’s promoters, spoke freely of their youth, their music, their love of science fiction and their compulsion towards mystery.

How would you describe yourselves as high-schoolers?

Jona: I was a very traditional and classic drop out. I didn’t attend a single day of high school. I was playing in a punk band with my older brother, starting in the end of 7th grade and all through 8th grade and my brother somehow convinced my parents it would be a good idea for me to not go to high school and for us to pursue this dream of being like this pop punk protégé band of, you know, like brother and younger brother band.
So you didn’t even make it to day one?

Jona: No, not even day one. I was doing a correspondence course thing where I would take classes through Portland State University and they would mail the transcript of those courses to where my family was growing up in Astoria, Oregon two hours away.

Tell me about the courses you took at the alternative school Young Americans Challenging High Technology (Y.A.C.H.T.) ?

Jona: That actually never happened.

Ah! A myth!

Jona: Yeah, it’s a beautiful myth. That place existed… but yeah, I never attended it.

Claire: Wow, breaking down the walls already.

Jona: So yeah, I did the (correspondence) courses for a year but the high school stopped accepting the credit from the college. There was like a weirdness where I still don’t understand what happened. I think it’s because both of my older brothers were horrible high school students so the school had it out for my last name. “Oh, another one of these kids, fuck that!” So, I did that for my freshman year and then as soon as it was legal to drop out, I dropped out and took the GED when I was 16.

Claire: You had better things to do. I was a pretty traditional high school goody two shoes / searcher. I’m an only child so I didn’t have any siblings to tell me what was cool and I didn’t really have a lot of cool friends either. I mean, I love my friends from high school… I was just trying to figure out who I was, you know? A lot of it was like, one year I wore JNCO pants and one year I was really preppy and then one year I’d like… when I discovered Weezer, I became like a nerd rock kid, and that was kind of like my major identity in high school.

Jona: Mixtape clubs…

Claire: Yeah, I had a mixtape club that I think was probably the reason I got into college because it got a lot of local press at the time… I went to a lot of shows…

Jona: Wait, how did it get local press? How did your mixtape club get press? That’s so weird!

Claire: I actually don’t know… It was like someone’s older brother’s friend heard about it and then they wrote for the local newspaper.

Jona: So, it was a puff piece? What are the high school kids up to?

Claire: Yeah, it was the front cover of the Living section in The Oregonian… but it was a huge deal for me at the time.

What kind of stuff were you listening to in the really embarrassing years – when you didn’t know any better?

Claire: I mean, like my favorite music in the world up until I discovered independent rock music was Frank Sinatra, show tunes, and like old standards and musical soundtracks. I’ve always kind of been into the classic songwriting of like The Rat Pack, which is so, so lame. I remember I used to dance around in my parents’ living room doing the greatest hits of Sinatra. But then in the early years… you know, you name it. I came of age musically when Napster happened so it was like that thing where you find that one song you like and then like everything you could possibly find that was connected to that in any way; just searching through the web, through connections until you find that thing you really love. Like I heard a Weezer song on the radio and from there it was like, The Pixies, The Replacements, you know…

Jona: But also Fountains of Wayne

Claire: Also Fountains of Wayne… and like Nerf Herder. So it was like everything at once and finally I whittled it down to the right choices… but it took awhile.

Jona, how about you?

Jona: At 6 years old I was listening to Maxwell’s Silver Hammer on repeat and other Beatles things. All my musical influences of my early up bringing came directly from my two older brothers. They were first into break dancing, then into skateboarding, so all of the music around that – early hip hop and like punk and all that stuff… I think the most embarrassing stuff was like the mid 90s pop-punk. I was super into NOFX (laughing) which I think still kind of holds up.

Being really into music growing up, what were some of the most memorable shows of your teenage years?

Jona: My first show that I got to go to of my own choosing was for my 13th birthday. I saw Nirvana, The Breeders and The Melvins… It fucking blew my mind.

Claire: Pretty early in the game I started volunteering at an all age rock club in Portland called the Meow Meow – which definitely doesn’t exist anymore and it’s taken many forms since then – so I was always going to see super local bands. I was really into like indie rock when I was a teenager, like I loved (laughing) Death Cab for a Cutie and stuff… Jona is a little older then me and so he was like playing in all these local bands in Portland when I was a teenager going to shows… so weirdly, we were at a lot of the same shows but like 15 years before we met.

Were you aware of him?

Claire: I remember like, (to Jona) I’d heard of your bands. I’d heard about [name of old band] when I was a teenager.

Jona: What?! Really?? You’ve never told me that!

Claire: Yeah, I’d heard the name. Anyway, also like Built To Spill and Modest Mouse. That was my scene.

Jona: Also The Microphones…

Claire: And The Microphones. I loved all that K Records stuff.

Jona: We’re going to go see Calvin tonight in L.A.

Claire: Yeah, with The Hive Dwellers

Wicked! What are the bands these days that you cannot miss?

Claire: I highly recommend you see Hot Chip if you can. That’s, I think, maybe one of the best high production value concert experiences now.

Jona: I wouldn’t say high production. That sounds like Britney Spears or something.

Claire: It’s just an impeccable show. It’s beautiful!

Jona: It’s not about lights or the visuals. It’s truly about them being a radical band that takes risks and makes awesome mistakes.

Claire: Yeah, they’re the best band in the world. We toured with them last year and every night was like church.

Would you watch every show?

Claire: Yeah and I never do that, but it’s one of the greatest bands of all time! I’ve never watched a show every night, all the way though, as a fan.

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