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YACHT’s Claire Evans on First Concerts and Cryptozoology
Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt’s electro-pop band YACHT is more than just a band: they create music, videos, and books, and their live shows are more experiences than concerts. (Go to one if you can!) Their 2009 album See Mystery Lights won a “Best New Music” badge from Pitchfork, and their followup offering, Shangri La — also great — is out now. On the brink of another world tour, Claire took some time to spin tunes on Turntable.fm and chat about Sasquatch, dweebiness, and the other Sasquatch.
Claire Evans started playing “Sex And Dying In High Society” by X
Melissa Locker: Hi Claire!
Claire Evans: Hi.
ML: Oh I just saw X in concert! They were so good.
CE: Whoa, really? Where?
ML: At Irving Plaza in New York. They were fantastic. Have you ever seen them?
CE: Dang. They just did a show at the MOCA here in LA, in conjunction with a pretty commendable ’70s punk art show they have up right now. I wanted to go, but then … I don’t know, I guess I didn’t want to ruin it. For myself.
ML: Well, they definitely look older, but the still really rocked. And they had all this old footage airing behind them.
CE: My only visual impression of what X looks like live is from the opening scene of “Decline of Western Civilization,” which is such a huge reference for me.
Melissa Locker started playing “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” by The Ramones
CE: Wow, cool.
ML: “Decline of Western Civilization,” the Penelope Spheeris’ film?
CE: Yeah! We used to a cover of the X song “Nausea” live, but it was a room-emptier.
ML: Ha! Why did it empty the room?
CE: A confluence of reasons. We have mostly young fans, so they didn’t get the reference. We played it pretty straight, so it was a lot different, tempo-wise, from the rest of the YACHT set. Invariably there’d be one awesome teenage girl who’d come up to me after the show super-excited, though, so it was worthwhile. I loved doing it.
ML: Basically what you’re saying is: Kids these days!
Claire Evans started playing “Hope” by Descendents
CE: Since we have a punk theme going, apparently…
ML: I wouldn’t necessarily have pegged your band YACHT as having punk roots. More Kraftwerk maybe? I’m totally projecting.
CE: That’s a common projection.
ML: What did you grow up listening to?
CE: We have Northwest punk roots, which is to say we come from DIY culture, K Records, and Nirvana. “Punk as a state of mind.” That said, I grew up listening to French standards, show tunes, Paul Simon, and Sinatra, because I was a hugely dweeby child.
Claire Evans started playing “The Windmills Of Your Mind” by Dusty Springfield
CE: Oh god, this song! Anyway, YACHT is punk music. At least we think it is.
ML: Wow! That’s a serious switch in tempo from The Descendants to Dusty Springfield.
CE: Ha. Wait, are we trying to do a cohesive DJ set?
CE: Haha OK. This song fucks me up in the same way that “Hope” does. Spiritual tempo.
ML: This song makes me want to put on a flowy dress and smoke a Virginia Slim while staring out the window.
CE: I wish I could ever write lyrics this good … “And the world is like an apple floating silently in space.”
ML: Did she write her own lyrics?
CE: No, not for this song. This is originally a Noel Harrison song? It’s basically a standard at this point. The production on this version is a little silly, but Dusty Springfield is undeniable. I went on a very important road trip in Death Valley once, for which this was the repeat soundtrack.
ML: Oh I like the sound of that. I like a mixtape for a Very Important Death Valley Road Trip.
Melissa Locker started playing “Octavio” by Viva Voce
ML: What else would be on it?
CE: A LOT of Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized.
ML: So a “floating in space” theme?
CE: Yeah, music to suit the endless straight lines. And a couple of completely out-of-place R Kelly songs to break the tedium. At least that’s what was on this particular VIDVRT mixtape.
ML: Um … R Kelly always has a place. Do most of your activities have a soundtrack?
CE: Not really. I used to be better at scoring my existence, but I feel like the more music consumes my working life, the more I appreciate silence the rest of the time.
ML: So does that mean you go to shows a lot? Or never?
CE: I’m just on tour all the time.
ML: What music do you always have in the tour van with you? Are there tour van standards?
Claire Evans started playing “Nausea” by X
CE: We do a lot of audiobooks and podcasts in the van, but every tour, we have a song that becomes our anthem… Embarrassingly, on our last run, it was “Turn the Page” by Bob Seger. Whoops didn’t mean to play X twice. This song is great though!
ML: It’s a great song! No complaints. But go back a second. Really: Bob Seger?
CE: Yeah. Reconsider “Turn the Page,” however.
ML: I am struggling with that notion.
CE: It’s not something I would necessarily shout from the rooftops, but it’s got something true about it. Especially when you’re on the road. There’s a great line in “Turn the Page” about having your gender confused by strangers on the road. All the same old clichés, “Is that a woman or a man?” This is a relatable experience.
ML: That’s true. Especially if you hang out in truck stops. They seem easily confused.
CE: Yeah, especially by me and Jona, for some reason.
ML: I was recently talking to some friends recently about The Worst Song in World. Bob Seger may have been in the running.
Melissa Locker started playing “April Skies” by The Jesus & Mary Chain
CE: Yeah, he’s terrible. We punished ourselves by listening to the Seger canon, and it’s really stressfully terrible. One song in particular called “Gets Ya Pumpin'” became a tour joke.
ML: Did you play it “Rocky” style when you came out on stage?
CE: Haha god no.
ML: By the way, this was my first concert ever at Pine Street Theater in Portland.
CE: Shut up. I hate people who have really cool first concert stories!
ML: My big brother took me.
CE: I mean, not hate…
ML: No, go ahead.
CE: Jona’s first ever concert was Nirvana, the Melvins, and the Breeders. I mean!
ML: Wow! What was your first concert?
CE: Mine? Not sure. I have tried to recall many times. I think it must have been something I went to with my parents. I mean, my first concert as a cognizant teenage person was Save Ferris, the ska band.
ML: I’m trying to not snort laugh at that.
CE: Which I wanted to see entirely because of their star turn in the movie “10 Things I Hate About You.”
ML: Snort laugh.
CE: I told you I was a dweeby teen! To be fair, I was an only child and had no one to clue me into what was cool.
ML: Having an older brother definitely helped. He would also do my makeup like Siouxsie Sioux.
Claire Evans started playing “Good Day Today” by David Lynch
CE: That’s amazing. I’ve never regretted being an only child, but if I had to choose, I would have liked a big brother.
ML: I would say something nice here, but he might read this and then it would go to his head.
CE: Like, a way older one that would come home from college and give me a boogie and intimidate boyfriends.
ML: Ha! Also, whoa the David Lynch!
CE: This whole David Lynch record is so weird and good.
ML: Yeah. It really is.
ML: This was my first concert ever.
ML: Oops no.
CE: It’s funny how everyone holds on to their first concert experience, but no one remembers their first movie. “Oh yeah, Blue Velvet was my first movie.” That would be ultimate bragging territory.
ML: What is YACHT up to next?
CE: Well, we’re going on tour tomorrow! Which will be Phase 1 of a yearlong tour, essentially, that we’re calling the Shangri-La tour.
ML: What do you do to prepare for a year-long tour?
CE: We’re always on tour. On Tour Forever, that’s what we say.
ML: OTF, man.
Melissa Locker started playing “Wetsuit” by The Vaccines
CE: One can do a great deal of preparation for such a thing, but one is never truly prepared. I get very uptight in the preceding weeks about things like finding the best dopp kit and buying all new underwear.
ML: What’s the best dopp kit you’ve found? Inquiring minds want to know!
CE: Haha. I swore by a classic Muji number, but I’ve recently switched to a massive zip pouch that came free with my new suitcase. It’s really huge, and I’m treating myself for this tour by bringing full-size toiletries.
ML: Living large.
CE: It makes all the difference.
ML: Where are you heading first?
CE: We’re crossing the Northern part of the US, dipping into Canada, hitting the East Coast, then looping back through the mountain states. After that, Europe, then the Southern US. We’ve been off the road for a while now, so it’s going to feel good to get back into the fray.
ML: So pretty much anyone reading this interview anywhere could go see YACHT on tour in the next few months.
CE: Yes! Pretty much anyone could! If they were so inclined!
Claire Evans started playing “Walking With Jesus” by Spacemen 3
ML: When you tour how do you keep your sanity? Aside from full-sized toiletries, natch.
CE: Scented candles.
ML: In the van?!
CE: Oh yeah! “Open road, open flame.”
ML: Hahahaha nice.
CE: Nothing like a mellow scented candle in the cupholder when you’re barreling down the freeway.
ML: And it just makes every minute potentially fraught with danger, so very relaxing.
CE: Also, taking the time to eat well, occasionally going to the movies, and tour yoga.
ML: Is that yoga in the van while you drive? Like the stretches they try to convince you to do on airplanes?
CE: There’s some of that, yes. Slamming a downward dog in a rest stop parking lot does wonders for the constitution as well.
ML: It’s probably a great way to meet people, too.
ML: What would be your dream line up for a tour stop?
Melissa Locker started playing “Can’t Hardly Wait” by The Replacements
CE: Like, bands we’d like to play with?
ML: As in what bands would you like to play with?
CE: Do they have to still exist?
ML: No. We’re living in a fantasy world!
CE: Hooray! I don’t know, Pinkerton-era Weezer, the Descendants, the Silver Jews and a reunited LCD Soundsystem. Just the weirdest show ever. Oh and Suicide.
ML: Those tickets would sell out so fast.
CE: And X and Arthur Russell and Fleetwood Mac and Glass Candy.
Claire Evans started playing “It Takes A Muscle (To Fall In Love)” by Spectral Display
ML: Can we talk about your book?
CE: Yes, which one?
ML: Haha. Wait, there’s more than one?
CE: What if there wasn’t, and I was just showing off?
ML: I would be very impressed with your showmanship?
CE: Well, I guess we’ll never know. Do you mean the YACHT book?
ML: I was talking about The Secret Teachings of the Mysteries of Light.
CE: Ah yes!
ML: BRB trying to Google “other YACHT book”
ML: Ugh, it’s all Yacht Rock or helm design.
CE: Yeah, pesky boats. Always messing with our Google results. No, I worked on a book last year about art and science interdisciplinarity, but that was a totally offshoot project.
ML: Ah! Wow.
Melissa Locker started playing “I Heard Your Name” by Martin Rev
ML: Have you heard this album? Martin Rev’s solo album? When you mentioned Suicide it reminded me of it.
CE: No, it sounds pretty great! I only know one Martin Rev song, which is on a mix CD a friend made for me. “Secret Teardrops”
ML: I think secret teardrops is on the same album, which is all like this, very quiet pretty and poppy. But back to the YACHT book. It was apparently inspired by the Marfa Mystery Lights?
Claire Evans started playing “Federal Dust” by Silver Jews
CE: Yes, it was. As was the album of similar name, “See Mystery Lights,” from the same year.
ML: I know nothing about the Marfa Mystery Lights. Can you explain a bit?
CE: They’re a paranormal optical phenomenon in the Far West Texas desert. They’ve been spotted in one region of the desert outside of Marfa since as long as there have been people to spot them. It goes back to Native American myths from the region. It’s also totally, to date, unexplained.
ML: Wow! Mysteries of the Unknown.
CE: We lived in Marfa for several months, several times, and it remains of the fountainhead of YACHT inspiration, largely because of the lights. For us, there was something really profound about living alongside a Total Mystery in this age of self-navigating democratized information overload. God I love this song so much. David Berman is one of our best poets.
ML: I always forget about this band and then I hear them and I remember how great they are.
CE: Silver Jews are a forever band for me. I am very attuned to lyrics, and they’ve always seemed like a band that values words over music.
Melissa Locker started playing “Beautiful World” by Devo
ML: Speaking of mysteries, if you met Bigfoot would you run or hug him?
CE: Hug! I did a weird lecture about Bigfoot once many years ago. There’s a really amazing subset of Bigfoot enthusiasts that argue he’s an inter-dimensional being. Which I love.
ML: I love cryptozoology in general. It’s so fascinating!
CE: Yeah, absolutely. I’m lovingly committed to all radical fringes of thought in that vein. Love it. For later reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jon-Erik_Beckjord. This guy is the proponent of interdimensional sasquatch theory … farther out than the farthest out!
ML: Speaking of Bigfoot, they just announced the Sasquatch line up. YACHT has played before and I’ve always wondered what it’s like playing those giant festivals.
CE: Oh yeah. Sasquatch is a great festival.
ML: Is it fun? Or daunting? How do you escape the fans?
CE Playing giant festivals is like having an art show up in the airport.
CE: Tons of people see it, but no one’s THERE to see it.
ML: Ah, that’s a great description.
Claire Evans started playing “Eclipse Of The Moon” by Tony, Caro And John
CE: It’s definitely always an interesting challenge to convert large masses of strangers to your trip, but it’s not the optimal environment for live music in my opinion. I like contained spaces, feeling like we’re all in it together. We like playing shows outside of the constraints of standard rock clubs, though. It’s nice when people don’t know how they’re expected to behave.
ML: I can’t concentrate. What is this song?!
CE: Isn’t it great!? Tony Caro and John. Obscure ’70s spooky folk? All the songs are about really sinister things, occult rituals, apocalyptic hazes. But it’s really uplifting and bouncy somehow. It toes a great line between dark and light, and thus is after my own heart.
ML: I cannot wait to go download their entire discography. Have fun on the tour and don’t forget to try the Tocca Fig Cucumber candle. It’s designed to fit in a cup holder.
CE: Hahaha! Break!
Claire Evans and her band YACHT are on tour right now. Follow them around on tour Grateful Dead style (dates are here) or on Twitter @TeamYacht. You can follow Melissa Locker on Twitter @woolyknickers, but not in real life please.