One lucky Salacious writer recently had the opportunity to fire some questions at “DFA’s Weirdest Band.” While we sadly don’t find out who would win a freestyle rap battle between the group’s members (Jona Bechtolt, Claire Evans) and LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, they did deign to address my more salubrious questions. The answers, varying between illuminating, oblique, and downright subversive, follow. See them live in TO @ Wrongbar, March 4th.
Salacious: Tell us how amped you are to be adding The Straight Gaze to the lineup. How are they going to enhance the YACHT live experience?
âˆ†: YACHT, in its essence, never changes. This is because we’ve defined YACHT as being anything we set our minds to. YACHT is our music, but it is also all our peripheral projects: it’s design, writing, brand, business, performance, gesture, video. With all of our creative work dedicated to the larger header of “YACHT,” we never have to worry about change. Rearranging the band, for us, is not altering the spirit of YACHT, only the form by which it is delivered. The decision to add The Straight Gaze came as our changes usually do — every six months, we feel the need to completely reinvent the way YACHT is presented to the world. We added Claire L. Evans two years ago, and since have remixed, rearranged, recomposed all of our performances countless times. The Straight Gaze are here to help, toÂ continue the projection of constant experimentation, evolution, and change.
Salacious: Your website talks about a new model of touring and performance: yacht-show-as-art-installation, where the audience members become akey part of the exhibit.Â Can you expand on this?Â What have been some highlights of this approach so far?Â How has it evolved from your first attempts? Do you feel it’s been successful?Â How is a live YACHT show a unique experience? I get the impression that you guys are interested in the ways thatÂ religions and cults operate and accrue followers; would you like theÂ YACHT live experience to border on religiosity? To what end?
âˆ†:It’s very important to us to experiment with the possibilities of the concert. We see a great deal of parallels between the culture of underground music, which we come from, and the culture ofÂ underground religious experience (i.e. “cults”), which we are fascinated by. They both involve self-directed methods of transcendence, they both attempt to create community out of shared experienceÂ that is in direct opposition to the mainstream communities already available — in fact the entire point, with both, is a direct stance against mainstream beliefs and culture. And of course they are both deeply imbued with ritual; what is more ritualistic than a concert? The hand-stamping, the ticket, the way that audience members hold themselves and feel they are expected to participate. Every subculture of music has its own codified concert rituals, which are designed to give people physical guidelines as well as to exclude those who might be unaware of them (i.e. forms of dancing which are unknown to the outsider, “scare tactics” like the punk-gobbing of the late 1970s, or drug use). For us, the cult is punk, because it’s taking something very intimate into your own hands, something which isÂ ordinarily handled by the powers that be that mediate culture. Why not celebrate that commonality and allow the obvious references to shine through? We are ready to at least attempt to bring elements of spirituality, of transcendence, into what we do.
Salacious: Name some fellow or past musicians that really just make you want to move.
âˆ†: The Descendents, Black Flag, The Germs, X, The Suburban Lawns, The Screamers, The Weirdos, and The Minutemen have all made us want to move to Los Angeles.
Salacious: If you could get anyone, living or dead, in on a YACHT live show or recording session, who would be on the shortlist? How about 5 or 6 names?
âˆ†: We’re lucky to count among our closest friends the people whose musical work inspires us the most. Only recently has YACHT begun to experiment with allowing other people into the creativeÂ process, into the room with us, and to do this we’ve chosen the minds and spirits of people like Adam Forkner (of White Rainbow), Rob Kieswetter (of Bobby Birdman), Jeffrey Brodsky (of Jeffrey Jerusalem), D. Ruben Snyder (of Rob Walmart), and Rebecca Carlisle-Healy Â (of Flaspar, World Court,and Repetitions).
Salacious: Word on the street is that you guys are supportive of the free flow of information. From an artists perspective, what do you think about people pirating your music? Would you rather they had the chance to hear it and then buy tickets to your show? Do you feel you’re bigger (ie, more people know about YACHT) than you might be if piracy wasn’t so widespread?
âˆ†: All we know is this: we wouldn’t be where we are without the “free flow of information,” as you put it. We don’t just mean that we’ve achieved success because people have downloaded our music,Â although that is a nebulous truth that most modern bands must acknowledge. We mean we wouldn’t beÂ who we are.Â We are children of the digital age, among the first generation of true net natives, and free-flowing information, illicit and otherwise, has completely formed us. We’ve never been far from ideas, from culture, from marginal ideas across the globe, and this has defined the way we see the world and the way we make art. What hypocrisy to turn around and deny that to others in the name of “intellectual property.” Once you make something and release it to the world, it doesn’t fully belong to you anymore — it’s part of culture, and people can and should access it. This is a fragile human network and we must enforce bonds, we must share. People don’t pirate music, media, and software out of malice: they do it to participate in culture, to live beyond their means, to access ideas. Can you fault that?
Salacious: Given how easy it is to reproduce and distribute information now, do you think the recording industry as we know it can continue to exist? What direction is it going to go in, in your opinion? Where does that leave YACHT?
âˆ†: Which music industry? The decaying remains of the majors? The hundreds of cassette tape labels that are blooming all over America? The car-trunk rap mixtape industry? The small indie labels like Marriage Records and States Rights Records, which push beautiful, thoughtfully made releases out of garages and home offices? The kids who give their music away for free on Myspace? As the old models fall apart and desperately flail to retain shreds of cash and relevance, hundreds of new opportunities come to fruition. We live in a unique age with unprecedented access to the tools of media-making, and we all have the power, if motivated, to create our own sustainable microindustries. Even though there are occasional moments of doom and gloom, like the recent news of Live Nation and TicketMaster merging into one joyless corporate behemoth, the worst changes can only foster a richer counterculture. And with the Internet in our hands, we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to. So the music industry is falling apart, and it’s never been a better time to make music. Nothing excites us more.
Salacious: If you weren’t busy touring the world as live performers, where would you be right now?
âˆ†: No, really: we would be touring the world as live performers
Salacious: Tell us which side of the triangle you’re feeling the most right this moment. Darkness? Light? Duration?
âˆ†: The very essence of the triangle is the triad, the trinity. None of those concepts would last long in a world without its complements, without the others: there is a reason that all the religious cultures of the world have had special sacred relevance for the triangle. It holds in its simple matrix a very adaptable, and timeless truth about the form of ideas, which are more complex than simple binaries or even single-handed concepts like “good” or “evil.” Everything is mediated by the other.