YACHT: On book writing, public art and the year of living introspectively

YACHT (Photo by Jacklyn Campanaro)
YACHT (Photo by Jacklyn Campanaro)

In between work on Claire Evans’ soon-to-be-published book and efforts to revitalize a piece of public art, YACHT released an EP in 2017. This year, they hunker down to finish an album and documentary. Oh, and play a few shows.

By Liz Ohanesian

“We were having a kind of introspective year,” says Claire Evans, vocalist of L.A.-based dance-rock group YACHT. “We didn’t tour very much — took the occasional gig flying in and flying out of places, playing a few shows internationally.”

For YACHT, 2017 was “less about going out into the world and hustling,” Evans explains. Now, the hustle has commenced. Evans and multi-instrumentalists Jona Bechtolt and Rob Kieswetter were ready to head back out on the road in early February for a brief tour that hits the Lodge Room in Highland Park on Friday.

YACHT’s year of introspection resulted in “Strawberry Moon,” a five-song EP that was released last October. It’s a collection that came together organically. YACHT began work on new music about a year-and-a-half ago and, according to Jona Bechtolt, they didn’t know what would come of the sessions. It could have resulted in a song or a full album or something in between. There was no release plan. Ultimately, though, YACHT had a small collection of songs that, Bechtolt says, left them “too excited” to keep to themselves.

This one is from us to the fans about us and, hopefully, about broader truth that we all share.

Evans surmises that the material on “Strawberry Moon” is “more personal” than other Yacht releases. “It’s more about our values and our perspective and our feelings and our experiences,” she says, where other Yacht releases have focused on themes like “utopia” and “the future.”

Adds Evans, “This one is from us to the fans about us and, hopefully, about broader truth that we all share.”

Take, for example, “Hard World,” a video for which was released on Feb. 2. It’s a rousing dance number filled with handclaps on the top and funk on the bottom, but the lyrics cut through disco bliss. “The saddest thing about an animal is how quickly its death doesn’t matter,” Evans sings at the start of the first verse. She goes darker in the second verse, acknowledging “The saddest thing about an animal is that we are all animals too! No better or worse than a turtle/Living through World War III in a zoo.”

For the video, YACHT turned to animator Mike Hollingsworth (BoJack Horseman), who made an L.A.-centric clip inspired by the Happy Foot/Sad Foot sign that spins on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake. Here, Happy Foot’s great day is juxtaposed with Sad Foot’s miserable one, digging into the frustrations of life for brief and bleak comedy.

“Strawberry Moon” came to fruition at a time when the members of YACHT were in the midst of various side projects as well. Evans, who is also a science and tech writer, spent 2 1/2 years working on the book “Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet,” which is scheduled to hit the streets in March. “There is kind of a commonality between making a book and making a record,” says Evans. “Even structurally, a chapter is kind of like a song and a book is kind of like an album. It’s a larger story that you’re telling with lots of little pieces.”

“It was actually a great interplay,” Evans says of writing the book while making new music. “I would be in book world, locked away in my office and then I would get to go into the studio and express that other side of my brain. It’s nice to do many different things at once. It’s probably not for everybody, but for us — for me, anyway — it’s a way of feeling fulfilled on every level because you get to do a little bit of everything at the same time.”

Meanwhile, Evans and Bechtolt have been involved in a local conservation project that brings together their interests in forward-minded music and art. They’re part of the team working to restore The Triforium, a massive public art piece created by Joseph Young in the 1970s that was envisioned to work as a musical instrument and light show. The Triforium became a neglected relic of 20th century futurism, but the restoration project aims to bring the sculpture, located at Fletcher-Bowron Square near City Hall, into the 21st century and help it realize its intended potential.

There are similarities between The Triforium and YACHT. “It’s out of step with its time, which is something that we often feel we are with our own time,” says Evans, “but it’s also wildly ambitious and it’s an experiment in bridging art and technology, which is something that we’re deeply invested in as artists.”

We think that it’s the responsibility of the artist to try and translate technological innovation into things of beauty and value for the world and for the public.

She continues, “We think that it’s the responsibility of the artist to try and translate technological innovation into things of beauty and value for the world and for the public.”

Evans adds that, while the connection between YACHT’s work and The Triforfium may not have been so obvious in the past, working on the project has had an influence on their musical output. She says, “We’re always thinking about the visual manifestation of what our songs are going to be and we hope that both visual manifestation and the music can become larger than the spare parts and build something more like a world than a collection of things.”

Last year, YACHT also performed a one-off live score of the 1979 film “Alien” for LACMA. “It was a really fun way to become really familiar — and this happens when you do a remix or a cover of a song you really love — you learn the structure of it and you understand the magic behind it,” Evans says. “You deconstruct it and you really come to know it in a way that you could never know it, even if you were just listening to it a million times.” It’s a project, she says, that they would consider doing again.

For now, though, they’re working on a new YACHT album and corresponding documentary with the goal of finishing that endeavor by the end of 2018. The nature of the project is, according to both Bechtolt and Evans, not to be disclosed. “We can’t tell you anything about what it is,” Evans says, “because it will spoil the surprise.”

||| Live: YACHT perform Friday night at the Lodge Room. Tickets.