How To Upload Your Brain To The Internet With YACHT
I was not expecting to talk about the country’s political climate and dying in the middle of having sex while I sat in a conference room at my university, but some days are meant to be strange. I probably should have expected the unusual when I called the electropop duo YACHT to talk about their first album in four years—I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler. Yeah, I thought so too.
It’s been thirteen years since Jona Bechtolt started making solo jams under the name YACHT, and seven years since Claire L. Evans joined up to make their synthy pop sounds. Through a technological mix of drones, Google maps pins, and gifs, Claire and Jona have created a marketing campaign worthy of an album that focuses on the politics of feminism, sensual connections through the telephone, and fucking ’til you’re dead. Before the band heads to Brooklyn for their sold out show at Rough Trade, the duo sat down for a talk about the true origins of their name, uploading your soul to the Internet, gender neutrality, and more.
YACHT stands for “Young Americans Challenging High Technology.” Where did that even come from?
Jona: Well, we told a lie starting in 2009 that it was a weird after-school adult learning education program that I went to in Portland, OR. It was actually a building that existed in Portland. By the time I saw it, it had been long shut down, and was decrepit and cool looking. I was inspired through making computer music, so I thought it was an appropriate name. Now I hate the name, and I hate that we’re associated with luxury culture and boats. It’s been a curse but since we’ve been a band for 12 years, we can’t change it.
Claire: And we have never been able to find out what it was. There’s no record of it on the Internet.
Did you hear about Pitzer College? A yacht club was banned because students deemed it “offensive” and too “exclusive.” If your band was deemed offensive and too exclusive, what would you rename it?
C: You’d think we would’ve had that conversation before considering how much we hate our band name, but we haven’t.
J: I think we would just go the Prince route, and our name would just be an emoji.
C: Yes! That’s exactly what I was gonna say! That’s awesome.
What emoji would it be, though?
J: Maybe one of the new ones like a taco.
C: You know, I like the ones that nobody uses, like the tan sandal.
J: There’s also some business ones that are really good like the hangtag.
The marketing for the new album has been phenomenal. You’ve been using maps and drones and gifs. Besides trying to make the Internet cooler, what inspired this direction?
C: I mean you got it right there. Trying to make the Internet cooler. I mean, all of the things we did can be defined as marketing but, for us, they wouldn’t have worked if they were just promoting any music. Each project spoke to themes of the album or specific songs.
J: The medium worked for the message.
On the songs ‘Matter’ and ‘Hologram’ the recurring theme is the vastness of the Internet. If you could have your soul uploaded into the Internet, would you?
C: That’s such a good question. Uhm… yes. But only once I’m done with it. I’m happy to upload my soul to the cloud once it’s had its full run biologically.
Do you think it’s already sort of uploaded to the Internet already because we document so much of our life online? Are we going to live online forever anyways?
C: That’s the thing — it’s a really sticky distinction between two different kinds of living. I actually just worked on a documentary where I interviewed a lot of transhumanists—people who believe they can live biologically or digitally forever. I met this group of people trying to build these mind files. They would create this digital scrapbook of all their experiences and correspondence and photographs and videos.
They thought if they uploaded that to a server eventually it could take their place. I think there’s a big difference between creating a copy of yourself that lives forever, and actually having continuous conscious experiences. I mean, of course we’re all leaving behind traces of ourselves. It’s a form of longevity but it’s meaningless unless you can experience it.
Going off of the album title, it’s interesting to look at how the future is portrayed in old movies. What futuristic invention are you still waiting for?
J: A futuristic invention that we’re still waiting for? I guess that would be… equal rights.
C: No, that’s one of our concerns with this record. We’re afraid people will think we’re talking about wanting jetpacks and hoverboards, which is not at all what we’re interested in. We are interested in a future we think we all deserve. A place where people have the ability to live their lives how they want—
J: –and aren’t murdered by cops.
C: They don’t experience crazy income disparities and our planet isn’t literally melting. That kind of stuff.
“I’m happy to upload my soul to the cloud once it’s had its full run biologically.”
“A futuristic invention that we’re still waiting for? I guess that would be… equal rights.”
One futuristic aspect of our generation is this trend of gender neutrality and androgyny that’s become more mainstream in the past few years. How are you feeling about all of this?
C: I think it’s interesting as a cultural moment. I wouldn’t have guessed it would happen and I’m excited about it. I think it allows for all kinds of different people to be visible. What scares me is the idea of it being a trend. It should just be a new condition of life.
Your song ‘War on Women’ is really powerful. Why do you think we don’t hear more female vocalists singing about these issues?
C: I think we live in a cultural condition in which speaking out against these specific kinds of inequalities runs a really high risk of being physically threatened and abused by thousands of strangers—for a lot of people that’s just not worth it. I’m never about the song for that reason but I feel like it’s important and I want our female fans to hear it.
One of my favorite songs on the album is called ‘I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead.’ If you could have sex with one famous person, but the catch was you would die while having sex with them, who would it be?
C: [Laughs] Oh my god that’s the best. You want to go first?
J: [Laughs] No you go first it sounds like you had something.
C: …Oscar Isaac?
J: Wow good present day celebrity. Oh man, I don’t know. Oscar Isaac?
Oscar Isaac is going to be really happy about this.
Photos by Luke Gilford and Bec Lorrimer
Get the new YACHT album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler, on iTunes here.
Stay tuned for the music video for “I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler,” out Wednesday.
Visit their website for tour dates here.