YACHT: I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real. (Marriage Records, 5/15/07)
YACHT: “So Post All ‘Em”[audio:http://alarm-magazine.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/YACHT-So-Post-All-Em.mp3|titles=YACHT: “So Post All ‘Em”]
Jona Bechtolt’s condition is congenital, and it’s only getting worse. The symptoms of his eternal good mood are all over the Internet, where his refreshingly playful websites, videos, and blogs abound, accompanying his ever-growing catalogue of releases. Bechtolt’s nom de guerre, YACHT, is quickly becoming synonymous with the somewhat dubious amalgam of “mildly danceable, psychedelic, 2000-era grunge music.” The sheer feel-goodness of his music and unbridled fun-mongering has managed to break the will of so many stubborn genre elitists, be it dance, indie, or hip hop.
YACHT, a “media-and-genre spanning life project” based in Portland, Oregon and founded in 2003 by Bechtolt, was initially a direct response to a failed relationship with ex-Badger King bandmate Marianna Ritchey. Bechtolt admits that his first release was a breakup album, which is telling, as YACHT’s specific brand of cheerfulness appears to be less about being obliviously happy-go-lucky and more an act of stubborn resilience.
Bechtolt’s focus has always been “to make music that empowers and inspires people.” After all, he muses, “There are enough songs about love and enough songs about money.”
Bechtolt’s fourth full-length under the YACHT moniker, I Believe in You. Your Magic is Real, fits that formula to a T. Twelve lighthearted tracks rife with infectious beat work, spazzed-out crescendos, and anthemic lyrics — all focused on the motif of magic as a stand-in for self-empowerment — work earnestly to encourage good cheer in listeners. Mantra-like chants such as “Do what you love! / Love what you do!,” “If you say it out loud / You can make it happen,” and “The magic inside of you is infinite,” border on hypnotic when layered over Bechtolt’s eccentric laptop meanderings.
“I’m pretty uninterested in the display of musical talent right now. I’ve been really let down by music performances for years, and I just need something else.”
The magic inside of Bechtolt has thus far proven itself to be infinite. “I can’t not tour,” Bechtolt admits. “I feel crazy if I’m in a place for three weeks.” More or less on tour for the last 14 years of his life — beginning as a drummer in a band with his older brother that kept him from attending high school — the multi-talented audio/visual artist has released four full-length albums as well as an album of remixes. Outside of his solo projects, Bechtolt has collaborated as a drummer and producer for a number of artists such as Devendra Banhart, Bobby Birdman, and Mt. Eerie, and from 2004 to 2007, he comprised one half of Portland lo-fi electro-pop act The Blow.
The addition of visual artist and science writer Claire L. Evans to YACHT has only served to heighten the tremendous level of output. “We live together, so just by proximity, we do everything together,” Bechtolt says. This includes a serendipitous MacBook Air collaboration — their design for “AirMail,” a vinyl laptop sleeve designed to look like a manila envelope, inspired by Steve Jobs’ unveiling of the super-thin laptop during his keynote address and available just two days later.
What began as a knee-jerk brainstorm has become so successful for the “quick-thinking-duo” that they’ve barely been able to keep up with the demand. Evans and Bechtolt have weathered the trial and error of haphazard business and product management with characteristic grace and enthusiasm, and have since partnered with Mac software dynamos Panic!, Inc. to keep AirMail going. They have also received a grant from Rhizome in the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City for their Marfa Web Ring project, an online platform promoting new-media art.
On stage, Bechtolt and Evans are captivating, dancing with abandon and pushing the limits of the audience/performer boundary. According to the duo’s grunge sensibility, YACHT’s setup is minimal, often just a laptop and microphones. “We’ve been trying to hide the computer lately, so it’s just the two of us,” Bechtolt says. “I’m pretty uninterested in the display of musical talent right now. I’ve been really let down by music performances for years, and I just need something else.” The pair will often stop in the middle of their sets to hold a Q&A session with the crowd, never hesitating to return the inevitable heckling.
After signing to DFA this summer and releasing the Summer Song EP — and, of course, touring extensively — YACHT managed to pause long enough to hunker down and work on a follow-up entitled See Mystery Lights. Recently, a mysterious website under the same name has appeared with an ambiguous collection of images accompanying the YACHT heart-anchor logo.
With Evans now firmly embedded in the project and a “super big presence” on the upcoming album, the two have already begun to plan big for their next tour, set for sometime next year. “I don’t want to reveal too much,” Bechtolt says with an air of mischief, “but our show is going to be a whole new show. We’re going to tour in a whole new way.” From anybody else, this would sound like meaningless bravado, yet somehow, it’s not just believable, it’s expected. For two innovators like Bechtolt and Evans, to change the shape of live performance will be merely par for the course.