The PV Q&A: YACHT’s Jona Bechtolt on the Band Turning Ten: “I Hope That Never Being Satisfied Helps Us Keep It Interesting and Evolving”

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Interview by Katrina Nattress

Ten years ago, YACHT was a sparkle in multi-instrumentalist Jona Bechtolt’s eye. The Portland native performed solo with nothing but his keyboard to small groups of friends and music lovers in venues including college dorm lobbies. But the perfectionist that he is, the doe-eyed, dance loving one-man-band put his heart and soul into this project, constantly pushing himself to do better.

Bechtolt still possesses this tough love mindset, and because of that, YACHT has evolved into something much larger than himself. In 2008, singer Claire L. Evans officially joined the band and the possibilities seemed endless (and still do). As a duo, YACHT has released two studio albums and is currently developing a show, with the help of Amazon, entitled Support. On Friday, December 8, YACHT celebrates its 10-year anniversary at Los Angeles’ Echoplex before delving into a new decade and chapter in its history.

PureVolume: Holy cow, I can’t believe you are embarking on your 10th anniversary! Jona, I remember watching you play in college dorm lobbies by yourself in Portland. Did you ever think this project would become what it is today?
Jona Bechtolt: I still think of YACHT as being close to, but not exactly what I want it to be. I feel like I haven’t gotten it just right yet, so I’m super grateful that everyone that comes to our shows and has our records don’t see it and hear it the same way I do! I hope that never being satisfied helps us keep it interesting and evolving.
PV: What would you say have been your largest accomplishments in the past 10 years?
Claire L. Evans: Time itself is the accomplishment. We’ve remained committed to our work, unswerving, and eked out a life from it. We couldn’t ask for anything more.
PV: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
CE: We haven’t the foggiest. Maybe sweating, tanned, and smiling in the sun as we build the fortifications for our oft-dreamed-of compound in the Far West Texas desert. Maybe living underground, only slipping out at night to scavenge food and tools from the charred remains of post-apocalyptic Los Angeles. Nobody can imagine. Life is a long and winding path uphill, pitch-dark except for the few feet ahead, leading finally to the mountain.
PV: What can fans expect from your 10th Anniversary show at the Echoplex?
CE: It’s going to be a very special occasion. We’re building a completely new show, one which will feature material from the entire ten-year span of YACHT. There will be visual stimulus of all kinds, strong tactile elements, an overwhelming sense of community, surprises, and friends from over the years. For us, this is the end of one era and the beginning of another; it’s sentimental, and something worth partying like maniacs about.
PV: Your “YACHT Turns 10” flyer indicates this will be the “last show for a long while.” What are your plans after this gig?
CE: One of the defining aspects of YACHT is that we strive to constantly reinvent ourselves, try new things, and never make the same work twice. For the time being, we’re taking this imperative to a meta-level and writing a television show about our experiences on the road over the last ten years. The show is called Support, as in support band, and we’re developing it with Amazon. It’s still in the embryonic stages, but we’re really excited to flex new muscles and try to communicate our experiences—the funny, the tragic, the ever-transforming reality of being a band in the 21st century—to a different audience. This doesn’t signal the end of YACHT; we just need some time to focus on doing this right.
PV: Why did you decide to have the band’s 10th birthday in Los Angeles instead of Portland?
CE: We both grew up in Portland, but Los Angeles is our home now. Although we came of age as human beings and artists in the Northwest, this decade anniversary is equally about who we are now as it is about where we come from.

PV: You released your fifth (secondnd as a duo) album, Shangri-La, in June of last year. Are you working on new material? When can we expect a new album from YACHT?
CE: We have a new single, “Second Summer,” coming out on DFA in December. It’s a standalone release, with some remixes and a totally incredible music video that will come out right in time for our tenth anniversary. “Second Summer” is our swan song for the time being, a celebration of overcoming obstacles in order to be close to what you love. We’re not working on any new material for the time being, although we almost certainly will in the near future. Every day is new, and we’re always learning. It’s like the science fiction writer Ray Bradbury said, sometimes you have to blithely step off the cliff and have to build your wings on the way down.
PV: Jona, you began this as a solo project and eventually invited Claire to join the band. Do you see this expanding to a full band (aside from touring)?
JB: I love Rob (Bobby Birdman) Kieswetter and Jeff (Jeffrey Jerusalem) Brodsky, our touring band, and was a fan of their solo work before getting the pleasure of playing with them, so working together has been really awesome. Since we’ve been touring together they’ve become instrumental in making new music
PV: Take me through your writing process—Jona, do you still act as primary songwriter or is it more of a collaborative effort?
JB: It’s a fully collaborative project, but the two of us definitely go on solo journeys into different parts of the work. Sometimes if Claire leaves the house she’ll come back to a fully realized song that will have parts written for her to sing, other times we’ll hash out each step of a song together, and other times Claire will have melodies or entire books of lyrics that she’ll bring to me, but it’s hardly ever the same way twice. You can count on us using a computer, whatever instruments we have access to, working on the songs up until the minute we have to send them off, never feeling satisfied, and tons of easter eggs in everything from the structure of the songs and lyrics to the tones we choose.

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