It's a little shocking that Earmilk has not featured anything on YACHT before but as a redemption, we have an exclusive interview with this handsome duo Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans.
On a beautiful Sunday evening at the DeKalb Market, YACHT spoke with Earmilk about Portland, triangles, Nirvana, medication and everything else you can possibly think of. This chat took place on the steps of a traditional Brooklyn apartment with winds of noisy Spanish music and delicious food from the vendors at the market. With everything happening nearby, speaking with Jona and Claire was above entertaining. The pair compliments each other like peanut butter and nutella. Just let that wonderful combination linger in your mind for a little, that is exactly how Jona and Claire interact through their music and all other aspects of living.
If you have not heard anything from YACHT, listen to "Psychic City" before continuing any further. There is an introduction of YACHT in the interview so please, read away.
Earmilk: What do you think about when you hear Ear milk, those two words. What comes to mind?
Claire: Ear milk.. I gotta tell you, it's a pretty gross combination of words.
Jona: I'm thinking of ear wax candles. Like these places where you can get candles that go into your ears and somehow the heat draws out the wax from your ear. I've actually never done it before.
Claire: Ear candling, I've done it. You can do it to yourself, I brought a candle once and did it. It feels really cool, like a crackling fire in your ear.
EM: Where does the milk come in then?
Claire: I guess someone is pouring milk down on that candle, it's a tube like milk in a tube.
Jona: I'm thinking more of a milky white candle.
Claire: Well, actually, I'm thinking more of a product of some kind of ear medicine. A creme thats dripping from your ear because it's hot. That sounds really gross.
(We all got quiet as the imagery hit.)
EM: Can you give us an introduction of what YACHT is all about?
Claire: YACHT is a band.
Jona: A belief system.
Claire: And a business based in..
Jona: Portland, Oregon
Claire: Los Angelos, California
Jona: And Marfa, Texas. Those three places we consider to be the Western American Utopian triangle. All three of those places have deep personal meaning to us and have sort of guided us in our evolutionists, friends, human beings and a band.
EM: YACHT is also an acronym for?
Jona: Young Americans Challenging High Technology
EM: What kind of music would you guys put this under?
Jona: Well, we let you do that. Not you personally but the big you. We make what we make and you can call it whatever you like. Our goal is to not make the same thing twice. We have five albums and none of which sounds alike. So whatever people want to call it, we are so happy to indulge them. If you want to call it rap funk, thats probably wrong but it's okay. No I mean, that's very wrong but it's okay.
Claire: What's in a word anyway.
EM: You said Portland… I just recently saw this TV series called Portlandia. Do you think that's a pretty accurate show about what Portland is?
Jona: I mean it's a comedy. At times, yes. It is very much like that. We are fans of the show.
Claire: Yeah, totally. It's amazingly brave, to make a TV show making fun of the world's most defensive city. People in Portland are so defensive about a lot of things, especially their own particular culture and there was a lot of random backlash about it. I think in the end, everyone gets it and thinks its funny. Nobody can deny that Portland is what it is. Theres a little bit of Portland in everybody and a little bit of Portland all over America. Especially in places like Brooklyn, Austin, San Fransisco, and Seattle. I mean it's a culture that has grown beyond the boundaries of our little hamlet.
EM: The triangle was mentioned before, it seems like the triangle is also a representation on what "hipsters" are. What are your thoughts on that?
Claire: First of all, we were the first!
Jona: Ya, I don't know if it represents hipsters. We've used the triangle as our personal symbol in the past four years and we've seen it sort of come into hipster culture, if you want to call it that. More and more, we can't help but think we had something to do to influenced that for better or worse, we're not sure but the triangle has been used throughout human history. Since humans organized in any way, whether its religion, mathematics or philosophy, the triangle is a symbol for those things.
Claire: Yes. Essentially every world religion, every spiritual movement, every cult in the history of humanity, the triangle has been used to some capacity. From the shining delta of the Masons, the holy trinities of Catholicism to like the Aztecs and Mayans using the triangle to represent the sun, to look at the Pythagorean Greeks, I mean it's somethings thats really ancient. Its funny that the triangle has become this prevelant design feature of 21st century hipster culture, I don't know where it comes from or why its been adapted but it's such an universal symbol that the meaning, it's stood for so many things like mathematics, gay rights, architecture, design, star of David, the trinities are a thing that you see throughout all cultures. I think that maybe it's so meaningful that it means nothing and therefore, it's a flat symbol that can be adopted easily. It's different than wearing a cross, or star of David on a t-shirt. Those things still have a very pointed meanings but the triangle is more wide spread, which I think is meaningless in a way and thats why we use it. People can wear it and make it mean us but they can also mean a lot of other things. It doesn't isolate them.
EM: Well, you guys sound very professional and educated. Can you give us a background of what you were doing before YACHT?
Claire: We are professional educators.
Jona: I've been doing YACHT since 2002, almost ten years. Before YACHT, I can't remember.
Claire: You can remember!
Jona: Well, I didn't go to college or highschool. I played in punk bands instead of going to highschool. I just dropped out and took the GED when I was 16 and I've been playing in bands ever since.
Claire: I went to college.
Jona: She's the learn it one.
Claire: I am the learn it one. I'm the book learn it one but not the smart one, weirdly.
Jona: Oh come on.
Claire: Oh honey… I went to college and studies literature. Was a journalist, freelance writer and a science writer/communicator for several years before YACHT and I still do some of that on the side but there is not very much of a side when your project is like an all encompassing life, culture, and texts in video and music production.
EM: This is like a 24 hour thing huh?
Jona: Oh yes, a 24 hour job.
Claire: For sure, we live it!
EM: I love how you guys are so friendly and personal with your fans, for example when I was contacting you guys for this interview,there was a lot of communication. Its great but is this something you are always working on?
Jona: Yes, definitely. Growing up, my favorite band ever was Nirvana. I always imagine if Nirvana had existed in a time we do now with prevalent social media and technology, just how amazing it would have been if I was able to share emails with Kurt Cobain? Not to compare ourselves in any way to Nirvana but I love the idea of being as open as possible to communication. In every way possible.
Claire: It's a two way street, you know. We get as much out of our fans as we give to them. We would not exist without an audience or people to converse with. Who are we to seperate ourselves and be mighty about it. It's a constant conversation that involves changes and shapes the way we form our band. Even talking about our band allows us to externalize our thoughts about it as it grow. When we interview, we get like "Oh yeah, thats how I feel about this!"
Jona: So you are shaping us right now. Thank you.
EM: Great! Now what is your favorite thing about being a band?
Jona: Out of all of this, I guess just being able to do exactly what we want to do. Being able to fully express ourselves and for that to evolve and change and to keep going in a sustainable way for almost 10 years now and hopefully 10 more years.
Claire: To know that our path led us here and we don't have to work at cubicle jobs and be unhappy. Not separating our creative life from our daily life. I think we are very privileged and we never take that for granted at all. We work super hard but thats the best thing about it. We can work hard at something we really love doing.
EM: There are no plans on stopping this?
Claire: God no! Well we're always evolved, maybe in 10 years, we'll be film makers or something. We will never stop working.
Jona: Maybe the film production company will be called YACHT.
Claire: Maybe our catering company can be called YACHT snacks.
EM: You guys have such lovable fans, what are some crazy things they have done?
Jona: People get tattoos all the time.That always blows our mind because that's a life long commitment to an idea. It's deep.
Claire: Maybe we are lucky in that capacity because we have a logo that is a triangle or anchor and you don't have to regret that necessarily.
Jona: Also, people get lyrics tattooed on themselves and a lot of people travel from great distances to come to shows which always blows our mind. We are so grateful for that.
Claire:I think perhaps the most delightful thing of our fan base is the fact that they feel totally empowered to talk to us about the weirdest things in their life.
Claire: We get emails from people that are so personal and intimate about their thought processes in regards to religion to philosophy, relationship with their family, and sexuality. Our inbox is like an advice column and I don't know why.
Jona: And a lot of it is like X-Files. It's a mix between the X-Files and an advice column.
Claire: It's an honor that people want to come to us with their problems.
EM: Do you guys have any last words to Earmilk?
Jona: Thank you for talking to us, thank you for reading.
Claire: Don't forget to take your ear medicine! You need it for your ears! Your ears are very sore from all the music you listen to. Dear listener or reader.
Jona: Thank you for your eyeballs.
Claire: And don't forget to take your eye ball medicine.
The interview ended with Jona telling Claire to stop saying eye medicine.
YACHT are currently making their way to Iceland for the annual Iceland Airwaves Festival. Still on tour for their latest album Shangri-La (DFA Records), this perfect team are unstoppable and "on tour forever."