In Los Angeles, home of electronic-pop duo YACHT, there’s a six-storey, 55-tonne piece of public art called Triforium. Installed in 1975, the sculpture was created to match 1,494 glowing cubes with music from a 79-note glass-bell carillon: the largest musical instrument of its kind on Earth. Unfortunately, it never really worked.
Enter YACHT. Appealing to the L.A. government 40 years later for a grant to restore the piece, instrumentalist Jona Bechtolt and singer Claire L. Evans won $100,000 to refurbish the musical machinery and lights.
That’s not the limit of the group’s off-the-wall projects. Last March, for instance, the pair signed on to live-score an original, one-night-only performance of a film selected by the band. They chose the cult classic Alien, and transformed Jerry Goldsmith’s orchestra into a desolate soundscape.
“We knew that originally Ridley Scott wanted to have the Japanese synth pioneer Isao Tomita do the music,” says Evans, speaking to the Straight from her L.A. abode. “He wanted it to be an electronic score, but the studio didn’t go for it and pushed him towards something more traditional. We rescued that, and added stuff that I love. There’s a really stressful sequence when a character is hunting down the alien in a narrow passageway, and we rewrote it like an acid-house track. We’d never done anything like a full film score—we just had to work it out from scratch.”
The projects are among countless others the duo has produced to spotlight sci-fi, computer culture, and the products of late capitalism. Unsure where YACHT ends and she begins, Evans sees the group as a creative outlet to explore all kinds of artistic ventures. All of those schemes, though, exist to complement YACHT’s main focus: releasing stomping disco-pop records.
This year celebrating their 10th anniversary, the pair have dropped six self-produced albums over that decade covering weighty themes from mystery and utopia to the death of the CD. Evolving from the abstract pitch-bending of their 2009 record See Mystery Lights to the electronic funk of 2015’s I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler, Evans and Bechtolt have repeatedly pushed the envelope of ideas and styles. YACHT’s latest release, an EP named Strawberry Moon, continues that tradition.
“This record is super personal, rather than a high-concept project,” says Evans. “We went through an intense Internet shaming [over faking a sex tape leak to promote a music video] in 2016, which was big in terms of determining what our values are, and how we want to be understood. We’re at a point in our career where we want to communicate more clearly, because it’s very difficult to convey your identity across a large span of media. For us, the songs are a reflection of spending the last couple of years on an inward spiral, thinking about ourselves and where the world is going.”
Despite its more accessible content, Strawberry Moon is just as esoteric as the rest of YACHT’s catalogue. Angular synths punctuate guitar stabs and Evans’s clean, punk-inspired vocals, like LCD Soundsystem jacked up on amphetamines. Already in heavy rotation during the band’s live sets, it’s become an important part of the group’s collection of projects—a body of work defined by the differences between its components.
“We never set out to create a cohesive collection,” Evans says. “The way we think about our output is maximalist—we just go ahead and do everything we want to do, both out of curiosity, and also to pick up new skills. We hope that over time it will evolve into a catalogue that makes sense in the rear-view. Our projects are very amorphous—it’s whatever makes us feel creative, and happy, and vulnerable, and scared in the right way. Strawberry Moon embodies that idea for us.”
YACHT plays the Fox Cabaret on Monday (February 5).
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