Perhaps sensing that the “isolate yourself in a remote cabin” approach to song-writing was played out earlier this decade by the alt-folk crowd, Portland-based electro-pop duo YACHT chose to construct their latest record somewhere entirely different. They opted instead for a desolate West Texan desert, working under the glow of a mysterious, natural light phenomenon.“The Marfa mystery lights are an optical phenomenon that happens in the desert,” explains Claire Evans, who shares the YACHT name with the founder and creative mastermind Jona Bechtolt.“It’s been happening since the beginning of recorded history and certainly before that. There have been teams of scientists who have examined them, but so far it’s defied explanation.“Seeing them for the first time affected us profoundly. It’s rare for us to experience mystery, to witness something with no rational explanation, and it really changed our worldview.”YACHT was originally just Bechtolt, who has been performing and recording under the moniker since 2003. It was only following some intense bonding in the desert with Evans, a frequent artistic collaborator, that he decided YACHT was meant to be a duo.
“After our experience in Marfa, it was all we wanted to talk about, it was all we were thinking about, and it was all we were working on and around,” Bechtolt says.The pair’s desert pilgrimage eventually resulted in 2009’s See Mystery Lights, a series of chants and mantras spoken and sung over an exuberant set of glitchy, dance floor-ready beats. The music press thought their transcendental odyssey was worthwhile, as reviews for the album glowed as brightly as the Marfa lights themselves. While praise for their work rolled in, YACHT embarked on a comprehensive tour, one that afforded them the opportunity to share their life-altering experience with the world.Bechtolt has taken YACHT on tour more than once since 2003, but it always amazes him to discover that “the kids,” as he likes to call them, in far-flung cities across the globe know the words to his songs. The tour promoting See Mystery Lights took the pair to exotic locales such as Seoul and Auckland. Nevertheless, audiences came out in droves for their shows. “It’s very overwhelming and cool,” Bechtolt says with a hint of modesty in his voice.“It really speaks to the democratizing power of the Internet. It’s not about having enough money to buy an album anymore—it’s about having access to the Internet to download whatever you want and be a part of that culture,” he explains.Clearly, much of the band’s international success can be attributed to their incredible online presence. A quick Google search for the band reveals a Flickr photo stream with hundreds of pages of content, documenting everything from the most ecstatic moments of their live performances to the mundane details of touring (such as wi-fi passwords from the various cities they’ve visited). YACHT’s website boasts over a dozen free mp3s, including samples of the band’s work and remixes that Bechtolt has recorded over the years. And of course, the band’s Twitter feed is never lacking in fresh thoughts.YACHT has worked tirelessly to ensure that their online community is inclusive—as Evans points out, inclusivity is an essential aspect of the band’s nature.“We think about YACHT as being a sort of collective thing. For us, YACHT is the name for anything we get involved with, and that includes our friends, our colleagues, and anyone we’re working with,” she says.“One of our axioms is that ‘YACHT is whatever YACHT is, whenever YACHT is standing before you.’ So when someone jumps on stage and starts dancing, they’re a part of YACHT at that moment.”And as you’re finishing this article, you’re a part of YACHT right now.Be a part of YACHT again! The band will perform at Wrongbar on March 4.