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Huh? #15: an interview with YACHT

July 11, 2015

YACHT is a band that could your life. Part technology. Part art. Part craft. Part speculative fiction. Part cult. Part pumping hormones. Part sunglass line. Part cultural funhouse mirror. Helmed by Jona Bechtolt and Claire E. Evans, YACHT is on the cusp of releasing a new album and a slew of initiatives to go with it that one-up everything they have done to date, which given their track record, is kind of insane. But then again, that’s YACHT. They’ve made remixes for folks like Snoop Dogg and Ratatat, toured with LCD Soundsystem and The Postal Service and pioneered much of contemporary youth aesthetics. They have an amazing LA-focused app called 5 Every Day, which serves up five things that you should do in Los Angeles daily. Claire is a writer and a science fiction editor. Jona is a graphic design and development über-ninja. The members of YACHT have positioned themselves as being folks who define culture because they know and understand culture more deeply and thoroughly than most. Ian Lynam chats with YACHT to try and peel the lid back a little bit more and get a look inside.

5 Every Day from YACHT on Vimeo.

The gesamtkunstwerk of your music, presentation, curated social media outlets and design/lifestyle objects that surround YACHT hint at a truly totalizing approach that synthesizes science, art, design, mysticism, and utopian attitudes as much as technology. Or at least that’s how I see it… How would you guys posit what you do?

We live in a totally simultaneous, interconnected cultural landscape, and the experience of art comes from many angles, many sources; we can never be entirely sure how, when, or on what platform someone might come to discover our work. What chain of links and associations might bring a person to our doorstep. What they might be bringing with them. So it’s important to us—always has been—to make sure that everything bearing our name, even totally mundane things like social media accounts, represents us accurately. And the only way to do that is to make everything ourselves. 

YACHT – Shangri-La from YACHT on Vimeo.

This requires significant labor, but the upshot of this is that our voice, our idiosyncrasies, are inevitably bound to everything we make, from inception to the final product. We can’t help but infuse the entire enterprise—merch, web design, texts, objects, music—with our personalities, and allow our diverse interests percolate into the mix. Which, ideally, makes YACHT feel as complex and nuanced as the human beings behind it.

YACHT – Psychic City (Voodoo City) from YACHT on Vimeo.

Why do you do what you do?

Because we’re moving along the leading edge of a path that started years ago. The precise combination of things we do is the product of times we said “yes” to new opportunities in the past.

YACHT – Le Goudron from YACHT on Vimeo.

There is a lot of contention at the present moment as to where we exactly are in the continuum of cultural theory. Some people would say we are in a post-postmodern time, whereas others would say postmodern, while others would say we are still in the throes of modernism. Where/when do you guys think we are?

Let’s put it this way: we like living in Los Angeles because the climate is so mild that you can pretty much cosplay whatever climate you like. You see someone on the street wearing a sweater and jeans—two feet away, someone else is wearing flip-flops and cut-off shorts. They’re both living in the same place. That’s how the cultural and technological moment feels to us; like William Gibson says, the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed. There are people in the world who live as their ancestors did, and there are people who make 3D-printed augmented reality toys. In the developed world, we have access to an essentially infinite variety of subcultures, lifestyles, and ways of being, and the barriers to adopting them are minimal. 

What are some media that you think a graphic designer who is in graduate school would find compelling?

Vintage counterculture magazine ads (namely from High Times, OMNI, Mondo 2000). Internal marketing videos from the original release of the compact disc. David Pelham’s Penguin covers, especially those he did for J.G. BallardPolish science fiction posters. Generic production location signs and Colby Print postersZen and the Art of the Macintosh. Susan Kare’s hand-drawn icons. Gif dithering. Dreem Street t-shirts.

If you guys could make an addendum to Asimov’s Laws of Robotics, what would it be?

When making art, a robot must disregard the limitations of the human sensory apparatus.

That’s racist! Thanks, Jona and Claire!

Stay tuned for the next installment of “Huh?”—coming soon!!!