Here at GrandLife, we’re big fans of electropop group YACHT, and we spent some time with the forces behind the group, Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt, during their most recent trip to New York City. The group, which Bechtolt originally started 12 years ago, has released a number of full length albums (several produced by DFA Records,) LPs, singles, and remixes of songs by artists ranging from Phoenix and Kings of Leon to Snoop Dogg.
The duo, based in Los Angeles and raised in the eclectic “put a bird on it” paradise of Portland, Oregon, surprised us when they said they weren’t in town for any performances. While we would have obviously loved to have heard them live, we were happy to hear their week of meetings and time with friends allowed for a more relaxed trip, with ample time to explore the city.
Before they headed back to the West Coast, we caught up with them in the Salon at Soho Grand to talk multi-sensory experiences, parking complaints via social media, and a certain custom Armani Exchange suit, which we decided was the perfect shade of “hyperlink blue:”
GrandLife: As YACHT, you guys pride yourselves on providing a multi-sensory experience to your fans and listeners – whether on stage or not. What’s one sense you couldn’t live without?
Claire L. Evans: I would say sound, but that’s too predictable. I don’t think I could live without touch. Could you imagine a world without it?
Jona Bechtolt: But imagine a world with only touch! But yes, I’d say the same.
CE: It allows who and where you are in space and in this world to make sense. Being in a particular space, or in a particular neighborhood, totally dictates an experience.
JB: We’ve stayed at Tribeca Grand before, and just being a few blocks south of here changes your experience entirely.
CE: And being in NYC, even if just for a few days, you create that home base and get into a rhythm. We go to the coffee place across the street everyday [Everyman Espresso] and you begin to get used to things like that.
GL: What do you look forward to the most when coming to NYC?
CE: The whole orchestra of dense human habitation. In Los Angeles, where we live, you can easily avoid being around people–for us, that’s an advantage, because we appreciate the easy pace and isolation when we’re working – but in New York, you’re constantly colliding with the buffet of humanity, hearing people’s stories, making connections, and always being surprised. If you’re tuned to it, it’s incredibly inspiring – and humbling, too – to resonate with so many diverse experiences.
GL: What are your favorite venues in NYC?
JB: I love Webster Hall and Bowery Ballroom. Music Hall of Williamsburg is great too. But Webster Hall has so much history, and it’s so dingy at the same time. It feels very “New York.”
CE: It was a dream to play at The Kitchen. But we’ve been together for 12 years, so we’ve really played everywhere. Regardless of where we’re playing, it’s always a special experience to be on stage, but we like a hard line between performing and everyday life. Things like clothes are the easiest way to do it – we don’t just wear what we’ve got on during the day when we perform.
GL: Any other favorite stores or restaurants that you have to visit while you’re in town?
CE: Our trips to New York are always such whirlwinds! When we come to play shows, it’s rare that we have a chance to spend more than a few days. But we try not to leave the city without having dinner at Blossom in Chelsea – their vegan lavender coconut crème brûlée is basically a tradition for us at this point.
JB: We also swung by Assembly New York, and loaded up on dim sum in Chinatown.
GL: Any favorite cities to perform in? Where’s your favorite place to vacation?
CE: Different cities have their charms. Of course, it’s always exciting to be in New York – it feels like real life – but sometimes it’s much more rewarding to play somewhere bands don’t usually visit. People are so engaged, so open-hearted, so excited to have the opportunity to dance and connect. We’ve performed everywhere from the Tibetan plateau and Malaysia to the West Texas desert and small-town Kansas.
JB: What’s a vacation?
GL: When you’re on the road, what can’t you leave home without?
JB: The more we travel, the more we learn to pare down. At this point, the only things we absolutely can’t live without are our laptops, phones, and passports – everything else can be acquired along the way. It’s fun to try new foreign toothpastes and add to our wardrobes as we go, adapting to every new environment.
CE: It makes us feel like we’re part of the world as opposed to just hunkering down as it moves around us. That said, a good book is tour survival 101.
GL: What kind of music have you been listening to? Any new favorite artists?
JB: We’ve been waiting for Todd Terje’s first record, It’s Album Time, for years – the little bits and pieces that have emerged are fantastic.
GL: How does social media play a role in your lives, especially as musicians and performers?
CE: Social media is such an asset, and a great way to connect with fans. Growing up, I could have never imagined talking to a band – all you had was a poster on your wall to stare at, and if they happened to come to town you could see them perform. Now, you can tweet at them to complain: about parking at the show, or because your favorite song was never played. But it totally has its advantages. It’s great to hear that people enjoy our music and that they have fun at our shows.
JB: Could you imagine “liking” Nirvana on Facebook? I didn’t think so.
– Sam Todd