Zoe likes beeps.
Sophie likes strums.
They both like the Decemberists.
Two best friends on a mission to make the world a better place for music.


Interview: YACHT (1.16.07)

Jona Bechtolt, aka YACHT, doesn’t like getting pegged as one thing or another. He’s a musician, a photographer, a general tech whiz, and much more. His last album, 2007’s I Believe In You. Your Magic Is Real. concerns everyday life, how we’re only human and at the same time have incredible potential. But that’s only one definition, and he’d prefer to keep things open to interpretation.

Jona is currently on a break from YACHT’s motto of “On Tour Forever,” working on projects in a supernatural town in Texas with his friend and his girlfriend. We spoke over the phone about magic, his live shows, and his super-chill vibe. In the process, we struck upon a genius idea for a TV franchise.

So you’re in Texas right now. What are you doing there?

On my last tour, these kids in Austin were like “You have to go to this place, Marfa, on your way through Texas.” They told me about this thing called the Marfa Lights, which is a supernatural phenomenon. They’re not like the Northern Lights-they’re completely unexplained. Basically it’s these weird lights that float around and look like they have life to them. It happens every night. We’re supposed to go out tonight and see them.

This town is in the middle of nowhere. Last night we actually had to knock on the window of a motel to get a room, and this woman – the owner of the motel – came out in her nightie. She seemed a little upset, but sort of happy that there was business. It’s a completely weird, surreal place. I’ve never been to a place like this before.

Me and my friend and my girlfriend [voices in the background]-oh well actually they just came back from Alpine, the next small town over -hey, I’m doing a phone interview right now! Anyways, we’re doing this project together that’s really exciting-

Jona’s girlfriend Claire: What are you doing? Stop!
Jona: I can’t tell her?
Claire: No!
Jona: Well, soon enough then. Hopefully we’re going to launch it tonight, but I can’t tell you now I guess. [Note: they did launch it, and it’s here .]We’re out here working, both together and independently. Claire’s writing for a new science show on the Sundance channel. I decided that I want to make two new records. I bought a drum set and a Kurt Cobain-y guitar and started recording. I’m thinking that one of my albums will be shorter than the other, like an EP. Albums are sort of dead anyways.

Listening to the last album a lot, it sounds like you have a lot of faith in people to make the right decisions. Is that something that you hoped people would take away from it?

I didn’t want to set up and right and wrong choices, but instead leave it kind of open to interpretation for people. It’s just my vibe, I’m super-positive and non-judgmental.

The song “It’s Coming to Get You” is so much more negative than the rest of the album.

Well, there was something really specific that inspired that, but I probably can’t talk about it in a public setting. It just came from…{a personal experience}… that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. The song is actually about karma-that’s the “it” that’s coming to get you. I felt like it was OK to let dark things out in addition to the positive things, with the positive spin of it being karmic. I wanted to focus on it being OK for bad things to happen to people if those are things that are coming back and biting them in the ass.

And it also works really well that it’s a dance song-I didn’t notice what it was about until a couple listens in.

Yeah, I thought that it would be more fitting if the package that the negative message came in was pretty and sweet and easy to dance to.

The theme that pervades the album is magic. What kind of magic are you talking about?

It’s all different kinds of magic, open to interpretation. When the record first came out and we were fooling around with the imagery associated with it, I got really into researching magic. I watched DVDs about its history and went to some magic shops. But overall magic as an art form these days is pretty boring.

I did find a couple little cute things, though, that I used as a “one time only” trick in a couple of my shows. There were these confetti-type things that you conceal in your hand, and when you make a gesture that’s like throwing a ball, they shoot out of your hands and look like paper lightning. They were kind of expensive, though, so I only bought one set of ten. I figured it was pretty wasteful and kind of stupid. I don’t want people to think “That’s the guy that’s all about magic!” and be stuck forever in that persona and die after a lonely life. [Note: At this point it was very difficult for me not to make some sort of joke about GOB of Arrested Development.]

I run into the same problem with YACHT being the name of the band. I have to be really careful not to wear funny captain’s hats or sailor uniforms or anything. I have a couple things with nautical embroidery, and I almost feel like that’s pushing it. I try not to wear it too often.

But didn’t you play a show on a yacht once?

It was for the release of the album. It ended up being one of the best experiences of my life as far as shows go. People were just ready to do whatever; we weren’t in the stereotypical rock show setting where I have to be worried about looking cool or think about the super-high stage and the lights. It was mellow but totally crazy. And we were on a boat on a river. I just like to do anything that gets people out of the groove of how you have to act at a show. I want to make it easier on people.

When I saw one of your shows you came out into the audience for a bunch of songs and started a dance contest. That was a nice break as an audience member.

That’s exactly what I like to do, shake things up a little. I’ve been playing around with a couple of ideas for shows that I want to do this year. I’ve been really focusing on coming up with really different kinds of tours. Nothing is solid yet, so I won’t go into detail, but I’m working on making it better. I’m never satisfied with anything – recordings, shows, anything. I never want to do things the same way twice.

Like you were saying earlier about not wanting to get stuck in one thing.

Exactly. If I’m associated with anything, I want it to be fun stuff. That’s it.

Speaking of fun stuff, do you still have that penny suit from the [“See A Penny, Pick It Up”] video?

Actually I don’t! The guy who made it does. His name’s Matt McCormick, he lives in Portland. He likes to bring is friends in when he’s making stuff, and he brought in this guy who’s a set designer for big movies. The guy was really into the song, so he spent two days making that giant penny outfit. It had a whole wooden frame and a backpack frame attached to the wood. It was really heavy – I think 65 pounds. It was a huge chore to do all that running around, especially because I couldn’t really move my legs. I had to hop everywhere.

I thought it was funny how there are all these people walking around who are totally unfazed by you running around in this penny costume.

Well we shot it really early in the morning. I think it was on a Sunday, because there were people coming out of a church. They didn’t seemed to be super stoked about it.

I read that you’re writing a book to be published this year – a sci-fi novel with aliens and stuff.

Wow! I have no idea what that is! You’ll have to send me a link to it.

I will! But maybe there’s a doppelganger Jona Bechtolt who’s a sci-fi author.

I don’t think so, but we should totally perpetuate that rumor. Say something about how I’m writing a book about the Marfa lights and aliens.

And Claire could write a TV version, and it could have crazy spinoffs like “Law & Order.”

Yeah, CSI: Marfa! We’ve got gold on our hands here. Let’s do it!


More new music from Fishbear!

I promise not every blog here will be about my brother! However, the band Fishbear (for which he plays drums, keyboard and does vocals) have just recorded a few songs. I'd descibe their general style as a ska version of Beirut, but they play a wide variety of styles (and have even been known to break out the Pokemon theme song on occasion). The new songs are up on their myspace, and they all sound really great! I'd reccomend the awesomely funky Helsinky Slinky, on which my brother sings vocals, to start out with. Arabian Dance Party is also really fun and definitely has a major klezmer feel to it. Go listen and friend them! If you live around here you should try to make it to one of their shows, they are pretty fun, and this is coming from someone who has (not entirely by choice) seen at least ten of them.

Here is a really shitty video of a recent gig of theirs that I took on my phone. This song is pretty sweet.


VERY IMPORTANT Band Plug: World Without Strangers


World Without Strangers is the name of the first side project of the Ben Weiner Music Collective, a group of musicians whose main studio is based approximately 10 feet from my room.

Ok, basically my younger brother Ben has finally finished fully recording his first song! The single, Isle Of The Automatons (previously known as "the robot song"), will eventually be on a meticulously planned out concept album he is hoping to release by spring of next year. The track is extremely catchy with really interesting lyrics and plenty of beeps. The songwriting is quite impressive for a 16 year old sophmore in high school (I am not biased whatsoever).

Go check out the song! It is fully downloadable here at Ben's myspace. And if you feel so inclined, message me and I'll give you my address, then you can mail Ben a buck or two and he'll mail you back a shiny CD-R with totally awesome robot drawings on it! You know you want to.


One day, you will live on your own.

Oh yes, 'tis indeed that time of year wherein teenagers across this fair earth lament their sorry situation as second-semester seniors (or the international equivalent). Both members of the Squad find themselves in this quandary, though it's safe to say that one (S, being the more responsible of the two) is handling it far better than the other (Z, who secretly wants to move to New York City and live as one of CFTPA's Young Shields).

And here in the real world where we speak with more practical diction, this time of year fucking blows. In a matter of months we'll know where we'll presumably spend the next four years of our lives, and yet (a) we as of yet don't know precisely where this mystery location is, and (b) our teachers continue as if this were not the case. I for one am finding progressively less motivation to bother with practically anything, opting instead to fantasize about the exceptional lineup of shows coming down the proverbial pipe. I mean honestly, what sane person would focus on calculating momentum when said person could instead imagine the sheer adrenaline that accompanies a Jus†ice show? Seeing as I am said person, and I am (arguably) sane, I am indeed focusing on the latter item, though it represents a short, distant event rather than something immediate. Then again, physics homework is complete drivel no matter how immediate, so I generally see no reward in persistence regardless of what other fantastic distractions there are to be had.

And writing this blog post? Why, this is what I'm doing instead of composing an essay on Death of A Salesman! In all seriousness, that overly adjective-laden previous paragraph is nothing more than evidence of my current state of mind: distracted, prone to tangents, and living mainly in anticipation of events that, while scheduled to occur, may in fact not take place. In "Soft & Warm," Voxtrot lament the agonizingly slow passage of time: "God shake the sickness, won't this decade ever end? It's been going on for years, been happening for years." While I can't manipulate that into a clever form applicable to my specific situation, I can say that I have similar sentiments: the closer I get to the end of school, the slower time passes and the farther away that end seems. It's going to kill me, but I am gonna make it through this year. In theory, at least. Fingers crossed-in case we die.

Awaiting silent Tristero's empire,

Side note: today I discovered that the boy I admire from afar not only likes the Mountain Goats (possibly the biggest plus ever) but also raises goats. Double goats=double awesome? Let's hope so.