The Mamas and the Papas were known for four-part vocal harmonizing. The band's dreamy choral folk songs sounded almost like the background music for a cult. The Los Angeles-based two-piece YACHT (Young Americans Challenging High Technology) inspires a similar cultish following. More than just a band, YACHT has an established philosophy and performs avant-garde live exhibitions featuring a kaleidoscope of media.
"We've always wanted to have a very concentrated effort. We want everything we do to be one voice,"said YACHT's Jona Bechtolt.
At its core, YACHT's sound features dreamy synth often fleshed out by a full band studio ensemble, and funky bass lines with Atari-esque notes are common. The infectious voice of Claire L. Evans steps in to dance atop the tracks as the lyrics are chanted like a mantra. Evans said she instantly knew she would become a part of YACHT.
"I knew that we were going to be working on things together for a very long time, but I didn't know the dimension of what this project would become," Evans said.
YACHT was originally a solo project started by Bechtolt in 2002, but Evans officially joined the group in 2008. By 2010, YACHT began touring with a live band to spice things up creatively.
"We felt like, as the two people, we had kind of reached the limit of the visual space you can occupy on stage," said Evans.
Like The Mamas and the Papas, YACHT indulge in the image of a musical family-band. The group has spawned the YACHT Trust, which is akin to a fan club for its followers. Through the trust, YACHT disseminates its positions on everything from tattoo placement on its followers to the semiotics of the YACHT anchor logo, which serves as its version of the Cross.
Religion and its symbolism also served as the basis for the band's 2009 album, See Mystery Lights.
"The last album was more about religion and religious icons ... We wanted to have a practical philosophy that we could implement in our lives and something that people could implement in their lives," said Evans.
So the duo released the book The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights: A Handbook on Overcoming Humanity and Becoming Your Own God. The book explains philosophies explored in the album, including manufactured Utopia from which rapture, destruction and dystopia are never far off. The band's fifth release, Shangri-La, also pulls from those ideas, opening with the psychotic, frantic "Utopia," followed by the spacey "Dystopia."
"The more we researched the notion of Utopia, both mythologically and metaphorically, it's not something we think is actually possible," said Evans. "The amount of failed Utopias is just staggering."
While the concept of Utopia is a heady place to begin an album, the rest of the record ups the energy, descending into turbo-pop madness that pulls influences from a potpourri of sources like '80s pop and early funk.
YACHT understands showmanship--the symbolism, costumes and slavish adherence to its theology--it's all part of creating a live Utopia in which the band's music exists.
"It's creating a temporary autonomous zone; it's invading a person's personal space; it's losing ourselves in all manner of time and place," said Bechtolt.