Interview: YACHT

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Portland-based electropoppers YACHT are more than a band. They’re a “The band, the business and the belief,” something that spans further than the pure creation of the music. They retain control over everything, their projects are 100% them and their live shows are truly a sweaty samba sparked entertainment show, with band members becoming one with the crowd (at one point, vocalist Claire L. Evans took it upon her to leap into the crowd and dance, but not before entwining herself in the microphone lead like it had come to life and trapped her in the sound). We chat to Claire and Jona before their show in Hong Kong as part of their Asia tour.

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Hot Shit: How has your tour been so far?

Claire: Great.
Jona: Amazing.

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HS: Yeah?

Jona: Australia was a total trip. We got to go to a bunch of rural cities that we’d never heard of or been to before. It was a really fun time.

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HS: Can you remember any names?

Jona: Oh yeah! All of them! We went to Maitland, Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne, Auburn, Bendigo…
Claire: Townsville!
Jona: Townsville! Magnetic Island—we didn’t play there, we just went there—um, then Perth, Adelaide and…
Claire: Bunbury! We went to Bunbury!
Jona: Yeah, that’s it.
Claire: It was an extremely thorough Australian tour.
Jona: Yeah.
Claire: And now we’re here and we’re obviously in the greatest city in the world.
Jona: Word. Before we went here though, we also went to Bangkok and played our first ever show in Thailand and it was truly awesome, it was really great yeah.

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HS: Yeah, I’ve noticed that there’s been an emergence of a lot of international bands playing in Thailand. How was that for you? Like, how was that as a show?

Jona: Right, yeah… we had no expectations at all and it was truly great. The crowd was beautiful and awesome and full of energy. We were told numerous times that Thai audiences were respectful and a little bit quiet but they ended up, like, going totally nuts and dancing all over the place… it was a sweaty fun time.
Claire: Yeah the thing with us is, like, touring is the only way we get to see the world, so if we have an opportunity to play somewhere that’s interesting, we will always go because even if the show is a disaster, which it rarely, uh, never is…
Jona: (laughs)
Claire: Yeah, knock on wood! It’s still a delight to not only go new places but to be immediately taken by someone who’s knowledgeable about independent culture to interesting cultural niches all around the world.

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HS: So essentially you get the best of both worlds.

Claire: Yeah, exactly!

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HS: So let’s get into the nitty-gritty; you’ve stated before that YACHT is something ruled by three main components.

Jona: Yeah.

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HS: So “The Band, The Business and The Belief,” what really awaked you to this way of thinking, as a band?

(they take a few moments to decide who should answer)

Claire: Um, well Jona and I both grew up in the Pacific Northwest, which is historically—at least in terms of subculture—ruled by a kind of DIY ethos, so we’ve always had this idea that, like, ideas and ideology and personal belief systems, whatever they may be, are inseparable from art. We both grew up believing in the punk ethos as really like a way of being, and like a way of living that extended beyond a style of music or a way of dressing or whatever. So that’s already been something that we’ve always lived with.
Jona:Inherently
Claire: Inherently, yeah.
Jona: And I guess maybe as we’veas our audience has grown and become wider and larger it made sense and felt right to put that out front, because usually it’s just something that you just live with and have but don’t necessarily speak on and YACHT, the way that we do it, is… it’s not really just music, it’s anything we do together we call it YACHT, just out of convenience and to keep it open for ourselves so we don’t get bored. That includes music but also includes making texts, or doing design or doing video or anything so there’s an open-endedness that includes not just like different modes of production but also modes of thinking and for us. The way that we make work is we’re kind of inseparable in the way that we think about making our work and we’ve always been interested in full transparency so we put all of that outwards. Whether or not people, you know, necessarily consume all of it at once and enjoy it is kind of immaterial, it’s mostly about allowing people many different ways into the experience of our band, the ideological part of it being just one aspect it.

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HS: In saying that, do you see your creative projects as vessels for these ideologies or do you project them into a final finished project?

Claire: It’s… that’s a really difficult distinction to make I think. I think, for us, the act of making something out of nothing is inherently a metaphysical act ‘cause by doing that you’re posing the question “can something emerge from nothing and what is the nature of creativity” and that becomes really, if you’re of a certain mind set, difficult to separate from spiritual questions about the nature of life and existence so uh—so yeah, making art of any kind is going to be ideological for us but also, those projects that we end up making, I guess that come from that point of view tend to have ideological components to them, but it’s very difficult to draw lines, I think between…

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HS: So essentially, it’s a matter of come what may.

Claire: Yeah, come what may. I think I subscribed to the school of art-making that is like we-make-stuff-because-if-we-didn’t-we-would-die-of-boredom-and-anxiety and so what… is that spiritual, is that ideological or is that just like a weird, personal tick? It’s impossible to tell.
Jona: Is it OCD?
Claire: Is it OCD? It kind of depends of the audience, really.

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HS: Depends what perspective as well, and their take on it.

Jona: Mmhmm.

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HS: As you said before, you were very DIY and you take a rather self-directed approach to your creations. Do you reckon this gives you, as a band, more creative breathing space or is easier to get distracted.

Jona: Hmm, I don’t know, we impose a lot of limits to ourselves but…

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HS: Well, it seems better than like, a label imposing limits on you.

Jona: Right, yeah we’ve never worked with any limits outside of ourselves, no one’s ever told us what to do.
Claire: I mean there’s the obvious limitations of financial feasibility and scale, if we had endless resources I promise you we’d be the first band on the moon, but we work within the constraints we have and those are always changing, which is nice… in all sorts of different directions. We can’t allow other people to put a hand on our work, it’s not something that is a choice that we’ve made, it’s just… I can’t imagine putting something out into the world that has our name on it that we didn’t make ourselves. For us, the whole thing is like this encompassing aesthetic cultural experience, so having anyone else involved would just be like, it would be counterintuitive.

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HS: It would be wrong.

Claire: It just wouldn’t be it! It would be something else…
Jona: Yeah.
Claire: It wouldn’t be it. It would be something, but it wouldn’t be it for us.

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HS: You’d have to get another name for it…

Claire: We’d have to call it something else.

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HS: So I understand you’re working on a television show, by the name of Support—it’s a comedy—so what can we expect from it, aside from comedy?

Claire: You’ll laugh, you’ll cry.
Jona: Hopefully, we want to shed light on an area of music that hasn’t ever been seen before, ‘cause a lot of shows or movies only ever talk about the “Rock ‘n’ Roll” culture, about partying, giant tour buses, groupies and stuff like that… and that’s not at all what it’s like in our experience. We want to show a unique, weirder independent culture aside to music.

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HS: The other side of it.

Jona: Yeah.
Claire: The unglamorous side, you know the part where you’re lugging your own gear and everything you can imagine… all the harsh tragic, hilarious, absurd, funny realities of somehow mustering yourself onto a stage every night.

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HS: That was great, thanks guys.

Jona & Claire: No problem, awesome.

This interview was conducted by and published with the consent of collaborator Kait Shirley, a Hong Kong-based Australian cloudcuckoolander who collects of psychedelic shirts and limited edition indie-dance vinyls.

Interview: Diamond Rings

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When Diamond Rings agreed to do an interview with me the morning of his show in Montréal, I was happy to learn that fame had not gone to his head. Despite being tired from his arrival (and having been delayed at the border), Jon O’Regan took the time to explain the focus of his new album Free Dimensional and his aspirations, not just as an artist, but a performer.

It’s 11:14 a.m. and in one minute, all the back-and-forth emails and mental preparation was going to come down to him picking up the phone. Before his second LP, O’Regan was an up-and-comer from Toronto whose last appearance in Montréal left his audience dazed about his look and sexuality. Overcoming Crohn’s disease gave him a new outlook on life when approaching his second album. “I just want people to be themselves when they listen to this album. My hopes are to inspire others to be themselves.”

Free Dimensional, the follow-up to his 2010 debut Special Affections, is an eclectic mix of pop and electro, with a touch of alternative rock; debuting the song “Just Like Me” to audiences on the Late Show with David Letterman and CBC’s Studio Q. Much like his lyrics and performances, O’Regan exudes confidence on stage. He attributes his new found success to the control in his work and himself. Unlike, his first album that was more emotional and computerized. “The second album doesn’t focus on one specific genre, but a range which is why it’s called Free Dimensional. It’s meant to be a fun way to explore different genres.”

Although you can find him on YouTube with a guitar in hand, don’t expect an acoustic album anytime soon. “I really want to focus on the sound and my dancing; I’m currently taking dance lessons to improve the choreography.” If you watch videos like “Wait and See” from Special Affections and “Just Like Me,” the choreography is not Diamond Rings strong suit, but it serves its entertainment purposes. “Instruments do play a key role and I am focusing on the production. All of these elements are what is going to help me as an artist.”

Inspired by the 80’s and 90’s fashion and music scene, O’Regan reveals who he would collaborate with if he ever had a chance. “I was really into C+C Music Factory and 2 Unlimited, I would really be down to do a collaboration if I had to choose.” Prominent artists amongst the house scene that defined the 90’s inspired this boy from Toronto to make a revival through his fluorescent leggings and acid wash denims. However, don’t let the fashion in his videos fool you, because on stage he is by-product of the London punk street fashion glamorized for the audience.

By the end of the conversation I asked him one last question: Where would your dream concert be? “I’d have to say the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto; it was one of my first concerts where I saw Weezer play.” We laughed as he went on to describe the outdoor scenery and vibe of the crowd at that concert, which is a charismatic energy he brings to every one of his concerts. Thanks to Magali Ould at Secret City Records and Blue Skies Turned Black for making this interview possible.

This interview was conducted by and published with the consent of collaborator Alyssa Boicel, a Montreal-based Californian who stalks electro and dance artist as a profession.

Interview: Yuksek

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Exclusive Interview by Alyssa Boicel with Yuksek at Club Lambi last month on November 9th, 2012.

Summer felt like a dream as rain poured Thursday night, but in spite of the temperature dropping, no condition stopped the sounds of electro beating at Club Lambi. Promoter Jon Weisz of Indie Montreal provided the entertainment with Yuksek and Cherry Cola. Arriving around midnight, his pulsating electro beats kept everyone moving on the dance floor. You didn’t have to be a fan of his music to appreciate his ability to introduce pure electro with mainstream classics, which hypnotized the audience. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Pierre-Alexandre Busson, aka. Yuksek, to discuss his transition to North America and his views of its electro scene as compared to Europe.

Already well-known as an electronic artist, DJ, remixer and producer in his native Reims (France), Pierre still stays true to his roots of piano, infusing classical training with electro pop hits like “Always on the Run” and “Extraball” featuring Amanda Blank. It’s his collaborations that really put him on the map, forming separate projects with long-time friends Brodinski, from The Krays, and ex-Aeroplane member Stephen Fasano, the second half of Peter & the Magician. Humble about his accomplishments, his popular remixes like Amanda Blank’s “Shame on Me,” Oh Land's “Son of a Gun,” and Chromeo's “Bonafide Lovin” play the airwaves of radio stations across Europe, and North America, and have become standard playlists at popular retail chains; even making its way onto the hit videogame soundtrack FIFA 09. His remixes are not just restricted to the pop and electro genre, as he experiments remixing hip-hop artists like De La Soul and Ghostface Killah.

Despite being a francophone artist, all the songs on his debut and second LP are written and sung fluently in English. “It’s not a question of marketing or business; it’s just the way I can write music easily without thinking that what I’m saying is stupid.” For him, writing in English is not a gimmick, but rather a more liberal way of expressing himself. When songs like “Tonight” and “On a Train” played during his set, the mostly francophone audience were mouthing the lyrics “Take my hand” in unison.

With a good turnout waiting outside, Yuksek reflects on his first tour of North America. “It’s back to normal now, but a few years ago, it was a bit difficult for America. Now I can come and make 10 shows, but I still play in smaller venues.” Although he is grateful to be booked for shows in Miami, New York City, and Los Angeles, as well as his two recent shows in Quebec, Pierre still struggles for more appearances. His reasoning has to do with the recent releases of his albums Living on the Edge and Away from the Sea in North America. It will be almost 10 years since the debut of his first album, but even his emergence in popularity still doesn’t compare to his status in Europe. “I’m like a new artist for America—things are going—but it’s not the same career that I have in France or Asia.”

Giving new meaning to the word “underground,” Pierre has reinvented himself as an up-and-coming artist North America. The same can be said of his appearances in Central and South America, where visits to countries like Mexico or Brazil are met with fewer bookings. “They’re all cool countries, but it’s sometimes a bit difficult to build a proper tour in South America. It’s not all the time clubs or concert halls, it’s more parties or festivals.” Nevertheless, there is a growing fan base of electronic music down south, which does not cancel out the possibility of a cross-country tour.

As he was preparing to begin his set, he ended on a note of gratitude for his parents having him learn the piano at age six. “I feel lucky having doing (sic) this, I really enjoy that. I still love playing piano and listening to classical music. Most of my friends don’t have this background and just did everything by themselves… it’s not necessary to have this background, but I really appreciate it.”

Despite a few technical difficulties during his set, the performance captivated the dancing crowd as he paid homage to the disco classic “Everybody Dance” from Chic. Club Lambi was the place to be; thanks to Indie Montreal for bringing the powerhouse Yuksek and DJ Cherry Cola to perform.

Listen to the entire interview here.

This interview was conducted by and published with the consent of collaborator Alyssa Boicel, a Montreal-based Californian who stalks electro and dance artist as a profession.