"I don't give a shit about jetpacks," YACHT's Claire Evans tells SFist as the band prepares to release its album "I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler" on Downtown Records this Friday and readies for a show at the Independent on Saturday as an extension of the Treasure Island Music Festival. But if not jetpacks, what would be cool? How about, says Evans, "Fundamental equality, and accountability in our police force."
YACHT has recently embraced the future of technology, or at least subverted it, through a variety of high-concept promotions. For starters, a Google map pin directed fans to the above LA billboard announcing the album, which takes on its fair share of political causes. These days, their video for "LA Plays Itself" (whose city-centric lyrics include "Think it's expensive, baby / But all the simple things are free") plays automatically when Uber prices surge in LA. When they surge 2X, you can hear a remix.
But it's a stunt that's a far cry from company-sponsored promotion. Think of it more as a technological fire-with-fire palliative. SFist spoke to Evans, who along with Jona Bechtolt makes up the 2002-founded band. Their name? Now, more than ever, it stands for "Young Americans Challenging High Technology."
SFist: Can you tell us what started the Uber project? Obviously, it didn't come from that company, although I have to confess, I was confused at first and wondered if it had.
Evans: It's not that we want to celebrate that app or project or technology in general. Uber has an open API. It's for development, not for art projects, but it works for those too. And a lot of our technology projects, they wouldn't work if it was a Justin Bieber single. But it works for this song because it's about the rhythm and patterns of driving in Los Angeles, and we wanted to connect it to the pulse of the city.
SFist: On the album you're clearly ambivalent about these sorts of technologies. Why engage with them, then?
Evans: That's so tricky, because we want to make music, we want to make these multimedia projects, and you can't do that without engaging with these forces in our life — in Angelino life especially — just to avoid fear of being associated with a brand. We want to speak about the 21st century from the 21st century.
SFist: (Sort of rambling non-question about whether the future is actually cool.)
Evans: Well, okay, that song, and a lot of our songs do this. We'd like to create an initial proposition. It's essentially a conversation starter, "We thought the future would be cooler." Did you? How? It's one of my big fears is that people will think that we're saying, "Hey we were promised jet packs, and hoverboards." That's not it.
SFist: I was thinking about how musicians in the past have taken on the big technology shifts of their time, sometimes also with a degree of disenchantment. Sort of like, Bowie with space travel, you know? Does that relate to what you're doing?
Evans: Every generation has their metaphor. Davie Bowie was using space for the blank canvas of the future, but I don't know what our operating metaphor is right now. Today we're looking more and more inward, to virtual reality, to hands touching smaller and smaller screens.
I think that we're in a definite gold rush moment in terms of creating new convenience through technology: New ways to order food to your doorstep and be transported. But I do worry about shut-ins with laundry-on-demand. At a certain point I like going to the laundromat. That's how you live in a city, and open yourself up to spontaneity. That makes you feel alive. I want technology to connect people.
SFist: (Something vague about how recorded music is, like, itself a technology.)
Evans: Well music has always been technological in nature — instruments are technologies — and now music is increasingly made with technology. Today our laptops are a one-stop shop. They're culture-making, connection-making, conversation-making machines.
We all have to use the tools, and if your heart is in the right place [our technological world] doesn't have to be dystopia. There are incredible infrastructures, and even if you're not a hacker or a coder, there are interesting ways to use those tools without breaking open the machine. That's part of what we try to do in our projects. You can write weird difficult poems in google docs! I'm ultimately very optimistic about what's next. The great thing about the future is it's the ultimate blank slate. Nobody can predict it.
YACHT at The Independent, 628 Divisadero Street, Saturday October 17, Doors: 9:30 p.m., Show: 10:00 p.m., $22