YΔCHT
Berlin, 8th July 2010

(By Lisa)

YΔCHT are a band. A business. A belief system. Of course this is all over the internet and you have read it a million times before. But it's necessary to understand the two people behind YΔCHT, Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtholt. They're intelligent people, deep thinker and open hearted lovelies. Even though they'd candidly discuss their beliefs with you, they are no cult. Shame, you might think as it's nearly impossible not to take on their ideals or simply agree with them. But you're lucky. Reading this, you just became a member of YΔCHT yourself. Enjoy stories about braces, symbols, vegan food and art.


Raw Investigations: You say that anybody can become a part of YΔCHT, how exactly? Do I need to challenge High Technology as well? Or join the band, I'm brilliant on tambourine so you should consider this, believe in your system or buy your music, so I get your business going?
Claire:
No purchase is necessary.
Jona: None of the above, you're automatically a member. Right now because of this interaction you are a part of YΔCHT. It's all about being in the now, so right now you're a member of YΔCHT.
Claire: Any interaction with us, be it financial, concert based or just hearing about us, knowing about us, reading about us...
Jona: Thinking about us! Accepting us into your heart!
Claire: All of those things. Definitely no belief is necessary. It's about the personal interaction.
Jona: And if you don't want to be a part of YΔCHT, then that's 100% fine with us.

RI: But even that would still make me a part, wouldn't it?
Jona: Exactly! (laughs)

RI: Doesn't High Technology challenge you, too? Like yesterday at the gig when all of a sudden nothing was to be heard anymore for a few seconds?
Jona: Definitely although yesterday was low technology, just a piece of tape. It's a back and forth.
Claire: Our use of the word "challenging" is not necessarily about a combative feeling. We're not trying to fight against technology. We're not reactionists, we love technology very much and embrace it. It's more about using technology in ways it perhaps wasn't intended to be used like using Power Point during a rock concert or using presentations to make videos or using computers to create rock music.
Jona: It's misusing technology in a challenging way.
Claire: It's discoursing with and interacting with and engaging with technology. And perhaps taking technology up on some of its downfalls and holding it responsible for itself; making it a tool that can be adaptable in oppose to be very rigid.
Jona: Sort of a Buckminster Fuller idea of doing as much as possible with as little as possible. Starting with a consumer level laptop that costs about 500€ and trying to making an entire universe out of that tool.

RI: What I noticed yesterday, and it's been the first time I watched you and nobody told me beforehand, is that your show is more like performing art than a concert. Your last record consisted of looped mantras, aren't your live Power Point Presentations like mantras, too?
Claire: Yes, I actually never thought about it in those terms, but it definitely is! It's a hypnotic thing just like a mantra is hypnotic. The video we have on the show right now is repetitive, each part of it is symmetrically the same and they have a continuing narrative. It's very heavy with meaning and text. It is very difficult to read what's going on in the video, in the background, and watch the performance the same time. It makes it a very annoying visual complexity that forces you to have to chose between one or the other things happening. Or try to incorporate both at the same time but it is really difficult to have both happening at the same time. We like that, we like being complicated; making it difficult and challenging.
Jona: Also, in this hyper-technological state we are in right now, in this era of time, I think an hour is a long enough period of time for people to divert their attention from the band to the screen and back and forth. Everyone has such a hyper short attention span!
Claire: What we do is very layered. The same applies for our website, Twitter page, photo screen, with other things going on, the pop up, the emails... all happening with the use of computers. There is always fifty things happening at once. The show is a live representation of what happens for us when we navigate media. It's very complex, yet it is possible to take it all in at once.
Jona: It comes piece by piece.

RI: Or it happens afterwards, reflecting later at home what you just saw. Or even days later.
Jona: People take pictures that show and reveal different things.
Claire: We like that people can take away different things away from the concert. We try to make records that appeal to not a broad spectrum but deep spectrum of people. So there's the possibility of just a superficial reading where you can be into it just for the dance music or the pop music level in the culture of dancing around in dark rooms. Or you can go deeper into it if you want. There are things hidden at different levels for people that have different desires. It's the same with the shows, you can just watch the band or just watch the videos. You could just listen to the music, you could just participate in one aspect of it and you wouldn't miss out on anything, it would still be a very authentic experience.


RI: That's what I enjoyed very much. On one hand, I couldn't help but get up and dance, yet I wanted to see as much as possible of what was going on around you. It was amazing. I read that you are inspired artists such as Kusama or Eliasson.
Claire: I love his work, I think he does a few things like we do. To create an envrionment. It's not static, not one temporary thing that happens. A concert begins and ends and then it's over. But to try to make it as much as a living environment as possible is really interesting to us. That's what Eliasson does with his artwork, too. He changes some quality of the world you are in; he changes the light and it makes you change with it.

RI: Exactly, you always get a different impression. We spoke about contemporary art, what about classic? Do you like to listen to classic music or go to the Louvre in Paris if you happen to be there?
Jona: Yes! One of our goals when we are on tour is to visit as many museums as possible which is hard as we're bouncing around to do stuff like this (the interview), too. But it's a giant priority for us. As far as the music goes, at a very early age I was inspired by Bach. I loved it, the simple pieces for piano students.
Claire: My tendency is towards contemporary arts. I love contemporary art. But there is always something interesting from every era of time. That's the way it functions as tutorials. I like to pick and chose things that inspires me from all spectrum. Like I love Sappho and Cato. I love Egyptian, Grecian and Roman poets and I also love Italian sculptures and paintings. Eric Satie and I also love Bach and Monet and the impressionists. There is bits from all those eras because I think that the artistic temperament has been the same throughout the time. If there's something you're into in this present day there will always be somebody who's been into the same thing 500 years ago. The human temperament hasn't changed very much. That's what's so amazing readring old writings or looking at old art and realising that it's the same. A lot of people feel it were temporary and ancient and can't relate to it, it's not human, it's not personal. But then they realise that these poems for instance are about love and sex. About being angry and outworn. It's the same feelings that have repelled people to create art for all of time.

RI: That makes totally sense. I've just finished a paper on The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách and reading your The Secret Teachings of the Mystery Lights reminded me of it in terms of same feelings. You should read it!
Claire: It's funny, people who've read our book always approach us saying "Oh, you must have read this or that" or "Who's the mathematician?". People always say different things about what they think it's like or what it appeals to. It is informed by some research but it's most what we believe.

RI: I read it a few times and actually agree with everything. Waiting for you now, I read it again and pretty much solved my own question about "All religions are one; there is no religion". First my subjective mathematical understanding told me this could not be; one or more does not equal zero. (laughter) However, all religions are emotive reactions "to an initial, praeternatural power" which makes the sum of them one. As they can't be touched; only exist in people's minds, there is actually no religion. It's a very philosophical idea.
Claire: You got it! The main point of the book is that most things that human race undertakes be it religious study or mathematics or science, it all comes from this same exact feeling wanting to explain and figure out this thing that is much greater than the humans themselves. Either it's a spiritual approach; they don't understand where the world possibly comes from, where we're going to, who could've possibly created it or it's an analytical mathematic approach. Like "the structure of the universe is so perfect and theories all work together, there must be a greater underline theory of everything". It is all the same thing as wanting to find the underline greater creator of everything. That feeling diverged different interactions. On some level you understand what the motivation is. I don't think it's all that different but the same time it's all just indescribable.

RI: If we look at your logo, there's the cirlce and the triangle in which you can find an anchor, a heart and a cross. Now, if according to you there aren't religions, why do you use a Christian symbol?
Jona: The cross isn't intentional. The cross just references the anchor which references the cross.
Claire: It was our old logo, without the circle and the triangle.
Jona: It's a heart at the top of an anchor which is meaning the heart is the anchor of everything. And there's heart in all of the music and all of the output of the band.
Claire: We did some research into anchors as a symbol when we were working on it. We found out that in early Christianity the anchor was used instead of a cross in order to conceal the cross. We never intended to use a cross though. But the triangle is a very ancient symbol, too and it can mean many things just like the anchor. Sailors used to get anchor tattoos because it meant they have crossed an ocean. It is something that certainly applies to us as we cross oceans all the times. At the same time we're very tied to where we come from; the anchor holds us on the ground. There are lots of different meanings.
Jona: But no cross. There is no Christian cross for us.
Claire: It's funny though, it's like a wink for us.

RI: What I noticed yesterday was that you mentioned Yin and Yang very often. Consequentially that's how the show was put together: Claire is female, blonde and wore black; Jona is male, has dark hair and wore white. The guitar straps however were rainbow coloured. Is that the circle around the triangle?
Jona: It could be or it's the third point of the triangle. The three points of the triangle are darkness, light and duration.
Claire: In the band, live, everyone tried to play their symbolic role. Jona is this character of lightness which he's also played in music videos. He represents the entire spectrum of human ritual culture.
Jona: Like Christian, Scientologism, Mormonism, Catholocism...
Claire: He's got this preacher energy he tries to represent. I represent a more ancient, pagan, Babylonian, Assyrian, Judaean character and the guys that play with us both wear black and white. And they have these rainbow straps to represent the entire spectrum between us. But it's also a joke about the band being The Straight Gaze because the rainbow is a gay pride symbol. We play archetypes and that's important to us because since there are two singers in the band, Jona and I, we don't want to do the same thing all over again. We don't want to hammer the audience with one gender. It's important to us to present two ends of performance spectrums where people can take something from each of us. It's like watching our videos. There are different pieces, being different from the whole, but they also all come together in a unifying shape.

RI: We just spoke about light and darkness, what is twilight then? Harmony or fight?
Claire: I think it's the black and white pairing? It's rather symplistic and we use it for the show because it is visually strong, but at the same time I don't think we're trying to be binary or dogmatic about it. It's not just black and white. The joke for us is that the things we are representing on stage are pretty much the same. If you look at this pagan religious structures that I'm trying to play with visually and the more mainstream, conservative, Christian religious formats he is trying to play with, they are very much in form like one another. Historically speaking. If you go far back enough, where their roots lay, you will realise that they are very much the same. That's when it becomes "twilight" or grey. It's not that simple. Which is the joke for us; we try to play the simplicity although it's quite complex on different levels.
Jona: I like the concept of twilight, though!
Claire: It's pretty! Funny you mention "twilight" as we think of the movie. (laughter) We live in Portland where the movie is shot. It's such a thing from where we come from.

RI: I was not referring to the film though. You said that about every six months you are reinventing yourselves. When's the next metamorphosis due? It comes naturally I guess?
Jona: I think it's due the end of August (laughs)
Claire: Yeah, we started the last reinvention at the beginning of the year by playing with the band which for us is the most exotic concept in the world. For years we've been playing alone, just the two of us with electronic backing and video projections. Having actual instruments to us still feels crazy and novel and new. Even though it's the most normal thing in the world "We have guitars! Come check it out!" (laughs) But indeed, it's time for something new. After this we're going to take the year off to make a new record. Honestly, who knows what's going to come out of it. We haven't fully decided yet.
Jona: We can say that. That's okay.
Claire: It hasn't decided us.
Jona: That's more accurate. We've decided and it hasn't agreed with us yet.
(laughter)

RI: Do you sometimes wish you could play an instrument like the violin?
Jona: For me, the time it would take to learn someting like violin or a programming language for a computer system is time in which I could create something else, so it's wasted time? I could just turn to someone who does play the violin and use them and coporate them.
Claire: That's your collectivist nature. It's one of those things I wish that when I was a kid my parents have made me take violin or soccer lessons or anything. But they didn't. I can't live in the past, it's too late. I believe it takes ten years to be a master at something. So you can master maybe six things unless you want to become over hundred years old. There is no way in this point of my life but I'd like to play the violin. Wouldn't you?
Jona: No.
Claire: Actually, I'd like to play piano. I had piano lessons for some time, but right now I can't see myself dedicating a lot of time to it. Maybe.

RI: If you take off time anyway, why not. It might just chose you!
Claire: We're too busy but yes, maybe.

RI: So, only two random questions left. First one is from Maud who watched you on a boat in Toulouse. After the show people with braces got 50% off if they wanted to buy the album. Why?
Jona: (laughs) Oh that's great! On that tour I was making a lot of signs for the merch table offering specials every night. I guess I have an affinity for braces because I had them when I was young. So, that particular night I felt nostalgic about that period. That's why there was a deeper discount. We offered all kinds of discounts and free items based on the location.
Claire: It's true! We should do that again. Specials and deals - you don't see that a lot for merchandise.

RI: Look, I've got a huge scar on my knee, what about that?
Jona: That's great!
Claire: People with huge scars - 10% off everything! Show us the scar and tell us the story behind it!
Jona: Then we will collect that and release it in some years.

RI: Turn it into a film!
Claire: Yes! The town with the most scars, the most braces...
Jona: That's funny! That's so cool that she remembered it.

RI: Since the three of us are all vegan, please chose: seitan, tofu or tempeh?
Claire: (immediately) Seitan.
Jona: That's so hard!
Claire: Why, I love them all. They're all good. I'd say you rather like a seitan sandwich than a tofu sandwich.
Jona: I would, too but I'm just thinking of what's easier to harvest. What's the easiest to grow ourselves when the end of the world comes.
Claire: I think tempeh is the least process of all.
Jona: Tofu is very easy to make.
Claire: But tempeh is still the whole beans.
Jona: That's true.
Claire: You don't have to blend it or mash it.
Jona: But you can't use tempeh for everything whereas tofu you can turn into soy milk and all kind of other things. I'm going to say tofu.

RI: I'd said tempeh. We have a triangle here. Thank you very much!
Claire: Aw, that's sweet, you're very welcome it was fun!
Jona: Thank you!


Links

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