YACHT is not a band known for its politics. Bandmates Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans are artists and writers, but the music they make is about dancing at its core. The most memorable lyrics of their breakout single was probably “aah-yeeah-yeeahyeeeah.” All of which makes it all the more notable that their new single is a protest song: “Party at the NSA.”
“We claim full citizenship in the nation of Internet,” Evans told me over email, by way of explanation. “We wouldn't be where we are if it weren't for the existence of an open, free, and direct line to our fans--and to the world.” The idea that an intelligence agency could be listening-in struck Evans and Bechtolt as, well, creepy. “The analogy we've been using is that nobody wants to dance when there's cops in the club,” says Evans.
The song came first, but soon after came the idea of putting it to work. The song became a pay-what-you-wish fundraising website for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the best-known advocacy groups pushing to keep the Internet free. Evans says the donations have rolled in “steadily” since the site launched, with the largest single donation coming in at $30.
The advocacy campaign is a multimedia artwork of its own, with redacted-text graphics and a t-shirt (price: $30, also donated to the EFF) depicting a shattered all-seeing eye. “We worked on the campaign for two weeks,” says Evans, “coordinating everyone from the mastering engineer to the credit card processing company, who've all volunteered their services. In [and] of itself, this is a perfect example of how magic the Internet can be, and how important it is to keep it that way.”
In a truly Internet-generation touch, the song features the guitar stylings of comedian podcast celebrity Marc Maron, who discovered YACHT after doing the voiceover for a (fantastic) short documentary about their record label, DFA Records. “We'd first seen him play guitar in a comedy video and were totally surprised at how good he is,” says Evans. “After we finished a rough version of the song, which had space for a solo, Marc's specific style of shredding came to mind.”
Evans says Maron cut the guitar solo on his own equipment in just three takes.