all words: Shona Fenner
all photos: Aditya Banerjee
This week started out with a heavy dose of unique spiritualism down at Black Cat. We got there as Brooklyn duo Light Asylum began their set. I always fall in love with openers, but these guys won’t be an unknown opening band for long. Light Asylum is comprised of Bruno Coviello playing a poppy yet heavy synth and dynamic singer Shannon Funchess generally making your jaw-drop. Funchess has been featured with a couple bands and tours with !!!, but is going to shake things up fronting this up-and-coming band. She comes across as an uniquely intense presence, dressed in butch dark clothes on a dimly lit stage peppered with laser beams. Then she comes at you during the songs with flailing arms and flashing looks as she paces around the stage.
Light Asylum’s music can send chills down your spine as Funchess croons in a resonant contralto that cannot be ignored. Seriously guys… her voice is the stuff of legend. The songs are pained and brooding; with an eerie electronic instrumentation that makes it all danceable. After the show I stayed up too late listening to Light Asylum and suddenly it hit me why I am instantaneously in love with this band too… Light Asylum could be the long lost twin of another favorite of mine Future Islands.
The synthy interludes, emotive and yearning deep throaty vocals, and their live show’s gripping intensity are all giveaways. Light Asylum is definitely a band you should check out if you enjoy a combination of goth and neon that can make you move. Their debut EP In Tension has no label and comes, quite unassumingly, on a CD-R. It has four songs and leaves you breathless, wanting to hear what else they can do. But this is the modern age and you can find them online easily (with some handy downloads).
“A Certain Person” was fantastic live, and is likely the most tones down of the bunch, “Skull Fuct” is a song that seems made to be on the soundtrack of a half pipe tricks DVD that doesn’t suck, but the track that really stands out is “Dark Allies”. I have listened to “Dark Allies” about a thousand times since Monday night and keep finding myself pushing play and putting it on repeat again because it is just too good! BYT highly recommends the music video as well.
After Light Asylum took me on a winding catharsis I was ready to be in band love yet again…but this time with the fantastic YACHT. YACHT is a band, a business, and a belief system made up by Jona Bechtolt and Claire L. Evans. Their lyrics are often bubbly mantras delivered in a chant-like monotone that gives you the impression there is quite a bit behind their lighthearted and spacey pop stylings. It is safe to assume these are some smart people. YACHT tours with a backing band of three brunette indie boys called “The Straight Gaze”. Given that I spent a good couple pages of my thesis referencing Laura Mulvey and John Berger and talking in circles about “the male gaze” their name makes me weak in the knees, filled with joy that somebody else read that stuff at some point.
Add the fact that early on in the show Claire Evans turned and grinned at the loudly crowd asking, “…and how are you all feeling in your physical bodies?” I just couldn’t be happier with the combination of brainy weirdness and poppy synths. Not only does YACHT have envious talent, but they are also some unpretentious, friendly, and genuinely interesting people. I know this because I got the chance to talk to them for a few minutes, which you can read about here if you feel like it.
They had a good deal of merch but we were told that “you don’t have to buy any of it… of course.” YACHT seems to know what’s up and make much of their music available for free online. The reasoning is that it will be downloaded anyway and that the band themselves download and torrent just like the rest of us. They steal mp3s and software, and so make no point of pretending they are above such things. I find this admirable and welcome it, but still feel a little guilty when the only person getting my money is the bartender and not the bands I admire. They even introduced their biggest hit “Psychic City” saying that we would know this one since its free online.
And guess what… everybody did know it. During this song I looked around to find the crowd grinning, dancing, and singing along while Bechtolt and Evans did the very same up on stage. During “The Afterlife”, a dance-able song about death, Claire Evans leaned down to lovingly caress the heads of the audience members in front. The timing of this act was perfect as she leaned down in front of one fan, put her hand on the side of his face and sang “…it may come as a surprise that you are not alone.”
YACHT performed in their customary all white and all black outfits, complimenting eachother. After a few minutes I noticed that Jona Bechtolt and all the boys in “The Straight Gaze” had gold triangles pinned to their collars. YACHT really really likes triangles. The shape represents the core tenants of the band, while still being a blank slate for interpretation. Personally, I prefer a nice rectangle or rhombus, but I must admit the triangle really is one of the finest geometric shapes. But enough of my saying things for no reason… YACHT grabs you from the start with their sunny and catchy beats and keeps you around with their high energy, positive vibes, oddly metaphysical undertones. Their simple philosophy centers around free thinking and expression, as well as free wi-fi. I think we can all get down with that.
Claire Evans was great to watch as she tangled and untangled herself with the microphone cord while constantly moving, posing, and hoppin. She even used jazz hands… JAZZ HANDS! I really appreciate the way YACHT combines detached realism with poppy showmanship that I can’t see getting repetitive. I also really appreciate how three different people told me that I looked like her (which I don’t, we just both have short blonde hair). It is always nice to know you look musically talented… at least from the back.
YACHT’s show Monday night had some real gems, both new and old. In between songs Claire Evans asked the audience if we liked metal. We would have cheered for anything at that point so more people than I expected hollered out. YACHT then played a cover of Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law” and blew it out of the freaking water.
Each of their original songs has a friendly hook and arresting chorus, keeping them just dancey and poppy enough to stay on the safe said of weird. Their last song was seven minutes of jamming that closed everything out perfectly. It seems like DC likes that little dose of strange in our electro-pop and people were actually moving during the songs instead of just standing. The show didn’t sell out but even so YACHT seemed supremely pleased and told the audience a couple times how glad they were to be here and how great this show turned out. It’s nice to give the crowd some acknowledgement for our enthusiasm but it is really all credit goes to the musical master of ceremonies, YACHT.
You can go learn more about YACHT, their philosophy, and trianges at their “digital utopia”.