Between Two Artists: Yacht And Luke Gilford
Photography: Luke Gilford
For their sixth studio album, I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler, pop duo Yacht tapped photographer/filmmaker Luke Gilford to do the cover art. Other products of their collaboration can be seen exclusively in the slideshow above. The artists work in different mediums, but they’re kindred spirits of sorts, particularly when it comes to their fondness of sci-fi. Here, Yacht vocalist Claire L. Evans and Gilford ruminate on the future of identity in a technological world, and chat about Pamela Anderson and a note-so-surprising fan.
CLAIRE L. EVANS You and I share a deep interest in science fiction, and I see that manifest in your work as bodies get manipulated into post-human forms through prosthetics, second skins, and technological enhancements. Why are you so fascinated by cyborgs? Where did that start for you?
LUKE GILFORD As a kid my favorite movie was Terminator 2: Judgment Day. We had it on VHS and I watched it countless times. In a lot of ways, T2 is about humanity versus technology. These days I'm more interested in the merging of humanity and technology though, or the blurring of the two. Your vast knowledge of science fiction is inspiring to me. Now that a lot of that fiction is getting closer to reality, what are some books or films you think are becoming more and more relevant?
CLE I mean, William Gibson remains deeply on point. Not because he "invented cyberspace," which is a chestnut people are always trotting out, but because he's such a keen observer of culture—he spots the places where tendencies emerge in deep subculture, and traces them to their intersections with other nodes, before they eventually manifest into the mainstream. He identified the inevitability of holographic pop stars, the fascination with unbranded fashion, insidious viral marketing, Creepypasta-style Internet video cults, telepresence robots as a new medium of contact, historical and cultural cosplay. I'm always looking to his work for clues.
CLE How do you think our understanding of what is beautiful will change over the next 100 years?
LG If you look at magazines over the last century, there are very distinct trends in fashion, hairstyles, and makeup. As we move into the future, technology will become a bigger part of these trends and definitions. With what's happening with virtual reality right now, I'm curious how much our ideas of beauty will slowly shift inward, or to more imaginary virtual identities.
LG I love your album title, I Thought The Future Would be Cooler. What are some things you actually hope to see happen in our lifetime?
CLE I think of the album as a work of science fiction in the sense that it's really about the present, the way good science fiction often illustrates the ambitions and fears of its moment rather than making explicit predictions. But I have hopes for the future, and I think the album speaks to them: new forms of physical embodiment that aren't predicated on the equipment we're born with, connection that doesn't require hardware, an end to state violence, and safe environments for women in both the IRL and digital world. More creativity and fluidity in general. We're in Amsterdam right now, on tour, and last night as Jona and I were walking around we saw these signs for temporary bicycle parking being projected directly onto the sidewalk by projectors mounted on telephone poles; the idea of cities that are modular, adaptable to the needs of its citizens, mixing old and new technologies to create environments that work, felt more "future" to me than any consumer tech gadgets.
LG Your lyrics are often really poetic. What's your writing process like?
CLE Thank you! I read a great deal, and every album tends to be the result of a specific library of influences, both conceptually and in terms of language. For Shangri-La, I was reading Robert Anton Wilson and Timothy Leary and living in the desert, so the lyrics are kind of breathless, and idealistic, and tripped out. For the new album, it was a lot of feminist science fiction (Marge Piercy, Joanna Russ, Ursula K. Le Guin), and I think the result feels a bit more concrete: specific emotional positions and aspirations for the future. There are always a lot of hidden references in the lyrics, Easter eggs I hope fans will find and dig into—generally speaking, we like to build layers into the system that reward investigation.
LG When we first started talking about collaborating, you saw that my email address was in your database from buying some merch several years ago. At first I was embarrassed to be outed as a total fan, but you guys were really cool about it. How would you describe your fans?
CLE Our fanbase is really wide-ranging: teens who feel marginalized, European vinyl collectors, seekers, artists, parents of young children. We think of fans as an extended community of more or less like-minded people, and we know all our most engaged fans by name (or username).
LG Have you collaborated with other fans before?
CLE Yeah, we've been a band long enough that some have become friends and collaborators. We made a music video for "I Walked Alone," from our last record, with one of our biggest all-time fans, Mitchell Davis, who is also a YouTube personality with a huge following of his own—we thought it would be interesting to plug the machinery of fandom back into itself. Your images are so clean and precise, but my experience of shooting with you felt improvisatory and collaborative. How much freedom do you allow yourself to deviate from your plans?
LG I love establishing a general direction beforehand, and then allowing for as much improvisation as possible on set. I've found that there's so many variables that are impossible to totally prepare for, so collaborating and going with the flow creates an environment for people to have fun and make good work. Otherwise it can feel pretty staged and artificial.
CLE You just made a film with Pamela Anderson [Connected]. How did that happen, and what was it like to work with an icon like her?
LG I've always been inspired by sex symbols. Pamela was the biggest sex symbol in the world when I was growing up, and I've always really liked her. Last year, I reached out and she responded positively to meeting up. After that initial meeting, I wrote a script based on a lot of our conversation. Pamela's character is a SoulCycle instructor having a midlife crisis, looking for deeper meaning in her life. Dree Hemingway and Jane Fonda are both in the film too, and Jake Shears scored it. The whole project has been kind of a dream come true.
CLE I feel like people are always asking artists what their inspiration is, and there’s no good answer, so I want to ask you the opposite. What blocks you or limits you creatively, and how do you overcome that?
LG I'm most creative when I'm busy and being productive. I start having more ideas when there's a lot going on and I'm super stimulated. I don't do well with vacations and holidays, I'm happiest when shit is crazy busy. So I just try to keep myself really occupied. How do you want to be remembered in 100 years?
CLE At all.