Jona Bechtolt, one-half of disco-funk duo YACHT, had been a solo artist under the YACHT moniker for some five years before joining with icy-cool blonde Claire L Evans last year. So why the decision to double the membership?

“It was solely based on our shared experience witnessing the paranormal optical phenomenon, the Marfa mystery lights,” Bechtolt told Sydney Star Observer from his hometown of Portland, Oregon.

How’s that now?

“The Marfa mystery lights are this phenomenon that happens in Marfa, in Texas, which I first saw in 2005 by myself. Then Claire and I went back and decided we wanted to figure out how people react to the lights on a day-to-day level.

“Everyone who lives in Marfa has had some kind of really intense personal experience with the lights, either being chased or feeling their presence near them. No one has an explanation for them, despite there being extensive research on the subject.”

Bechtolt and Evans’ experience of the Marfa lights informed their new album, the approropriately-titled See Mystery Lights. It’s an eclectic mix of influences — the white-boy funk of the Tom Tom Club, the peace-and-love ramblings of Yoko Ono, even the vocodered electro-R&B of T-Pain. It didn’t start out as such a party album though.

“The first version of the album was made of eight-minute, atonal mantras being repeated over and over, but then we thought, what would it be like if we tried to work those messages and mantras into a pop framework, so we could slide them through almost subliminally?” Bechtolt said.

The YACHT live show sees the pair try to communicate their experiences to the masses by any means possible.

“It involves a computer, and it’s an ever-changing, evolving show. We try to use as many communicative tools as possible, like PowerPoint. Our shows are centred around communication and interaction with other human beings.”

Yep, you read right — YACHT use PowerPoint, that program beloved of middle management drones everywhere.

“Something that excites us is repurposing tools, and using them for what we see is a greater good. With something like PowerPoint, we use it to initiate a call and response with the audience, or to display mantras we believe in.”

With all this talk of mantras, subliminal messages and paranormal visitations, one has to ask: is YACHT a cult?

“We’re not a cult. In recent history, it’s been really easy for major media outlets to slap the label ‘cult’ onto something that’s misunderstood. We have a close group of friends and followers who are emotionally invested in our belief system and our movement… but we’re definitely not a cult.”

info: YACHT play Oxford Art Factory on December 15. Tickets through Moshtix.

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