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All Songs Considered Blog
Fri May 18, 2012
YACHT, 'Beam Me Up': A Laser Tag Apocalypse
Maybe YACHT wouldn't be that sad if the complete and total annihilation of the human race happened tomorrow. The video for their song "Beam Me Up," off their recent album Shangri-La, finds the band playing around with the upsides of doomsday in a laser tag arena. Think of a future where cyber-soldiers fight each other in the smouldering metallic ruins of society, except with children shooting fake lasers.
"Beam Me Up" begins like the opening to an "invaders from outer space" sci-fi and ends with a yelp of exasperation. Singer Claire Evans, sounding like a new-wave Siouxsie Sioux, sings, "High above the clouds somewhere / The cold of space spreads thin / We endeavor to look out / They are looking in."
The sentiment in the chorus — that one day the narrator will watch her planet burn — sounds unfortunate. By the last stanza, however, it's obvious that the first impression is faulty. This narrator can't wait for the whole crummy Earth to blow up: "There are nights that I burn out / I drink deep from my cup / I look all around me / and think, 'Oh god, beam me up!'"
A song so enthusiastic about the downfall of mankind needs an equally dystopic video. Thankfully, when the band was traveling through Portland, Oregon earlier this year they met up with Into The Woods, a local culture/music/video blog, and performed as part of the blog's Far From Home video series. This series takes artists and gets them to perform a song in an unusual space — tour buses, arcades, and under bridges to name a few. Director Hannah Gregg and the Into the Woods team paired the retro sci-fi of "Beam Me Up" with the blacklit world of laser tag. The band gets into the manic energy of all the kids running around, playing along with the gigantic fake battle raging around them.
For YACHT's singer, Claire Evans, the combination of the "Beam Me Up" and laser tag was perfect:
Our song, "Beam Me Up," is about being so exasperated with the human race that rapture via alien abduction begins to sound appealing, so it was a perfect concordance to shoot our episode of Into the Woods at the heart of a fictional intergalactic war. That is the premise of laser tag, right?
In an email, director Hannah Gregg talked about the challenge of filming in the middle of a fake cybernetic war:
A laser tag arena is the epitome of challenging for a live performance shoot, and I knew it would take a band willing to commit to the strangeness of it all. We had a laser tag arena in mind for a shoot for a few months, but hadn't nailed down an artist that felt right for the shoot. It wasn't until two days before the band was to play a homecoming show in town that everything clicked — YACHT was the perfect fit. I emailed [YACHT member Jona Bechtolt] and 48 hours later we were hauling YACHT's gear into Laserport in Beaverton, OR. I knew this would be a challenging location, both for shooting and performance. Playing there meant setting up in the dark to perform in a weirdly situated blacklight room with little kids running around, techno dance remixes bumping between takes and two crews of cameras. It was sort of weird and stressful, but that was the point.
I was most excited about shooting YACHT in a laser tag arena because I wanted to see how they confront being in this strange and challenging location, and document the performance that arises out of that extra stress and unfamiliar territory. While the location is sort of funny in nature, to make this successful it needed a band that was going to take seriously actually how awesome of a location it was and be totally committed to the concept, and YACHT did just that. As an added bonus, it turns out Laserport is located right near where Claire grew up, so while it was far from the band's new home, there was a nostalgia for the area and the party room and the vests and the video games that made Laserport home for the afternoon.
Yacht's album Shangri-La is out now.