Yacht Promote New Video With Fake Sex Tape Leak

LA experimental pop duo Yacht have promoted their recent album I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler in ways that blur the line between a winking parody of the modern album rollout and a shameless attention-seeking gimmick. They announced the album on a billboard and did an interactive livestream in front of it. They shared their tracklist as a “tracklisticle” at Buzzfeed and revealed the album art by faxing it to FedEx and Staples stores near fans. They released a music video via Uber. Some of these self-described “conceptual stunts” were real head-slappers, but ultimately Yacht’s only crime was trying too hard.

Their latest attempt at a high-concept publicity stunt, though, is truly tasteless. Yesterday, they posted a note to Facebook alerting fans that a sex tape featuring band members Claire L. Evans and Jona Bechtolt had been leaked without their consent. In the note, they asked fans to please respect their privacy by not viewing the sex tape: “Just because we are public figures does not mean we asked for this. Like anyone, we still deserve to have a choice about what we share with the world.”

Dear everyone,
We are writing today because we want you to be the first to know some news.

This has been a hard time for us as a band. It’s hard for bands generally these days. We make music in a time where album sales are at an all time low. Tours are a formidable expense with no guarantees that we’ll make the money back. Not even t-shirts sell the way that they used to. Music isn’t art anymore, it’s just content. We don’t need to write yet another op-ed column to describe the intricacies of why mid-level bands like us are in trouble.

That being said…

Today, without our previous knowledge nor consent, a personal video was released.

For more than 10 years, Claire and I have been the frontman and frontwoman of a band that has been core to the meaning of our mutual existence. YACHT is the result of love, tremendous work and unending, unflinching collaboration. We have always operated under the principle of doing our best to maintain dignity and a commitment to openness and truth, both on stage and off.

But today, due to a series of technological missteps and one morally abject person, a video that we made privately has been released to the public. We have commenced legal proceedings against the aforementioned person, but now that it could potentially circulate, we feel like it’s important for you to know what happened and why.

Claire and I — who have been romantic and artistic partners since 2006 — made a “sex tape.” It was intended for us only. We don’t feel the need to justify the reason we made it. Anyone reading this who has been in a long term partnership understands that preserving the relationship is an ever-changing and challenging thing. It’s especially difficult when the lines between career and romance are as merged as ours are. The financial pressures that we’ve been under, which de facto extend into our extracurricular lives, created a circumstance in which we felt like we needed a bit of an escape from the day-to-day. So we turned on a camera, became naked, and had sex. We assumed that we were the only people who would be privy to that video. I guess we were naive. Now you have the option to be privy to that video. For us, that’s a shame. We feel like art is an act of generosity. The art we make for the public is for that expressed purpose. And now we’re in an awkward situation where the art that we made for us and us alone is being viewed by anyone who has the inclination to hit play — a true and humiliating blurring of the public and private.

Our tastes in the bedroom might seem uncommon to some, and possibly off-putting. But considering the variables that go into any sexual experience, wouldn’t anything seem uncommon, and possibly off-putting? This is our private life. And no one should have governance over what people do consensually in their private lives.

Just because we are public figures does not mean we asked for this. Like anyone, we still deserve to have a choice about what we share with the world. Today we no longer have that choice. But our hope is that you fundamentally understand that choice and you choose not to view a private act that was inadvertently made public. We hope you understand that this is not a delicious scandal. This is an exploitation.

We love you all and hope that you will make the right decision. And if you don’t, we hope that you will continue to enjoy our music regardless of what you’ve seen today.

With love and respect,
Jona and Claire

They later responded to that post with another statement and a link to purchase a download of the alleged sex tape for $5, claiming that if it was going to be out there, they might as well profit from it:

Hi everyone. We’re deeply touched by the overwhelming support you’ve shown us. This is an uncomfortable and pretty bizarre situation for us to be in, but it’s made better by the evidence that we have fans like you.

Since this happened we’ve been researching sex tapes. It shouldn’t have come as any surprise that Pamela Anderson never saw a dime from the tape she filmed with Tommy Lee, and Paris Hilton lost a court battle with the man who leaked their private video. We’re not as savvy as the Kardashians, but something occurred to us this morning: we could try and distribute the video directly to you ourselves. Lemonade?

This video is out there now. We can’t change that. But we can try to be “as YACHT as possible” about it and take some kind of ownership over what has happened. So we’re asking you one thing: if you feel like you 100% have to see this tape, don’t stream it on some tube site, or download a torrent. Instead, we beg of you to download the video, Louis C.K.-style, directly from us.

Huge thanks to our friend Daniel Bogan for cobbling this site together last night, and to the people that make free tools and easily accessible platforms like Let’s Encrypt, Bootstrap, and Stripe that made it much less painful. At the very least we can laugh about this URL:

https://fuck.teamyacht.com

Here were some of the hundreds of supportive fan responses:

Love the band no matter what. To whomever violated you, let us, the people know what we can do to help.

This too shall pass, and we support and love you! You have always held such integrity, you didn’t lose any of that integrity today. You were violated and victimized. This has nothing to do with your relationship or choices, but some predators’ idea of fun, who doesn’t posess an iota of your talent or creative and mental fortitude.

I would like to chime in that I have never heard of your band before until I read the news today. That being said, after reading your statements concerning the tape, I felt more inclined to listen to your music than to access the tape for viewing myself. Just know that there are people in the world more impressed and interested in your ability to handle situations, than judging from the situation itself.

Fuck this. We will continue to support you. In fact, I hadn’t yet bought your newest album but I’m going to go do that right now.

The whole thing seemed fishy from the start. Yacht have long explored issues of internet culture, surveillance, and consumerism, and Evans writes about technology for publications like Motherboard and WIRED. The only people who seemed to be able to download the tape were Yacht’s famous friends like Miranda July, Eric Wareheim, the Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone, and Islands’ Nick Thorburn, who shared screenshots from the alleged leak in suspiciously coordinated support tweets. (Fans who attempted to purchase the tape received an error message and their credit cards were not charged.) The timeline of the band’s alleged tape leak and web storefront launch was inconsistent as well. For these reasons and others we believed the story to be a publicity stunt and opted not to write about it at first. Now Jezebel confirms that there is no sex tape and that it is an elaborate hoax to promote Yacht’s new music video. An April 6 email from Evans to a Gawker Media staff member reads:

For the upcoming music video for our song, “I Wanna Fuck You Til I’m Dead,” we’re faking a sex tape leak.

In the days leading up to the video’s release, we’re going to pretend we were hacked, share and delete confessional social media posts on the subject of our privacy, then try to “get out in front of it” and sell the sex tape, fake a server crash, etc.

Given that revenge porn can ruin people’s lives, it’s unbecoming of Yacht to cry wolf like this. They solicited the public’s empathy in bad faith, even replying to their Facebook post to thank fans for their support: “This is an uncomfortable and pretty bizarre situation for us to be in, but it’s made better by the evidence that we have fans like you.” Regardless of whatever statement Yacht were trying to make, a lie like this one undermines the cause of actual sex crime victims who dare to step forward. It gives ammunition to those who seek to cast doubt upon victims. It is far from innocuous.

This tactic did not sit well with many of Yacht’s fellow musicians including Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield, and Shamir:

Judy Miller Silverman, whose Motormouth Media handled promotion for I Thought The Future Would Be Cooler, tweeted that her company was uninvolved with the stunt:

The video, which turns out to be not pornographic, is now out via Pornhub. It depicts Evans and Bechtolt cuddling before an alien horror movie breaks out. If anything about the video is NSFW, it’s the sci-fi violence at the end.

In their initial letter to fans, Yacht wrote, “We hope you understand that this is not a delicious scandal. This is an exploitation.” That about sums it up.

We’ve reached out to the band for comment and will update whenever more information is available.

UPDATE: Yacht have issued a statement in response to the backlash to their stunt:

TUESDAY, MAY 10TH 2016

Our sex tape is now viewable on PornHub and being seeded on The Pirate Bay.

We created a story that was quickly revealed as fiction by the internet. We expected interest, skepticism, and laughter. We didn’t anticipate the outpouring of genuine support, due partially to the credulity with which this story was so extensively and immediately reported.

We did make a “sex tape,” and we want you to watch it. We released it as a slowly-unveiling conspiracy, inspired in equal part by The X-Files, Nathan for You, and The KLF. It’s a project that allowed us to play with science fiction, the attention economy, clickbait journalism, and celebrity sex tapes all at once.

If you tried to purchase the video here, your card was never charged. This was not designed to make money or sell records, but to explore the intersection of privacy, media, and celebrity. We enjoy and have spent a decade creating multi-faceted projects that unfold over time, using the most current tools at our disposal.

There is one dark note we want to address. We never make light of victims of any form of sexual abuse. Frankly, it’s disturbing to us that press outlets could make the incredibly irresponsible leap from “celebrity sex tape,” which is the cultural trope this project explicitly references, to “revenge porn,” which is unfunny, disgusting, morally repugnant, and completely unrelated. Even within the fictional narrative we created, there was no violence or exploitation. It was always about agency and proactive empowerment.

We couldn’t have asked for better fans, and we realize we’ll need to try much harder to fool you. We will continue to work very hard to produce work that engages and responds to you.

Love,
Claire & Jona

UPDATE 2: Yacht have apologized for the hoax and the previous statement.

First off, we’re sorry.

The reaction to this endeavor highlights a glaring error we made in positioning ourselves as the victims of a leaked sex tape. We understand that positioning it that way from the beginning was an egregious mistake, and are so ashamed we hadn’t considered this beforehand.

Yes, this was all a “hoax” or “PR stunt,” and one we were so excited to share. While there is inherent deception in pulling a hoax, it was never our intention to mock or make light of anyone who has been a victim of a privacy violation like the one we mentioned. This was a lazy starting point for what we wanted to be a much more fun story about the expectations of a sex tape and the frenzy surrounding the taboo of sex, especially juxtaposed with our own non-celebrity. We failed to tell that story. Instead we told a much darker and more disturbing story.

We’ve been going back and forth on what to do about the music video this was all supposed to lead up to. We were leaning towards not releasing it at all, but we think it’s important that people be able to see and assess for themselves our intent.

We take full responsibility for what has happened, and we are truly sorry. We know we’ve broken a bond of trust with many of our fans and friends. Thank you to those that called us out and helped us to understand the gravity of the mistake we made. We should not have hinged this entire project on the fiction that we were the victims of a leaked tape, and we’re equally disappointed in ourselves for taking so long to get over being shocked at the response and write this apology.

After all is said and done, of course you should be mad at us. We’re mad at us too.

Love,
Jona & Claire

PS: We’re sorry for our shitty non-apology yesterday, too. There’s no justifying it. We clearly didn’t get it then. We get it now.

Tags: YACHT