I had once jokingly referred to a friend’s outfit as “Yacht Rock,” which consisted of rolled up jeans, sock-less loafers and a button down shirt that had only the button under his belly button buttoned. The very next day, I got an email from a band called Yacht Punk. While I initially thought this was my friend attempting a joke, upon further review, I realized that Yacht Punk is in fact a real band–with great music.
One might assume that the word “punk” refers to the band’s sound, but for these guys, it’s not the case. Their music does not incite thoughts of yachting, nor punk rock. Once I got to know the band, I realized that this band name is quite literally the best two words to describe their personality: encompassing some sort of plaguing impossibility to take anything seriously, with a unique way of rattling off sarcastic quips that are actually honest self-aware descriptors.
To drive the point home even further, the first conversation I had with lead singer and guitarist Graham Bockmiller was about how band names have taken a turn for the worse as of late. Since the world is quickly running out of original untaken names, musicians have been relegated to using stylistic choices like putting spaces after every letter in their name, or removing all the vowels. After hearing some of the bad and hilarious examples Bockmiller had, I knew he didn’t take himself so seriously–which is why the following Q&A is quite silly (yet still super informative).
With two singles already out on Spotify, the band has a plan to release single by single, instead of an album or EP. Graham commented, “We’d rather be constantly releasing songs than drop them all at once.” The tunes themselves are fresh and vibe-y, and the tone of Graham’s voice has a rawness like Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Their debut single, “Radar,” has an air of teenage anthem qualities with its gritty guitar sonics.
Yacht Punk’s producing team includes rock heavyweights Matt Wignall (Cold War Kids) and Will Brierre (The Killers), but they aren’t your average serious rock band. In fact, they may only be serious about one aspect: their music.
OTW: So let’s start with the name: you say you don’t ride yachts and you don’t play punk. Was it just a random set of words that you thought sounded cool? Are you ever worried people will think you DO play punk?
Graham: It was somewhat random–a friend said it jokingly once about a group picture we were in. I was like, “Hmmm Yacht Punk, that would make a pretty good band name.” It’s really hard to pick band names these days. Inevitably every name you can think of is already taken. And I was tired of seeing band names in all capital letters with all the vowels taken out and shit, like “WLF BDRM” or whatever. That’s not a real band, but I can imagine some band googling “Wolf Bedroom band” and being like dammit, some band from 2006 already has a “Wolf Bedroom” page.
We’re not too worried about people thinking we play punk. I had some people tell me not to name it that, but it’s not as if there’s a bunch of smooth jazz bands that have “Smooth Jazz” in their name. More than anything I think it grabs your attention, like if I saw “Yacht Punk” on a festival lineup, I’d probably be like “I wonder what that sounds like” and be more likely to check it out. And I like the dichotomy of the two words. But most importantly, it wasn’t taken. And any name that leaves vowels intact is a success.
OTW: So then why do you hate Punk music? (just kidding)
Graham: I like punk and punk derivative music, but I wouldn’t lie and say I had a big “punk phase” growing up or anything. I’ve always liked The Clash, Iggy Pop, Rancid, etc and I like when rock acts have elements of punk mixed in. So, hopefully Yacht Punk has some elements of punk and some other influences as well. It seems like there’s not a lot of actual punk music going on right now, so hopefully we won’t get attacked and spit on by hard-core gutter punks for hijacking their word.
OTW: The dreaded genre question, but let’s handle it: What are you? Or what would you like to be?
Graham: I’d say that I would like us to sound different than the majority of music today, be catchy enough for most people to enjoy, but edgy enough to keep some sort of punk aesthetic. The goal is just to play stuff that we would wanna listen do that we haven’t heard. No idea if we’re actually accomplishing any of that, but that’s the goal.
OTW: Biggest sonic influences? Name a few oldies and a few newbies.
Graham: Favorite oldies would be The Who, David Bowie, Pink Floyd. Newbies would be The Strokes, Foals, Arctic Monkeys, and of course our biggest inspiration Lil Yachty. He really embodies the talent, dedication, and a musical wherewithal that we strive to achieve.
OTW: What is the most interesting thing about Yacht Punk?
Graham: We’re all virgins.
OTW: You guys have worked with Matt Wignall known for Cold War Kids–how exactly did you meet up with him?
Graham: Apart from his recording/producing, he’s a photographer and art director and has worked with some bands that our manager knows. I had been writing some demos, and my manager suggested we do some songs with him. So we ended up doing a good amount of the recording in his studio Tackyland in Long Beach. It’s a small studio with a ton of vintage gear and has a really cool vibe. It’s like stepping back in time. We learned a lot down there, and it helped bring the songs to a higher level.
OTW: You also worked with Will Brierre (The Killers)–why did you choose him to work with? What do you think he brought to the project?
Graham: Will was kind of the ying to Wignall’s yang. There was a lot of stuff from the Tackyland sessions that we really liked, but also a lot of elements from our demos that I wanted to use. Will was the one that was able to Frankenstein both the sessions together. So we ended up with the rawness of Wignall’s style mashed with the the more polished, big sound that Brierre brings.
OTW: The video for “Nightmare Pool” is super trippy and psychedelic — did you originally seek out to make it that way, or was it a happy accident?
Graham: The video credit goes to Matt Wignall; it was his concept. I just said “make it look weird and trippy,” and the rest was him. It kind of has a weird acid-trip feel, which is always welcome round these parts. I think it made it more interesting than just a straight studio performance.
OTW: What was it like filming the video at Tackyland Studios?
Graham: We filmed it after having spent a lot of time recording in there, so by then we were pretty familiar with it. It’s definitely not your normal studio. It’s a converted garage–it gets hot in there, it’s not very comfortable, but it really puts you in the mood to be creative. There’s Elvis and Clint Eastwood posters, old rainbow Miller beer signs, tape machines, vintage instruments, and a bunch of other cool and tacky shit. I’m pretty sure the walls are painted with spring reverb.
OTW: You only have two songs out on Spotify–do you plan to release an EP or do the “song a month” thing that seems to be the new trend?
Graham: We still have 3 songs that were going to be releasing soon, and we’re currently in the studio finishing more. I just feel like you get more milage out of each song if you release them individually. We’d rather be constantly be releasing songs than drop them all at once. But what the hell do we know?
OTW: Why should people listen to Yacht Punk?
Graham: If said people are loving popular music right now, they probably shouldn’t.
OTW: If Yacht Punk were a style/fashion profile, what clothing items would it consist of?
Graham: A boat captains hat, aviator sunglasses, a leather duster with no shirt on, nipple clamps, white jeans, destroyed Converse shoes, a cigarette, driving a 1978 Trans Am down Hollywood Boulevard throwing empty wine coolers out of the T-Top.
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