UPDATE 5/11: This morning, YACHT offered a thoughtful apology about the incident. Read it here.
UPDATE 5/10: Jona Bechtold of YACHT responded to the Mercury's request for comment with a link to the band's statement about the incident, which you can read here. "We expected interest, skepticism, and laughter," they said, later claiming that "This was not designed to make money or sell records, but to explore the intersection of privacy, media, and celebrity." Pornhub has published their "sex tape," which in actuality is a weird video of the duo romping around (no sex, it's SFW) before aliens somehow enter the picture. YACHT's statement glosses over a "dark note" about revenge porn, offering no detectable apology to those who might have sympathized with or been triggered by their post. "Even within the fictional narrative we created, there was no violence or exploitation," they say, "It was always about agency and proactive empowerment." I call BS—yesterday's post claimed that, "without our previous knowledge nor consent, a personal video was released." They clearly don't understand why sharing a faked sex tape without consent is exploitative and violent, and refer to their "celebrity" multiple times in the statement but seem incredulous as to why fans and the media would be so quick to sympathize. Get it through your skulls, YACHT: Implying victimhood to bolster your fictional narrative is a bad look.
Yesterday morning the former Portland/now LA-based band/couple YACHT took to Facebook to express distress over their allegedly leaked sex tape. They wrote, "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."
Fans responded with an outpouring of sympathy, many commenting that they'd still support YACHT regardless of the supposed tape's weird sex stuff ("Our tastes in the bedroom might seem uncommon to some, and possibly off-putting," they wrote). A few hours after their initial post, the duo wrote that they'd decided to "take some kind of ownership over what has happened" and release the sex tape themselves for $5. It was uncomfortable and bizarre to watch the situation unfold online, but even stranger that no fans claimed to have actually seen the video—that is, no one but a few famous figures (and likely accomplices) like director Miranda July, who tweeted, "Woah. More of an actual turn on than most. Probably bc: true love." Many tried in vain to purchase the sex tape—at the very least to see if it was real—but all were given error messages and the supposition that the site was simply deluged with horny indie-pop fans.
Major media outlets like Pitchfork, the LA Times, and Vulture all reported on the incident before Jezebel's Anna Merlan burst their bubble this morning—there's no sex tape.
Merlan says YACHT's been planning this stunt for months, and even solicited Jezebel's help in making it seem believable. In an email allegedly sent to someone at Gawker last month, frontwoman Claire L. Evans supposedly said, "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."
Needless to say, people aren't stoked. If Merlan's right and the tape is fake, this wasn't a prank, it was a disgusting publicity stunt. YACHT will have leeched emotional support in a blatant attempt to stir the pot before dropping a new music video. They will have used their own faked exploitation to exploit the attention of fans. As many have already pointed out, like Dan Ozzi at Vice, their actions are hugely insensitive to victims of revenge porn, who all too often have their own victimhood called into question. Ozzi also pointed out that the band's publicity company, Motormouth Media, dropkicked this nightmarish hot potato with a tweet stating, "We are not involved in the Yacht situation in any way the idea was devised and executed 100% without us."
It's unclear how YACHT—who Merlan says planned the faked incident for MONTHS—didn't realize the crassness of this alleged hoax, or if they did, why they chose to do it anyway. The band has not yet responded to our request for comment. Perhaps they were attempting to perform some satirical commentary—their Facebook post does say, "Music isn’t art anymore, it’s just content." By treating their music like a commodity that's hyped up with what looks like a faked sex tape scandal, they're right: it doesn't really seem like art anymore. The joke's not ironic if you're actually living it.
INFINITY steps "over the line," YACHT.