Yvette Young of Covet on the Use of Technique as a Tool to Transport Listeners

Covet_HowieChen
Covet, photo by Howie Chen

When Yvette Young of math rock band Covet started posting videos of her guitar sketches on Facebook and then on YouTube and other online outlets several years back she didn’t necessarily see herself doing music professionally. “I started posting those songs as an incentive to finish songs and share them with friends,” says Young. “There were a lot of cool communities on Facebook of people that liked the same music I did. I posted the videos just to keep track of my progress. I did it for the same reasons I post riffs on Instagram—to incentivize finishing them.”

Young earned herself a well-deserved reputation as a guitar shredder on par with the math rock inspirations in bands like Don Caballero, Pelican, TTNG, Tera Melos and Enemies. But her musical technique has never been done for its own sake and never really learned to merely show off technical skill. Young is also a visual artist and views musical technique in the same was she does artistic technique.

“I see technique as a tool kit,” says Young. “The more technique you have and applications you have for guitar—for instance two handed tapping, picking chords, tugging—it’s like a painter’s toolbox , [to use] the visual artist analogy. To me music is sonic painting and I want to transport someone with my music. I want as many colors and as many tools as I can. That’s my incentive for figuring out my technique—to get to the closest to what I want to achieve. For a lot of people they hear stuff in their head but their hands aren’t there. You have the potential to do this thing but you don’t have the tools so you have to learn the tools.”

“I write with my ears and then I find it on the guitar,” continues Young. “Usually I don’t know how to play it yet or how to do what I heard. I know where the notes are but I don’t know how to connect it all yet. So I’ll keep practicing until I get it down. That’s how I get my technique. I try doing stuff I think is impossible and once I do it, it feels good. Then I can apply that technique to any other song I want to write in the future. I always write songs I can’t play yet. I don’t go to comfortable shapes, I always try to push myself to do weird stuff that is uncomfortable at first. That’s a good way if you want to break out of your routine. Change your tunings so you can’t do those shapes anymore. Totally disable yourself so you have to use your ears and you’ll be able to write stuff that sounds totally natural because you end up having to write with your head and not just with technique itself. You can’t just do an arpeggiated sweep, the shape is gone. So you have to find something that’s much more creative.”

Young’s music is like her drawings and paintings—diverse, rich in style and evocative power. She does the artwork for all of her albums and there is an element of what Young refers to as “escapist” or fantastical, intended to transport the viewer to another place or another time in their lives. Whether it’s the albums or the artwork Young has shared on various online outlets, her development as a visual artist is seemingly in parallel with her development as a musician. The group’s new EP, 2018’s Effloresce, is Covet’s most fully-realized work to date with an appeal beyond what might be immediately to the taste of connoisseur’s of math rock. As Young discussed earlier, her method of learning and employing technique is a bit unorthodox but which has resulted in music that steps creatively out of what one might expect of the genre or of what Covet has done before.

The EP is named as a kind of tribute to British post-rock band Oceansize and its own debut full-length, Effloresce. “It kind of means to bloom and flour and in chemistry it means to dry up to a point to powderize and disappear,” says Young. “I like the idea of blooming. I feel this is a departure from our last album production-wise and songwriting-wise. We all have different influences and we want to take all our passions, influences and backgrounds and mesh them into one sound. This album is like a person with a bunch of flowers as a face because we’re growing.”

At moments the songs on Effloresce employ the familiar, elegantly melodic guitar tapping compositions and other techniques Young has mastered but Covet never seems to get stuck in a particular technique across the EP’s six tracks and the inventive creation of atmosphere and dynamics take the music beyond math rock and beyond rock itself into more experimental musical territory. The tracks “Glimmer” and “Gleam” in particular all but cross over into the realm of ambient music at points.

“I’m fascinated with how much you can push a sound and how many different genres you can [combine],” says Young. “Also, on a practical level, it makes touring a lot easier. I think metal is a cool genre but is unfortunately a niche genre. There’s only so many huge metal bands and you end up going out with the same kinds of bands all the time. If you are more like a chameleon you open yourself up to more touring opportunities. I don’t write to open up more touring opportunities, I write because I really enjoy multiple styles of music and I want to do all of it in one.”

Yvette Young may have initially seen a career for herself in the sciences, at least according to what she hints at in her refreshingly candid interview with Sidewalk Talk in May 2018, but for now she has carved out for herself a life as a professional musician.

“Essentially I became my parents’ nightmare but it’s working out,” says Young in typically humorous fashion. “I might as well join a gang.”

See Covet in Denver on Tuesday, July 24, 2018 with Vasudeva and Quentin at Lost Lake, 7 p.m., 16+, $12-15