Covet’s Yvette Young Soars Towards Catharsis

Covet’s Yvette Young Soars Towards Catharsis. Read Gregory Adams' in-depth interview with the band's singer-guitarist
Covet photo by Eli Chavez

The guitar melodies Yvette Young brings to her Covet outfit’s new Catharsis album are — much like the cloud-bursting birds she painted for the album cover — absolutely soaring. Like the licks the guitarist pops off prolifically to her sizeable YouTube and Instagram followings, instrumental pieces like “bronco” and “firebird” showcase playful polymath tap sections and tastefully virtuosic, emo-informed soundscaping. Guitar phrases often come punctuated with effects-warped glee.

While “firebird” was technically inspired by the old school Pontiac her mom used to own, there’s a suitably phoenix-like element to Covet’s latest release, too. Midway through the making of the album, Young rebuilt the Bay Area outfit’s rhythm section in full, in part to escape a “toxic” dynamic. In turn, Catharsis finds Covet reborn, the overall jubilation of the music transcending the difficulty of making the record. Of naming the album Catharsis, Young sums up to Northern Transmissions: “I think it signifies an expulsion of emotions — positive and negative — and the start of something healthier, and better.”

Speaking with Northern Transmissions, Yvette Young details artistic and personal Catharsis, and fills us in on the backstories of a few of her fine feathered friends.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Northern Transmissions: How has workshopping riffs on social media affected the way you write music for Covet?

Yvette Young: Most of my pedal demos end up becoming full songs. Like, this whole new record was inspired by pedal demos.

Different tones have me writing differently. “firebird” was inspired by spanky, twinkly chorus [effects]; “coronal” was inspired by fuzz and overdrive, same with “smolder”. Those two songs are different than anything else on the record — fuzz lets stuff breathe more, [there’s] more space in between riffs. “vanquish” was inspired by a stacked multi-delay; I just wanted to showcase the rhythmic aspect of [delays]. “bronco” was inspired by the BOSS DD-3.

NT: How different of an album is Catharsis, structurally, than Covet’s Technicolor? I read that you switched up your tunings this time around….

YY: I just kept it in one tuning [for Catharsis]: FACGCE. I just went all over the place with tunings [on Technicolor]. This time, I was thinking more about writing for the live show. I wanted it to be pretty much in the same tuning so I didn’t have to do any crazy transitions, or change guitars all the time. I really like a set that flows seamlessly.

NT: There are a lot of firebirds flying through art and pop culture — like, there’s the myth of the phoenix, but also the line of Gibson Firebird guitars. Covet’s “firebird” was more inspired by the Pontiac Firebird, though, right?

YY: It was based off the first car my mom bought. [The song] is supposed to be a celebration of being in a new place, and just enjoying life — not taking everything so seriously; being in a car with the wind in your hair. It’s supposed to be really playful.

NT: What kinds of memories do you have around that car?

YY: I’ve never been in one myself — I was too young — but I do remember helping her wash it. And I do remember stealing the little Firebird decal. I loved that bird, so I would steal it and hide it. She’d find it, and get pissed off at me.

NT: Did you hang onto that old emblem?

YY: I didn’t. She sold the car. [The Pontiac] was so out of place on our street, or in the driveway. Just this big red sports car…

NT: While “firebird” was inspired by the car, the album cover you painted for Catharsis shows someone being carried into the clouds by a flock of crimson birds; you also just unveiled a Z.Vex pedal collaboration where you painted an eagle on the pedal casing. What’s the general attraction to birds?

YY: I love birds! I think they’re the dopest creatures. They come in all kinds of colours. They love their freedom. I grew up raising them. We hand-hatched lovebird eggs, growing up. I always had cockateels, parrots, and all kinds of birds around the house. I have eight chickens now, and a parrot, and a duck. I’m just a bird girl.

NT: That’s quite a jump, from a firebird to a water fowl. Who’s the duck?

YY: I got him in Echo Park in L.A. The sun was setting, and I saw this duckling. People were taking selfies with it, but it seemed kind of scared. He ran over to me and sat in between my shoes. Then I was like, “Ok…it’s getting dark.” I couldn’t find its parents. I circled around the park with it, but also…humans touched it, so I don’t think the birds were going to want it back because it smelled like people. So, I ended up carrying it back to my Airbnb, and stayed up with it all night.

It was maybe a day old, so small and helpless. I feel asleep next to its box. Then I fed it pea protein powder from a health food store — I diluted that in water — and it was doing good! I hung out with it for a week in L.A. I had to [leave], so I put him on my lap and drove home. I brought it to my parents, and they were like, “don’t ever do this again,” but now we have a huge duck in the backyard.

NT: What’s the duck’s name?

YY: His name is Mister Flaps.

NT: Covet’s current lineup has Brandon Dove on bass and Jessica Burdeaux on drums. While it’s more phonetic with Jessica, it’s like you’re forever surrounded by birds.

YY: I know! I swear, I didn’t intentionally do that. But we do call ourselves the Bird Nest. It’s kind of cute.

NT: Getting back to the music: you’re obviously known as a guitarist, but there are moments across the new album where you’re playing piano, like on “interlude,” or where you’re bowing a violin, like “smolder”. You started off on those instruments before learning guitar, right?

YY: Definitely. I started piano at age 4, and age 7 on violin. I never really thought I’d be a guitarist.

NT: How did you end up playing guitar?

YY: I loved seeing local bands; it’s so fun to watch people playing with their friends. Of course, that’s an idealistic view of it, but at the time I thought that was so romantic: traveling the world with your friends, making music. How cool is that!

I was under a lot of pressure as a kid. Didn’t really have a childhood, [I was] forced to overachieve through [piano and violin] practice, [or by getting] perfect grades. Homelife was rough for me, and I got really sick from it. I went to the hospital for an eating disorder, and during that time I decided to try and pick up guitar, because I didn’t really have much to do in the hospital. I wrote music. It really helped me. I hated music before guitar, because it was never something I did for myself. It was always something I did to appease everyone else. I’d win awards and it’d be like, “Here you go. I don’t care. This is for you, not for me.”

The guitar was the first thing that helped me really develop self-esteem, and self-worth. I realized that it was a powerful thing to make something out of nothing, and to really convey emotion through an instrument. It can really touch so many people. It became a primary outlet for me. It shifted how I looked [at] what I could be making with my hands, and what I could dream up in my brain. I ended up really taking to it, and writing all the time.

NT: Since there’s an instrumental song on Catharsis called “merlin,” did ideas of mediaeval fantasy inspire you to make something magical of your own?

YY: I’m usually trying to tell a story about a character, or a place. The act of making music in and of itself is escapism. It’s very therapeutic. My mind goes into a meditative space. This sounds weird, but I don’t even feel like I’m a person [when] I’m just letting music flow through me, and exploring what wants to come out. I love that.

When I was writing “merlin,” I pictured this mysterious wizard in the forest, casting spells. With “vanquish,” because it’s in threes it sounds like a gallop — I thought about a medieval villager, or a page galloping on horse trying to save their town. Just specific, esoteric things that are in my brain, but it always makes me happy when someone hears it, too.

NT: You recently revealed a series of stickers based around Catharsis [ed. daggers; flaming skulls; a bearded wizard; birds]. All told, they look like ready-made flash for tattoo artists. Have you ever seen Covet tattoos out in the wild?

YY: I have! I’m always amazed. It’s kind of crazy. Usually they’re [based off] t-shirt designs, or we [see] a lot of album art [tattoos]. Sometimes people get my signature, [but] that makes me feel funny. That’s a lot of pressure! But, yeah, it’s all kinds of stuff. I’m really honoured.

preorder catharsis by Covet HERE


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