Yvette Young interview: “Two-handed tapping is like how I play the piano.”
Yvette Young is a unique musician who’s writing and playing style comes as a breath of fresh air. I’m not going to try and describe her output, as any written description of mine won’t match the power of her music – it’s best to just listen to the videos below if you haven’t heard it before.
Based in California, she is the guitarist and primary writer for math rock trio Covet. I was first introduced to her music via her diverse solo work, for which she sings and plays acoustic guitar. She also supplements her music through her skills on a range of other instruments, most notably violin (see 2015 single A Map, A String, A Light Pt I) and piano.
Speaking to SoundReview, she tells us how her childhood introduction to classical piano influenced her unique two-handed tapping playing style on guitar. We also hear about the exciting prospect of a second acoustic solo EP from Young, along with an explanation for her self-described genre of New Mexico thug pop detail rock!
Yvette Young spills the beans on upcoming solo release Acoustics EP II
Hear the first taste of the new Yvette Young EP with the song Adventure Spirit below, which features some beautiful cello playing by Melody Huang. The release will be out in December via Yvette’s BandCamp.
Tell me all about this new release you are planning. Is it a solo acoustic album?
Yes! I am planning another acoustic EP release, similar to my last one but probably a lot fuller with more instrumentation. I plan to try to include as many of the instruments I can play on it as possible!
When will it be recorded and released? How many tracks does it have? Does it have a title?
I am recording it this week! It will probably have five main tracks plus some interludes. I plan on just calling it Acoustics EP II.
You are presumably also pretty busy with your band, what prompted you to release a solo album?
I have had awhile since I’ve released anything solo acoustic and there has been a demand for it. It’s hard balancing full-band writing and solo acoustic writing (as well as for my piano project), so I thought I would just buckle down and focus on one thing at a time! After this I plan to write for the Covet full-length.
Exploring escapism: A Map, A String, A Light Pt I and II
Why did you re-record A Map, A String, A Light Pt I? What was the response from listeners like?
I just thought I could do it better with a fuller instrumentation. I prefer the second one but a lot of people seem to enjoy both! The first version is more raw, and I think a lot of people like having a song be so transparent.
Why did you release two parts to A Map, A String, A Light? What’s the connection or common theme that runs through the two tracks? Is there any more planned?
I guess both songs relate to the concept of escapism. The first part of AMASAL describes wanting to escape from home and find a quiet place in nature to rest and get away from the pressure of the world. The second part describes a more darker aspect of running away. I wrote that song when I was deeply depressed and contemplated how dying or eternal sleep seemed like the ultimate escape. It ends on an optimistic hopeful note and I think it will be the last installment of AMASAL.
Classical piano upbringing leads to decidedly untraditional guitar style
How did you develop your rapid finger picking/tapping/hammer-on/pull-off style? I’ve never heard anyone play like that before. Is there a story to how you developed that technique?
I think I just started playing that way because I grew up playing classical piano, and two-handed tapping on a fretboard is kind of like how I play the piano. I view the lower strings as my left hand and the upper strings are my right hand. I basically try to harmonize right hand melodies with implied “bass line” parts with my left hand, hence me using open tunings a bunch. The open strings are useful for filling out the sound to make tapped parts sound fatter. I basically just use my ear to find ways to write the fullest parts I can. I guess it’s a bit of logic and a bit of trial and error!
I noticed both Covet and your solo page list quirky or downright bizarre genres ie adventure rock and New Mexico thug pop detail rock. Is that coincidence or do you actively reject labelling your music with a genre?
I just felt unsure what genre Covet was… all the songs kind of sound like an adventure so I decided to call it adventure rock! New Mexico thug pop for my solo project arose as a joke because a Japanese music review website labelled my first release as that. I think it was a mistranslation but I just went with it. Detail rock is just a way to make fun of my OCD tendencies when writing… haha.
Do you do all the artwork for your solo and Covet releases?
Yes I do! It’s definitely a perk because I have a strong vision for all the music and can quickly (and cost-effectively) execute it!
Who writes the songs in Covet?
I usually write the main structures and riffs and then I bring it to practice and we all collaborate on the finished product and filling it out. Sometimes my bandmates will have cool ideas to change what I write. I am always open to suggestions and a second ear!
Vocals in the works for future Covet releases
You’re a very good singer, as evidenced in your solo work. Why is Covet primarily an instrumental band when you have a singer in the line-up?
I think I just want to focus on writing music that conveys emotion without lyrics. I like to just play guitar in the band since the parts are already intricate enough on their own. There’s definitely plans for light vocals in the future though!
Which bands or musicians are the biggest influences on you and your music?
Personally, I really love the work of Caspian, Copeland and Mew. I just like the songwriting and harmonies, and I love how they all convey emotion. I’m a sucker for good songwriting and emotion! Vocally, I’m really inspired by Utada Hikaru! In terms of composition, I’m really big on Haruka Nakamura and Olafur Arnalds.
Yvette Young on Strangberg guitars and why she plays seven-string
Why do you play Strandberg guitars?
In terms of extended range guitars, they’re the most comfortable and ergonomically friendly thanks to the Endur-neck. I have a broken pinky with my left hand and it really puts less strain on my finger for stretches. They’re also super convenient for travel!
What’s the story behind your custom Strandberg with the bird artwork on it? Is there anything unusual about that guitar specs-wise?
Ola was kind enough to let me have a blank guitar body to paint myself! I got to decorate it with whatever I wanted. That guitar is basically modelled after the CL7.
Do you mainly play seven-strings onstage these days when you’re playing electric? Why do you play seven-string guitars?
I am pretty new to the seven string game but I like using them because I have an extra string and thus more range to add harmonies. It’s like being able to play bass and guitar at the same time! Live, I occasionally bring out my six string Telecaster. I have plans to bring out acoustic too.
Musically apart from the forthcoming solo album, what plans have you got coming up? Does Covet have an upcoming release in the works?
Covet plans on doing a full-length record after a tour we have planned in March! I also plan on starting some work on a more soundtrack-style piano album. Lots of cool releases coming soon!
*Yvette Young is on Facebook.