The drummer, who’s honed his skills with a number of math-rock groups, brings ever more sophistication and fire on the new Covet record, Technicolor. MD interviews him and also chats with the band’s compelling guitarist, Yvette Young, to learn about the album and their individual and collective aspirations.
Over the past decade, Forrest Rice, drummer for the math-rock-influenced indie bands Covet, Standards, and the Illustrative Violet, has showcased versatile and intuitive talent, seamlessly blending technical prowess, musical sensitivity, and a thirst for artistic development. With a new Covet record released this year and a solo project in the works, the twenty-nine-year-old from Southern California remains committed to his goal of musical growth and collaboration.
Rice started his drumming journey as a teenager, discovering an instinctual knack for the drumset. Soon after he’d studied the fundamentals with a local teacher and surrounded himself with drumming peers, he entered the world of drum shedding—participating in the Guitar Center Drum-Off, making it to the semifinals for four consecutive years, and heading to the finals in 2014. “Everyone was like, ‘It’s rigged—this guy keeps winning the Inland Empire.’ And no one knew, but I had been writing different solos for every round. I was just crazy studying the Drum-Off: I would watch all the winners, count how many different beats they played, time every time they changed pads on the Octapad,” says Rice.
Meanwhile, Forrest had been studying with Mike Johnston, who Rice says urged him to play in bands to become a better drummer, rather than focus on shedding. Taking Johnston’s advice to heart, he embarked on a series of jam sessions with various musicians, meeting Covet bandmembers David Adamiak and Yvette Young, as well as guitarist Jaime Becerra from the Illustrative Violet, along the way. He formed the Illustrative Violet around 2010 and became the drummer for Covet in 2017. Not only has he met bandmates from playing with other musicians, he also cites his musical peers as some of his dearest friends and biggest influences. In fact, the chemistry he shares with his bandmates in Covet bleeds through in their latest album, Technicolor.
The new record is also proof of Rice’s musical development beyond being a shed drummer. Forrest drums purposefully and tastefully on every song, elevating math-rock drumming to its most refined musical state. Weaving nuanced and exacting parts throughout the album, he is essential as a timekeeper in a highly technical environment as well as texturally and sonically integral to the compositional fabric of the music. On Technicolor’s ethereal opener, “Good Morning,” Rice lays back until the atmosphere is established and then performs a driving but soft, cymbal-heavy groove. Songs like “Nero” and “Aries” display the drummer’s ability to support rhythmically complex melodies and to orchestrate his own melodies using the kit. And through the looped guitar riffs in “Pirouette,” Rice’s drumming crescendos into an increasingly subdivided climactic ending that resembles a drum solo in terms of intensity, yet still serves the melody.
Just before Technicolor was released earlier this year, we spoke with Forrest about Covet’s songwriting and recording process, as well his aspirations for both himself and the band.
MD: You’ve got a great new album with Covet. What was the songwriting process like for Technicolor?
Forrest: For this new record, we had rehearsed for about a month as a band, and then in the month leading up to the recording session, a lot of it was Dave and me getting together and writing our own parts on top of the music. We try writing parts that weave around Yvette’s guitar parts. We write an A part and a B part that go over specific guitar sections so that there’s always something new happening. Whenever we feel like a line gets repetitive, we try to change the feel or add another melody underneath it in some way to keep the contrast going. When we all got in the studio together, we just saw how it all fit.
MD: And you made tweaks as you were recording?
Forrest: Yeah, exactly, small tweaks, like tempo adjustments or transitions from one part to another. A lot of Covet songs have, like, over a hundred time-signature changes and just a lot of compound meters, so sometimes you have to find what tempos fit best for parts of a song. Our engineer, Frank Mitaritonna, is awesome; he really helps us make sure the song feels good in terms of getting the clicks and the transitions, and he learns the arrangements so fast.
MD: The songwriting process can vary depending on who a drummer is working with. In general, how do you think about drum parts for a song?
Forrest: For Covet, because it’s a trio, drums really have to hold everything together. I can’t just be flying off the rails. In projects that have two guitarists or a bigger rhythm section, it’s easier for a drummer to do whatever the heck they want, and they have the rhythm section holding it down more or less. But in Covet, you have to have a specific part that connects the guitar to the bass.
Something I think about when I’m playing Covet music is playing ride patterns. I don’t like crash-riding too much and being too washy, because I like a lot of articulation in Covet music, and I like to make sure the feel between each beat is even although all the time signatures are moving. I like to make sure it feels good going from five to seven to nine. I’m not really thinking too much about, oh, this is some crazy, heady music; I’m just trying to connect all the dots smoothly. And I find that when it comes to drum techniques, ghost notes, buzzes, and subtle textural drum fills are where Covet drums go. Because it’s very sensitive in a trio versus other bands, [where] I feel like you could just blast drums and it doesn’t mess with a song. But because it’s so sensitive, you’ve got to always ride the wave more.
MD: How does your playing vary from project to project then?
Forrest: I always try to be a more sensitive player. When I first joined the band, I felt like my approach was very jazz oriented. I love ride cymbal playing with the left-foot hat stuff. One of our more popular songs, “Shibuya,” is a Nate Wood meets David Garibaldi type of beat. I love all those kinds of drummers. I try to unpack different drummers’ approaches into various projects. I play in a more jazz fusion-y group called the Illustrative Violet. In that group, I go for a way more Dennis Chambers/Billy Cobham style; it’s more classic fusion stuff. I have another project that I play for called Standards that’s also kind of math rock. It’s more bombastic, explosive, kind of like Travis Barker meets Neil Peart, in the way that you want to play beats that make people bob their heads like Travis would, and then you do all these intricate fills and songwriting drum parts like Neil would. That’s something important when you’re writing: trying to write a catchy drum part.
Drums: Tama Starclassic Walnut/Birch Hyper-Drive
A. S.L.P. Walnut snare with diecast hoops
B. 6.5×10 tom
C. 7×12 tom
D. 14×16 floor tom
E. 14×22 bass drum
Cymbals: Meinl Byzance series
- 15″ hi-hats composed of Jazz top hi-hat cymbal on top and dark custom top hi-hat cymbal on the bottom
- 20″ vintage crash
- 22″ Jazz medium ride
- 18″ Jazz thin crash
Hardware: Tama Iron Cobra Power Glide pedals and Velo Glide hi-hat stand, Roadpro boom stands and snare stand, and 1st Chair Round Rider XL Red Trio drum throne
Heads: Evans UV2 Coated batters on all drums
MD: Up until this record, Covet didn’t have many songs with vocals, let alone lyrics, while the Illustrative Violet has more songs with vocals. Does that change how you approach a drum part?
Forrest: I guess it really depends on that vocal part. You kind of have to grow up playing to music with vocals. It’s almost more natural to write a drum part where if you take the vocals out, you’re like, “Oh, now I have to say something on drums.” It lets me be more subtle. I can try to hit certain words or play with the cadence of the vocal part. I try to find that balance where maybe it snaps with the vocals, or maybe I could write a part that fits the vocal melody at one time and then a part that fits the guitar. Especially in a trio like Covet, because it’s already stripped down, adding another vocal part fills up that other, next space. Writing around vocal parts in Covet wasn’t such a crazy change for us, because the music was still written first. I don’t think in Covet I’m trying to be an overplayer that would crowd vocals. We try to be ambient enough already to where people often ask, “Where’s your vocalist?”
MD: Covet toured extensively in 2019 and all over North America. How do you avoid burnout and keep your chops up on the road?
Forrest: You need a practice drumset or some heavy sticks or something. I find that while you’re touring, you really only get better at playing that set, but the pocket starts to get deeper, because you’re running it every day. So maybe all the little improvisational riffs that you used to be better at go away. But just try to play on a practice kit or do normal warm-ups. I find playing technical music is very momentum based. Whenever we’re on a bill with more technical bands, the first show of the tour is always super rough on everyone. Everyone is just bummed after. I’m always like, “It’s okay, guys. I know by shows three and five we’re going to be super solid, so don’t even sweat.” But it’s always little inconsistencies that you can’t avoid, like pedal malfunctions or laptop things, that come out and make your music even harder to play.
MD: What were some of your most memorable experiences on the road?
Forrest: I’m newer to Covet. I joined in 2017. The first tour I did with Covet was opening up for Chon on the Homey tour. That in general was memorable because I loved the band Chon and all the bands on the bill, Tera Melos and Little Tybee. All three of those bands were ones that I actively listened to. And it was my first real gig touring, and I just learned so much. I thought I was really good until I got onstage playing all these time signatures to a metronome, and then I was just like, oh wow, this is way harder when your blood’s pumping and you’ve got all that adrenaline! So that was a huge learning experience.
And just meeting the people I’ve met on the road. Some of them I’ve gotten really close to over the years. Meeting fans who are very touched, making friends—it’s always about those experiences after the show where you meet people or you’re hanging with the bands in the green room. You meet people and friends that you may never have met anywhere else; that’s probably the single most valuable thing.
MD: Where do you see Covet and yourself going in the next few years?
Forrest: Especially with this new record, I see us branching off into a new market, having vocals, and being a little less niche overall. Bringing a broader appeal. Our record has something for everyone. Heavy songs, math-y songs, ambient songs, and vocal songs. So I feel like it’ll sweep in more people. I see us going down the avenue of opening up for more indie bands or rock bands—not indie in the sense that they’re independent, but just that they have more of a straight-ahead sound. I would love for us to be opening up for bands like Foals or Death Cab for Cutie, just bands that have that broader market.
For me, I’d like to be a wider-known session person and known for collaborating. Lately it’s not enough to just be a really good drummer. I used to put in a lot of hours trying to be more drum-y, but now I’m trying to do more music and songs. And I look more to session people for inspiration, or people with just a very good drum sound that they get completely on their own, with all the producing and stuff like that that goes into it. I’m very much into that since starting my solo project. Aside from Covet growing, I really want to grow and play and collaborate on more projects and just do more music. Where my brain’s at: I don’t want to be your favorite Instagram drummer; I want to be on all your favorite records.
COVET’S YVETTE YOUNG
The story of rising math-rock stars Covet begins with the band’s innovative guitarist and songwriter, Yvette Young. About five years ago, armed with original songs, Young approached childhood friend and bassist David Adamiak to jam. The two initially didn’t expect much to come from the informal sessions, but two years and two drummers later, they’d recruited Forrest Rice to form their current lineup.
Covet offers a sonic experience of unique melodies and harmonies, complex rhythms, and odd time signatures. Their songs begin from Yvette’s trove of ideas and unconventional guitar playing, which Yvette taught herself through a love for songwriting, emo, and punk, and a rebellion against her
formal classical music education. Yet her training as a pianist and a violinist steeped her in the music of composers like Kabalevsky and Shostakovich, and she attributes her interest in complex rhythms and dissonant harmonies to this exposure in her youth.
“I have this theory about complex time signature music and even music that’s more microtonal,” says Young, “music that’s not conventional and kind of weird-sounding to Western culture. If you start listening to it really young, it kind of becomes normalized and ingrained in you. It’s something that you don’t have to consciously try to do. It’s just there.
“Sometimes I’ll be writing something, and I don’t think about time signatures at all—I sing all my parts because my rule is that I want it to flow. Later, when Forrest and I deconstruct it, we realize it’s not in four at all; it’s kind of messed up. [laughs] He jokes that I write the song, and he processes it and puts numbers to it.”
After they’ve laid this groundwork, Adamiak and Rice bring their expertise to their parts, though Young commends them for being open to her suggestions. And each bandmember works to altruistically serve the songs rather than to show off their own technical skill.
“What I love about Forrest’s playing is that he’s very versatile; he has a huge vocabulary of styles that he can draw from,” says Young. “I consider his drumming pretty melodic, so he never steps over the melody. He’s always down to do something that complements it, or even makes it cooler by offsetting it in a really interesting way.”
Just as Rice is committed to his artistic growth as a drummer, Young seeks to progress her songwriting. For Technicolor, Young pushed past her discomfort with being in the spotlight and fear of potential gender stereotypes, by adding vocals and lyrics to the songs “Parachutes” and “Indie Farewell”—a first for the mostly instrumental band.
“I’m going to continue to make myself uncomfortable, because with every release I want to do something different, and I don’t want to just put out the same thing again,” she muses. “Inevitably, by playing different genres and experimenting and collaborating with other people, I push myself to do different things, and I’m always learning.
“Hopefully with the next release, there will be something new. Maybe I’ll rap in thirteen,” she jokes.