Interview and Photos by Caleigh Wells
Yoke Lore is the new musical venture of Adrian Galvin, previously of Yellerkin and Walk the Moon. After his release of the Far Shore EP in 2016, Adrian has been working hard and touring with other up and coming artists, such as Overcoats, and Aquilo. I got the chance to sit down with him in the empty Antone’s bar, just a floor above the venue where he would be playing that night as the supporting act for the duo, Overcoats.
You’ve been involved with past projects, like Yellerkin and Walk the Moon. What makes Yoke Lore different from those?
I guess Yoke Lore is the first project that’s been just me, and I mean, it kind of makes me seem like a bit of a control freak but this is the first project where I haven’t had to compromise. When you’re doing anything with multiple people, part of that thing becomes about your relationship with those people involved. Like, you could be the two best rocket scientists in the world, but if you don’t get along, your rocket is going to be shit. So i think this is the first time where I’ve gotten to– I don’t want to say indulge, but– that’s kind of what it is. I’ve gotten to indulge in my instincts. I do the artwork, I coproduce it, I play all the instruments, I write the songs, I’m trying to have it fully come out of my being. Trying to translate my physical body into song form. This is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to do that.
You have creative talent across the board. I heard you designed the EP logo for Far Shore, did you design the 2017 singles’ art as well? How does the art tie in with the music?
I do all the artwork and all the logos, and we’ve recently make a Yoke Lore font. I didn’t like making posters with random fonts, so I got this thing where you can write all the letters and they go into this database, and then you can select and type from that. The art work ties into the music, like the song “Only You” is about taking responsibility for yourself and your own situation, if you’re in a shitty place in life it’s probably your fault. If you want to be in a better place in life, only you can get yourself there. So I drew a solitary figure and put him upside down. All of it kind of relates, maybe just to me, but all of it is of one piece. They complement and support one another.
What were some of your influences growing up, and who are some of your recent influences now?
When I was little, I listened to a lot of classic rock because of my parents. They listen to a lot of The Beatles, The Animals, and my dad really loved Electric Light Orchestra, the Beach Boys. My first concert was the Spice Girls. I was super into the Backstreet Boys when I was ten. I was really influenced by– I’ve been thinking about this recently– I come from a really artsy New York family, my whole family was involved with theatre at some point or another, so I listened to a lot of musical theatre growing up. Lots of Chorus Line, Cats, Lion King, Secret Garden, Cabaret, all that shit. I think the drama of that stuff really informed my writing. I kind of veered away from it because I had no interest in being in musical theatre, and no interest in being an actor, but I’m still really blown away by the kind of stories you can tell through songs. I’m blown away by the idea of opera, like an operatic story, where you tell a story through song. I have this crazy memory when we used to drive to Florida from New York, where my dad would pack us all in the car at 2:00 AM and just go driving down. I remember one morning I woke up and my dad was just weeping and singing along to The Secret Garden. I think of it now, and it’s so great. I’m so lucky my dad did that.
Looking at the lyrics to your music, I feel like there’s a certain poetic nature that you don’t often find in today’s music. What is your process on writing songs like these? Where do you find inspiration for them?
Really anywhere I can. I do read a lot of poetry, and I’m really inspired by poets who are musicians, like Linnard Cohen, Jim Morrison, these guys who are poets who also play music. And you’re right, that hasn’t been in much of a part of music lately. I think in addition to telling stories and giving insight to your own personal experience, artists have responsibility to offer information to people in a way that— alright, I’ll say it like this. Every religious prophet has some kind of vocal effect. So Jesus talked in parables, and Moses had a stutter, and Buddhists spoke in epithets. Each one has some weird way of speaking, and I think it’s because when you offer sacred knowledge, you can’t just offer it conversationally. You don’t get the magic through just normal conversation. I think you have to demarcate a difference between how you talk about liberation theology, for example, versus how you talk about getting a sandwich for lunch. There’s different rhetoric used, there’s different emphasis on certain topics, and words, and feelings. I think music is the same way. It’s sacred knowledge in itself and I think you have to offer it in a different way than you do for everything else.
How did you come about naming your new project Yoke Lore?
So a yoke is an oxen yoke that they have over a barn doors and stuff, and it holds the oxen together as they till a field. And lore is a set of stories. I’m convinced the value of life is located where things come together. Where things are bound to one another, that’s their real substance in the world. I think people are defined, not by what they do, but by their relationships, like how they connect with others and the things around them.
Can you describe the sort of aesthetic and idea behind your latest video, “Only You?”
“Only You” is about realizing your own conscious responsibility and your own situation, and understanding that where you are in life is where you put yourself. “Only You” was a process of me figuring that out. I’m in LA running around in the dark and I’m lost, in a way. I end up in a studio with me projected onto myself. I think this idea of containing yourself and being super conscious of where you are, where you’re going, and what you’re doing. And me, projected through myself really drove the point home that this was about you, it has to be.
What has been the reaction to the Goodpain EP, and how does it relate to the energy at the live shows?
The reaction has been pretty good. It’s a really poppy song– “Goodpain”– it’s kind of my first real foray into pop music. My shows are pretty rousing, I try to go pretty hard, harder than people expect me to go. I also grew up listening to No Effects, Bad Brains, Black Flag, and when I was little I was a metalhead for a second, so I have a lot of respect for the physical effort artists give on stage. I think it’s hard for that effort to come across in a recording. I really want to drive it home at the live shows. My voice sounds very clean and pretty a lot of the time, and I want to compliment that with a certain amount of grit that I look for and long for.
I do appreciate an artist who puts in effort and who cares. I feel like now there is this kind of attitude a lot of bands portray, like they don’t care.
There’s this whole weird trend in music now where it’s cool to not care and– I don’t get it at all. It’s so not cool to me. I want to care so much, I want to offer my body and my words and I want it like a gift for people. This whole slacker rock just doesn’t make sense to me. I just care a lot, and I want to show that effort.
What has been your favorite part about playing live on this tour been so far?
With every show it’s a huge learning experience. With every show you learn something new, every show you get a little better and have an insight into how you can do something differently. Even inside a set-list, how to order certain songs– it sounds stupid, but I find it hard to figure out when I should speak between songs and how much I should speak. Whether I should tell people what the song is about or be like “fuck you I’m just going to play,” or get really personal and have a conversation with the crowd about a song. It’s just a big learning experience every time I get a piece of information, whether it’s like “those people look pretty bored when I was talking for 5 minutes,” or “they cheered when I mentioned the writer of the book I wrote this song about,” so each time I get a little nugget of how I can make it better.
Adrian Galvin has put so much work into Yoke Lore, and it’s visible in the quality of his music, art, and shows. He held the crowd’s attention for his whole performance, with his poetic lyrics, sporadic dancing, and bits of conversation– both with the crowd, and about his music. People were lining up to meet him after his performance, and comment on how they wanted to see him again the next time he toured in Austin. I was one of those people, and he was so thankful and kind to every person that he talked to. If you have the chance to see Yoke Lore on tour in your city, I would recommend it.
If you haven’t listened to Yoke Lore, you can find his music on iTunes and Spotify, as well as his music videos on Youtube.