Yoke Lore talks expression and connection through stories – Interview

Adrian Galvin is telling stories of connection as the act Yoke Lore. These tales come to life through his art and music. In three years Galvin has released three EP’s and singles, earning millions of streams and even a spot on Taylor Swifts ‘Songs Taylor Loves’ playlist. His music and the stories in them help the listener find their place in the world. Of this mission Yoke Lore says “I think that is what stories ultimately do for us is they give us orientation in time and space and culture and romance and like phileo duties and in cultural ideas.”

Yoke Lore is an artist in multiple mediums. The obvious is in his music, with the unique sound and far-reaching lyrics. The singer is also responsible for all of the artwork for his music and merchandise. Each medium complement each other nicely and work together “I know they’re separate like drawing is drawing, and music is music, but it all kind of blends together for me after a while.”

The artistry doesn’t stop there, seeing Yoke Lore live you are brought into this world of creativity. First, the songs are incredible live and the energy the singer puts into each song is top-notch. Second, the son of visual artists brings cool visuals of his own with the New York skyline and subway lines as a backdrop while he plays. Last, with a background in dance the artist takes his own experience with his dance company and puts it on stage with a high-energy performance with his banjo that you won’t see anywhere else. Yoke Lore is a live act you don’t want to miss.

I had the chance to sit down and interview Yoke Lore. We talked about the powerful way he uses many forms of expression, his commitment to telling stories of connection, what it is like landing on a Taylor Swift playlist, and more. Read the full interview below.

Hi, I’m with Yoke Lore before your show here at Urban Lounge. It’s sold out with a line down the block which is incredible to see. But I like to start by talking about why I made the request for an interview.

Yoke Lore: Yeah sure!

So I talked to you about moving to New York on a whim and soon after I moved to New York is when I found your music so a lot of that time as I was connecting to the city your music was the soundtrack behind the scenes. So I can think of different times or certain songs that take me back to Brooklyn.

Wooow! No way! That’s so cool!

No seriously, so being here is really cool. One time I was listening to Beige on a walk home at 2 A.M. and I was just dancing as I did and I turned a corner I didn’t see someone and maybe I came across threatening but this guy took a step towards me like he was going to fight and it’s a funny memory now. Now it is the sweet memory I have every time I think about it and how your music brought me to that uncontrollable movement on an early morning walk home.

That’s funny because some of my dancing could also be construed as combative.

(Laughs) Okay, I’m not the only one then. But we differ because I am a terrible dancer and you have a bit of a dance background right?

Yeah a little bit. A little bit. I grew up in a very artsy family, I took ballet classes when I was really little. Then kind of like got too cool for it in my teenage years you know what I mean? But then I did other things that required an amount of grace. Like the sports, I chose to play had some kind of connection to dance, at least with the way I played them.

What sports did you play?

I wrestled which is a big one and all about spatial relationships and weight differentials and stuff. I played tennis which was all these huge broad movements and then I played ultimate frisbee which you’re like in the air half the time and again a lot of huge broad movements. So then when I got to college I also started rollerblading. I got really into aggressive skating. I met this kid at a couple of tournaments and we ended up going to Kenyon College together and so freshman year we started skating together. Eventually that kid, his name is Matt he convinced me to take a dance class with him. Then I loved it and we had a great time, and after school, we started a dance company together and performed at like The Kennedy Center, and at a couple of festivals together in Berlin, Paris, and we performed in New York, LA, Chicago, it was a lot of fun.

And so you are a drummer, dancer, you’ve been in a number of bands including a Led Zeppelin cover band, a screamo folk band, and you do a lot with your own artwork. I wanted to ask what form of expression means the most to you, and how do they connect?

I think I’d say for me they all are a really necessary piece of the way I move through the world. I know they’re separate like drawing is drawing, and music is music, but it all kind of blends together for me after a while. I see it like you know on a multi-cam tv show and they go to camera two and you behind the scenes when they go to camera one and the perspective changes but it is all capturing the same scene. I think that is the best analogy I can come up with to describe how I view expression. If I write a song about something it is one way of moving through an idea if I draw something with something in mind it becomes another perspective from which to see that. But I need all of them. I need to move between them and I don’t have complete view until it passes through as many expressions as I can.

You mentioned drawing as a way of connection, you do all the drawing for your artwork. Has there ever been a time where you were drawing something and it became an inspiration for a song or another form of expression?

Yeah, so there’s a piece of art that I drew for the song Chin Up. When I was drawing that I wanted to do something that like… Chin Up is about the idea of forgiveness and that you should forgive everyone all the time, for everything. Because it is not useful to hold onto shit and for me the metaphor of just like raising your head and looking up and not being so mired in your kind of like lower animal self. But to raise the perspective, and raise your vision so you can like see in the heights you know like raise yourself up to your divinity, to your most lofty self. I wanted something that would like keep people up and so I drew this boat is what it is, but it’s not explicitly a boat, but it’s like something that keeps people afloat. I try to kind of like represent ideas but like I infuse the idea with some other element of it or kind of a facet that people might not immediately think of or associate with the idea. I want it to almost be like a sibling of the song itself and not like an indicator but more like something else that can accompany the whole thought.

Yeah, it comes from a deeper thought and really knowing the song’s meaning, I like that. Now Yoke Lore started as a lot of experimentation and now has really took off, which I saw as I walked the block deep line to get in here tonight. What can you tell me about the journey of starting a few years ago to where it is now?

I guess have just been following my nose I guess… there’s no formula for how to do this and there certainly isn’t a right or a wrong way to go about doing this. But for me, like I really want it. I think that I have something to say. Well… it’s not I have something to say, that’s stupid. It’s that things are being said in a certain way and I want to say them differently. I think to say them differently is to really change the nature of those ideas and really make them super valuable for people so they can use art to their own advantage. It shouldn’t just be a pleasure for the senses it needs to be able to be used to get somewhere. I think for me I’ve used it to get somewhere by just wanting it and staying actively honest with myself about how I want to do it. I have also had an incredible group of people around me who have been in it with me the whole time. I feel like if you are honest in your desires and sincere with the amount of work you’re willing to put in, you can’t fail.

I love that, I love that view. I really appreciate your writing and how you compose a song and put it together. The name Yoke Lore I especially love the meaning with yoke like oxen and being connected and lore with stories. What can you tell me about your commitment to telling these stories of connection?

Everyone is a little bit lost to a certain extent I think and kind of just bouncing around trying live good lives, trying to be happy. I think something really changing or meaningful is orienting yourself and knowing where you are in time and space. I think it is a really rare skill to have to be able to orient yourself and know where you’ve just come from, and know exactly where you want to go, know the kind of ground you’re standing on. I think a lot of people get depressed or unhappy because of their disorientation. They don’t know where they are at, what they’re supposed to be doing, or how to get where they need to go. I think that is what stories ultimately do for us is they give us orientation in time and space and culture and romance and like phileo duties and in cultural ideas. They give us an idea of where we are and I think that is paramount to giving people insight into how they can make their lives a little bit better and knowing where they are.

So with orienting yourself, where is it you want Yoke Lore to go?

I want to be a huge rock star man. At this point I can like support myself and some other people while doing Yoke Lore which is great. I think I just want to do that on a grander scale. There is like a line of people out front tonight and that’s awesome and I want to have that like worldwide. I want to have everyone feel like that. I think Yoke Lore is a specific way of looking at something and a pretty detailed and deep way of approaching things, and I want to make Yoke Lore like its own hermeneutic which is like a technique of analysis almost like psychoanalysis was originally termed depth hermeneutics because of diving deep into something and finding a way to analyze it. I want Yoke Lore to be that for people. I want it to be a not just a set of ideas but a set of techniques with which to approach those ideas and like a set of words with which to kind of approach yourself. Because people don’t have a lot of great words these days. Our vocabularies are getting constricted and shrunk and our emotional vocabulary is waning for sure. I want to put it back.

I wanted to ask, I once interviewed someone that won the TV show The Voice and I tweeted the interview out and I got a big amount of retweets and follows from all these older fans of The Voice. One of your songs got added to Taylor Swifts ‘Songs Taylor Loves‘ playlist. With that experience I’ve got to ask what the response was like from Swiftie’s after that?

(Laughs) Yeah, that…that was wild. I quickly got a lot of fifteen-year-old girls following Yoke Lore and that was cool. But you know you also have to know your audience a little bit and speak in a language that people will understand otherwise it’s going to go right over their heads. So it definitely forces me to second guess the level of esoteric on what I want to get, but not in a bad way that I have to dumb everything down. I just have to be aware. I want everyone to be able to hear this, I want everyone to be able to use it. In order to do that I have to speak the language of the people I can’t just be speaking my own language to myself.

It’s interesting how something like that changes your approach a little.

Yeah totally. Also by the same token, I want to keep this project dynamic and know that some people are going to gravitate to the really lovely romantic songs like Beige, and then there are going to be people that gravitate towards the loud punchy songs like Hold Me Down, Goodpain, or Fake You or something. I want there to be something for everyone. I want to show all sides to my music and my proclivities and I think both the intimacy and the grandiosity have really necessary places there. I want to do it all and give them everything.

Your approach is very aware and calculated and you truly do have a song for everyone.

Thank you, I appreciate that.

I have a question I ask in every interview it goes differently each time and that’s what I love about it. I know you were a drummer and usually, the drummers have a similar answer so I am excited to see your answer. I ask first if you are into karaoke, and if so what your go-to karaoke song is?

I fucking hate karaoke.

Really? This is why I love this.

Is that the thing that drummers always say?

Not at all. Usually, drummers like it because they get to be in the front.

I fucking hate it. (laughs) I can’t do it. Maybe though because I am a drummer that has come up front and I already get that. Karaoke is hard for me because I am always in this awkward position. It’s my fucking job I don’t want to make fun of this in a bar (laughs).

Okay so rephrase it then, if not karaoke what would be a go-to cover maybe?

See that’s exciting! Something fun like Michael Jackson maybe. I like all those fun like 80’s song like um *sings* “Josie’s on a vacation far away” Who is that? Who sings that? All those bands had like one song. (The song he was singing was ‘Your Love’ by The Outfield)

Your most recent single ‘Dead Ringer’ just came out and what has been what you want people to get from it?

The song is about pacing. It is about like my speed and stuff. Dead Ringer is about kind of like I like to move really fast through the world because I believe in progress over perfection and I just believe in like moving to the next thing. It’s my instinct with everything to move quickly and with that I kind of worry sometimes in my more reflective moments that I might miss something or someone because I am always moving so fast. So this song is about moving real fast and worrying about what that might leave me with later on and for other people to think a little about their pace and how they use speed and if other people recognize that. There is a new song I’ll play tonight called ‘Body Parts’ and I ask a couple of questions during it like “Do others feel what I feel?” or “Is all my love real?” and I want people to ask themselves these questions as I am asking myself these questions. It’s a song about my fears and I hope it will make other people reflect on their own fears. That also makes it sound like super morose and like really sad (laughs) it’s not a sad song. It’s pretty rousing and catchy but yeah it’s about me fearing my own speed.

Yeah, that’s a pretty deep thought and realization for you to have.

Yeah, it’s something like I definitely I don’t want to miss anything… like I want to… catch them all (laughs).

You mentioned playing a new song ‘Body Parts’ and you are always coming out with new songs and I appreciate that and wanted to thank you for that.

No thank you! Thanks for appreciating that.

Along with that new song what is next for you?

Yeah like you already mentioned I have Body Parts which I am playing tonight. So I have that one and another song to go with it. Then we have a tour coming up with Bishop Briggs in Europe in December.

Dang, that’s cool, that’s a show I wish I could I see the two of you together.

Dude she is so cool. We both played this festival in Vegas and it was so weird and so after our set we busted out back to LA right after and the whole time we were on stage she was tweeting about us that we were like amazing and stuff, we were like an hour down the highway and we saw it and were like “Fuck like shit” so we tweeted her back and we ended up hanging out at Firefly and now have a European tour. I also have a whole new EP coming next year at some point. It takes so much longer for me to get shit out than it does for me to make it.


Yeah, I am sitting on like 7 songs right now. I’m just waiting.

And does that suck? Is it all about timing where you’re waiting to get it out?

I mean it is a lot with timing. Like you can’t just release shit. You have to have a plan in place, a marketing budget in place, and shows on the docket. There are so many things to go along with it that it definitely takes time and it’s how it is. I’ll always have stuff on deck.

Thank you again Adrian, I had such a connection to your music and so being able to be here and the time has been great.

Yeah, absolutely! Thank you for taking the time to come out and doing it.

Check out more from Yoke Lore on his website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.