Adrian Galvin, more commonly known as Yoke Lore, began his musical career as a drummer. Notably, he spent several years as the drummer for the band Walk The Moon in college before pursuing other projects, eventually releasing his first EP as Yoke Lore — Far Shore — in 2016.
Since the release of Far Shore, Yoke Lore has released three more EPs — Goodpain, Absolutes and Meditations — and spent roughly three years on tour around the world. Recently, he composed the score for the film Pink Skies Ahead.
Read on for our interview with Yoke Lore, where we discuss his most recent projects and take a deep dive into his career and songwriting process.
Is there a reason behind your choice to go by a moniker, rather than your name?
Yoke Lore: I think I wanted to go with a moniker because art making and this industry can be very fraught. It’s really risky. I feel like Adrian Galvin is limited in time and space because of my physical boundaries and my limited ability to learn the things I want to learn, do the things I want to do, find the sounds and feelings I want to find and explore. But I think I want Yoke Lore to be something more expansive than that. I feel like Yoke Lore as a concept and as a technique and as a binder and as a conduit for connection can include and encompass so much more people and things and places and times and emotions that are bigger than me and more complete than I could ever be. So I felt like, don’t limit it, you know?
What initially drew you to music as an art form?
Yoke Lore: Music has always been around. My family is very musical. My mom tells me stories about me singing before I knew how to speak. My grandparents were singers and actually I recently learned that my great grandfather got to America by running a circus. I think it’s always been in the blood a little bit. But directly, my sister wanted to take drum lessons when she was nine and I thought she was the coolest thing since sliced bread. So I was like, ‘I definitely want to take drum lessons, as well.’ And then she kind of lost interest and I was hooked. And then I just kept exploring from there, but the drums were really my gateway, my gateway drug.
What does your songwriting process look like?
Yoke Lore: Drumming as my first introduction into music gave me this really solid rhythmic language to speak and think in. I think drums really set a foundation for me to be able to think about songs in a really intricate and concise way. My songs are very rhythm heavy. Even my words and my vocal styles are informed by my drumming, and how important I feel, just counterposing rhythms are so important to a song and to really embodying a certain feeling. Drumming was the first instrument. It’s so primal, it’s so primitive. And so when you start with drums, you’re starting with really sensual and primitive ideas and feelings. And I think you can hear that in people’s songwriting. If they’re really plugged into the rhythm, how they want the rhythm to move the song, then they can really get to the heart of something. A song is a movement. It’s not a still thing, it’s a dance. I feel like if you pay close attention to that identity of a song, to that way that a song moves people, then I think you can really get to some truth.
Is there a reason you’ve gravitated more so to EPs than full-length albums?
Yoke Lore: Yeah. Part of it is just that I’m an independent musician and it’s a lot easier to release four songs than 12. It’s really hard to make money in this industry and I think one of the ways I’ve been able to sustain myself is the way I’ve structured my businesses and my releases. Also, two things. One part, I really like digesting in small amounts. I think that’s really a facet of our time. Music consumption is a bit easier and makes more sense in a smaller grouping. And I want to play along. I don’t want to play against people and peoples’ instincts. At the same time, I’m also terrified of making an album. It’s like this big sacred undertaking. It’s not only expensive and risky and career-defining, but it’s also so much realer than an EP in a way that I have been afraid of making my stamp on the world officially. I’m working on three right now — I am kind of inching my way toward that kind of flagpole that I’m going to put in the ground. I wrote way too much music this year. I just had time to really dive into music. Without touring I have all the time in the world to write and write and write, but then I kind of wrote a little bit too much. And now I’m in a position where I have three albums written but I can only release one.
You recently composed the score for the film ‘Pink Skies Ahead.’ Can you just talk about that project and how it came to you?
Yoke Lore: I am dating the director, so that’s originally how I got into the project. I had an in. So Kelly is a writer, Kelly Oxford, the director, and she has written a couple really amazing memoir collections about things that have happened to her as she grew up. One of those stories was about her being diagnosed with anxiety when she was about 20. And so she turned it into a screenplay — this production company loved it and wanted to make it, and so she made it and it was amazing. She wrote and directed and did everything for it and was an amazing team leader for all these awesome creatives that came together to do it, and I was just honored to be a part of it. Ariel [Loh] has made everything with me, he’s pretty much the other half of Yoke Lore, he’s my producer and collaborator, and me and him have figured out a way to communicate musically and emotionally.
Kelly would send us dailies — we were just in a studio and she would send us files of whatever they shot that day, and then we would just go. It was set in 1998, so I wanted to use a lot of electric guitars even though I’m not a wonderful guitar player. We really dove into the electric guitar world to get that ‘90s, grungy feeling. It was such a cool process, such a cool thing. I want to do more of it. I feel like I do it already in my songs, where I create these emotional narratives for people to go on, stories for people to find themselves within. I know my stories and the spaces I guide people through, but it’s so cool to go into a new space, a space that you would never go into normally by yourself. And to have to define the space and to help people get in the room and help people get out of the room, it has to be a much more communal thing. It’s not just me and my ideas. It’s nice to contribute to something that I wasn’t the progenitor of. It’s so different than music-making. It’s mind-blowing.
How did you take the dailies and create the right themes for them?
Yoke Lore: Me and Ariel would talk about it. We talk about a lot in terms of music. We’re always working on finding better metaphors to really talk about the movements in a song. Something we’ve been on lately is a song as a room in a house. You can either have a song that shows you all the things in this room and shows; you get to explore the room. Or there are songs like Bohemian Rhapsody; you’re walking around a whole fucking building. We talked about what kind of room we wanted to show, and then how we could connect that room to the other rooms. We wanted to make it all feel the same, but we needed motifs for characters and situations. It was negotiating those moods and how we wanted that family stuff to feel.
You’re in such control over the emotional narrative. We need to really be careful and sensitive to the story to not supersede any part of the narrative. Music is so powerfully direction-based. It’s so emotional. It’s crazy to have that kind of agency and power in the narrative. We really talked about how not to step on any toes there, and how to guide the movements gracefully so that you’re not a bouncer, but you also want to give people a real path to follow. You don’t want them floundering and not knowing where to go or what to feel. It was a lot of talking. After talking and deciding what we wanted to do, we would just go. Then we would experiment.
You’re also composing the score for this upcoming animated show for Apple TV. Do you want to talk about the project a bit?
Yoke Lore: It’s very different. It’s a kids show. It takes place on a farm. It’s the opposite vibes. It’s very pastoral, you could say. A lot of guitars and clarinets and wind instruments, a lot of flutes and stuff. It’s such a different world to be in. But equally as emotionally varied, but just for such a different world that I just always have to know exactly what I’m doing and where exactly I am. Animation for me, growing up, was so huge. The songs that were involved in those animations were really impactful for me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the theme songs to Doug and Hey Arnold (sic) and the Rugrats — there was so much and it kind of formed my sonic experience a lot of the time. I feel like it’s a very esoteric and sacred responsibility to make music for children and to really help them to form their emotional identities and to help them find different places within themselves. With the cartoon, it’s way more heavy handed in a way. Much more I want to put someone somewhere. Whereas with the movie, I didn’t need to do that. It’s not as immediately understandable how you should feel all the time. There’s just a bit more to do in terms of defining a space and defining a world. It’s just a bit more, you have to put yourself in that identity a bit more than you do in film.
Has there ever been a point in making a career out of these creative outlets that they have ever lost their magic for you?
Yoke Lore: I always worried about that. I didn’t go to music school because I was afraid of that. In school I was afraid of killing my joy for it with practice or something, or having to write for a professor or a project, which I didn’t want to do. But maybe I was overthinking it. I never felt that having a career in it. I’ve always woken up and been like, ‘fuck, I get to write music today. Sick.’ I’ve always felt super lucky that I get to do this for a career. I guess I’ve also been in a really privileged position to never have to compromise myself, in a way. I’ve never had to write something I don’t want to write, put out a song I don’t want to put out. I never had to sign any record deals that weren’t good for me. I’ve been very blessed with the people around me that have guided me in really delicate and integral ways, that have really grown my career with a lot of integrity and personal freedom. I guess if there is anything that bogs me down at any time, it’s the touring that can get exhausting. I was on tour for three years before the pandemic and I was exhausted, but I wouldn’t have admitted it to anyone, or myself, but I was tired and I was overworked a bit. I think I really needed this year to chill, write, write like I haven’t written in a long time. I just sat with myself like I hadn’t sat with myself in a long time. But besides the gauntlet of touring, I’ve always counted myself as one of the luckier people on the earth.
What has been the greatest challenge as a musician that you’ve faced so far, and what’s the biggest goal you want to accomplish?
Yoke Lore: One of my constant challenges, I think, is always trying to overcome myself. Being a musician and writer, you’re always diving into yourself. You have to probe your own emotional experience to write. I assume that other people go through this, but I get stuck in my own routes that I like to take. My instincts are my instincts and when I kind of don’t keep that in mind, I repeat the same patterns over and over again. One of my struggles is really finding ways to get out of myself, to get beyond my frame of reference, the narrow viewpoints that I impose upon myself. My main goal, I think, is to just do this for the rest of my life. My main goal is to have this be my main goal. To really have a sustainable creative career for a lifetime is a hard thing to do. It’s gonna be a challenge and it’s gonna take a lot of metamorphoses. I really just hope to sustain my creative life for the rest of my life, so I can keep taking things out of my belly and offering them to the world.
Your tattoos seem very specific — can you explain them?
Yoke Lore: They’re all their own thing. I got a Star of David. I’m Jewish. I feel my Jewish identity very strongly. This one is an I Ching Hexagram. There’s 64 different ones and you look up the hexagram you got and it tells you your fortune. I Ching is the book of change. All life is flux and you’re constantly going through some transition, and so this tells you what transition you’re going through. They all have their own little significance. I think you’re always speaking to the world with what you’re wearing and how you look. I want part of what I’m broadcasting to the world to be these things, my Judaism and my connection to my music and my art, and the fact that all life is fucking flux.
What’s next for you?
Yoke Lore: I got a couple more little projects in the work. I wrote a ton of music last year and so I’m trying to figure out how to get that out. A lot of music is to come. And it feels different, too. It’s a different form of Yoke Lore that’s coming, which I’m excited about. I’m playing a couple shows this summer. I’m not going to do any touring this year because I don’t want to risk anyone getting sick. Next year, I’m gonna come out of the gate hot with a lot of new music. That’s the main thing I’m focusing on right now. Getting it to a place where I can give it to you.
You can listen to Yoke Lore’s latest single, Seeds, here.