What is Yoke Lore? Or who is Yoke Lore? These are just a few of the questions Yoke Lore aka Adrian Galvin and I chatted about ahead of his October 11th show at the iconic 7th Street Entry at First Avenue in Minneapolis.
I met up with Galvin an hour or so before his opening set for Aquilo. I recognized Yoke Lore as a name that has been swirling the blogosphere and Twittersphere in recent months, gaining traction across the sprawling world of indie/folk/pop or whatever we are calling it these days. Any chance to interview an artist is always a bit of a mixed bag – you never quite know what to expect.
“Hey – I’m almost here, where would you like to meet?” I texted Galvin ahead of our interview. “Out front,” he pinged back almost instantaneously. I made my way past the crowd lining up outside the star-speckled First Avenue. There I met up with Galvin, not much older than me, late 20s, hanging outside First Avenue on his phone.
“Hey!” we exchanged amicably with a handshake and a smile. “I’m Adrian,” Galvin introduced himself. “I actually want to grab a tea, mind if we walk this way?” he went on. We made our way across 7th Street in Downtown Minneapolis over to the Starbucks across the street from the venue.
“So, how’s it going? How’s your day been?” I asked Galvin. “Uh, it’s good. I’m a little stressed but it’s good.” he replied. “Why stressed?” I asked. “Well, we just drove in from Chicago – we were doing this Spotify thing there, but we actually gotta drive back to Chicago tonight,” he went on. Minneapolis is about a six hour drive West of Chicago. For those of you who’ve maybe never done the drive, it’s about six hours of rolling, green (and now autumnal fall colors) hills and trees. A pretty drive – but a long one nonetheless.
“Damn – why all the way to back to Chicago,” I inquired as we made our way into the quiet little Starbucks. “We’re doing this Pandora session tomorrow. It’ll be good, it’s just a lot of driving,” Galvin went on, a bit of anxiety in his voice.
Yoke Lore is an artist on the rise. Since the release of his 2016 EP Far Shore, it’s been a bit of a nonstop hustle for Galvin. Tours, Spotify and Pandora sessions, shows with fellow “up-and-coming” acts like Overcoats and Aquilo. It’s been the ebb and flow of an artist – writing and recording EPs, releasing singles, doing press, country-wide tours, and the cycle repeats.
We made our way up to the counter in Starbucks as Galvin ordered a black tea with honey. “Let me get that for you,” I offered. “No no I got it, seriously,” he persisted. “Do you want something?” he asked genuinely. “I got it,” I said back. As we tried to out polite each other at the register the barista at Starbucks chuckled, “So Minnesota.” Our little Midwest state is notorious for the “Minnesota nice” battle. Who can out polite the other person. “It’s like this in Connecticut too!” Galvin said with a laugh.
As the ice began to break between Galvin and me, the barista chimed in “So what are you guys up to tonight?”
“Well he’s playing the Entry tonight and I’m taking pictures,” I replied. “What time are you off?!” Galvin asked our barista with a smile. Turns out the Starbucks guy wasn’t off until 9:30, shortly after Yoke Lore’s set. “I would have added you to the list! Next time, I got you,” Galvin went with a genuineness thick in his tone.
“Should we just chat here?” Galvin asked. “It’s quieter.”
As Galvin and I grabbed a seat in the corner of Starbucks I was slowly put at ease by his presence. Though tired and a little stressed, there was an undeniable warmth to Galvin. As he took off his slouchy beanie and denim vest and settled in the high-top bar stool, I felt a shift in the conversation. It shifted away from this random lady here to interview this band to a quiet Wednesday evening chat over some tea at Starbucks.
As our conversation would progress, I learned Adrian Galvin is a self-proclaimed lone wolf. “My ideal night is like maybe with one or two other people, I dig the intimacy.” “So are you tired of interviews yet?” I asked jokingly. “No, no, this is good. One on one is nice.”
Adrian Galvin is soft spoken – thoughtful in his words, attentive in conversation, but a palpable awareness of the world around him. As we spoke, I watched his big greenish grey eyes dart around the room, taking in his surroundings, observing the people around him. Legs crossed and slouched comfortably in his chair, Galvin is an artist who seems at peace. At peace with himself, at peace with his craft, even on days cold October days when tour life is wearing heavy.
“So have you played Minneapolis before,” I asked, not eager to dive into the typical “interview questions” but rather eager to get to know the creative force behind Yoke Lore. “Yeah – one other time, with Overcoats actually,” he replied.
We chatted back and forth about his year – his months long tour with Overcoats before diving back on the road with UK-based duo Aquilo. “I actually don’t have a home right now, because I’m touring so much,” Galvin told me. “I kind of split my time between New York and LA, and then when I have some down time I just ask my managers to get me a house somewhere. I spent some time in Joshua Tree,” he went on.
“So when you go out to Joshua Tree between tours, is that alone?” I asked.
“Yeah – I write alone. I’m kind of a lone wolf like that,” Galvin said with a small grin.
He loves his alone time – someone not afraid of the quiet solitude. In our constantly connected world, Galvin is ok pulling back, retreating a bit, well at least somewhat. “It’s weird – like when I am on the road, I’m like oh it’ll be nice to get back home. But then when tour is over and I’m in Joshua Tree, I see all these people that are out touring and I’m like I should be doing that,” Galvin said. That tension is one Galvin seems to still be grappling with, but learning and loving the process.
As Galvin spoke, I sensed the dedication to his craft and his Yoke Lore project. “So are you Yoke Lore or what is Yoke Lore, did you just make that up?” I asked, curious to hear Galvin’s answer myself, not just what I had skimmed online ahead of our interview.
He told me Yoke Lore is a project he started to give words and stories to experiences that others perhaps can’t give words to – the human experience more or less. “Do you feel like you’ve been successful in that?” I asked. “Yeah, I mean I think so,” he said with a chuckle.
One listen to Yoke Lore and it’s evident he’s a story-teller – whether his own story or stories he’s been inspired by. Galvin possesses an uncanny ability to so eloquently and succinctly give words to situations that others may fumble with.
For example – his most recent single and title track off his 2017 EP is entitled Goodpain. At his set later that night at 7th Street Entry, he shared that Goodpain is about having to experience pain and the sometimes shitty things in life to appreciate that good times and the good things.
As Galvin spoke about Goodpain I was reminded of conversations my college roommates and I had dozens of times as we approached graduation a few years ago. The pain of graduating college – leaving behind youth once and for all and moving into the scary world of adulthood. Feeling existential as hell just about every waking moment of the day, grieving breakups that we knew couldn’t survive past the four walls of college, but knowing this season of “good pain” was so necessary to progress – as people, in our careers and just in life.
But that’s just my experience of this Goodpain Galvin sings about. Later that evening as I watched Galvin perform Goodpain to the packed 7th Street Entry, it was evident how deeply that song resonated with just every person in the room – whether hearing it for the first time or for the hundredth time.
Each band I’ve watched do the “come up” season, seems to have “that song” that flings them into the next level of popularity – and it Goodpain will be that for Galvin. This track is just one example of many nuggets of truth and wisdom that Galvin packs into his banjo-driven, synth-laden, clamoring indie-folk bangers.
As the minutes rolled by on my recorder on the table between us at Starbucks, Galvin and I chatted back and forth we reflected on this past year and a half as Yoke Lore. We talked about days like that Wednesday in Minneapolis – exhausted from a show the night before, a morning TV show performance, a six-hour drive, another set, and yet another six-hour drive looming ahead. We talked about how those days fit into the big picture of Yoke Lore.
“I mean it’s a grind, but also I’m doing what I love,” Galvin said. “It’s not like I’m sitting behind a desk, I am super grateful for what I get to do,” he explained. This grind and this hustle, this less glamorous side to the music game, is a side not everyone gets to see. As a reader, as a fan, as a consumer of music, it can be easy to forget that at the end of the day, these artists are people – and people have their limits.
This very human glimpse I got of Yoke Lore, as a guy in his 20s, navigating this world of music, I was reminded of that. Every band that comes to your town, every festival you visit in the summer, every EP you stream on Spotify – there was a grind behind that. No matter how much the artist loves it, no matter how kind and gracious and grateful they are, as Galvin clearly was, there is still a hustle, there is still a grind.
I asked Galvin how he feels as he looks back on this year and a half. I asked him if there are any moments that jump out as those “yes, this is it, this is what I want to be doing moments.”
“I mean yeah, I got over a million streams on Spotify, on both Goodpain and Hold Me Down” he said, perking up. “That’s wild, that’s gotta feel good,” I said. “Yeah, I mean just that that many people have listened is pretty amazing,” he went on, reeling a bit as if the reality of that was hitting him again. “A lot of those streams were me prepping for this interview,” I joked. “Well thanks,” he laughed.
As we approached his 8:30 set time we packed up at Starbucks. I flipped off my recorder and Adrian grabbed his tea and water bottle. “Mind if we go take a few pictures,” I asked. “Of course, let’s do it.” he smiled.
As we walked back towards First Ave I asked Galvin what he listens to in the car on the long drives like the ones between Minneapolis and Chicago. “History podcasts,” he said without missing a beat. “We just finished a hundred something series about Ancient Rome,” Galvin said laughing. “It’s like you can only listen to an album so many times on a drive before it gets boring.”
As we wrapped our time together before his set, we snapped pictures in front of First Avenue.
“Have you ever modeled?!” I asked as I looked through the photos on my camera examining Galvin’s sharp features “because you could,” I laughed.
“Nah,” he laughed, “I just come from a family of performers,” he said flashing a cheesy grin at the camera. “My brother just got a lead role for this Broadway show,” he said with more pride in his voice than talking about his own accomplishments from this year.
“Do you want to see them now or just when I post them?” I asked.
“I trust you,” Galvin said.