Adrian Galvin was already living in a Tibetan monastery when he discovered that he and Buddhism weren’t as suited for each other as he’d hoped. It was about a year after he’d graduated from college, and — seeking answers to the big questions in life — he’d left home for India, and found himself living just down the street from the Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. At the monastery, the monks were required to wear stark white robes and keep them pristine. For Galvin, who calls himself a bit of a “dirty kid,” this was no easy task. He spent his days running around, climbing trees and playing with the elephant across the street — returning to the monastery covered in dust. The abbot reprimanded him often. “If you sit around all day, of course your shit’s white,” says Galvin. “Go out in the fucking world and do something and get a little dirt on yourselves.” It was time to go.
Today, half a decade later, the boyish 27-year-old who performs as Yoke Lore is quick to laugh and easy to like. He recently returned from a bicoastal tour with Overcoats, a European debut with the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and no end in sight. This weekend, Yoke Lore will celebrate the release of his sophomore EP, Goodpain, on July 7 at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg.
Growing up in Katonah, New York, just north of the city, Galvin was surrounded by culture (he and his siblings all went into the arts) and religion — Hebrew school and temple on Fridays; Catholic education classes on Wednesdays; church every Sunday. At one particular service, there was what Galvin called “a sketchy episode.” With his family in attendance, as they were every Sunday, the pastor delivered a scathing sermon on the evils of homosexuality — that it was a sin and that homosexuals would be sent to hell for their actions. Galvin caused a scene and stormed out.
Galvin grapples with the idea that his generation, often in the absence of religion, is lacking an outlet. And he thinks it’s dangerous. “We’re not taught to submit to anything anymore,” he says. “I just think that’s where a lot of value in life comes from.” But he also believes that music can be that outlet. “Music has always been devotional in every culture,” Galvin says.
Like religion, music has always been a big part of Galvin’s life. “Adrian has been in a band since second grade,” says his younger brother Noah. There was Chicken Fist, Plaid Cabbage, the Cool-Aid Jammers, Knights of the Lunchtable, the Name Crisis, and Motley Shrü. While attending Kenyon College, Galvin joined Walk the Moon. Then came Yellerkin and Poor Remy, and finally, Yoke Lore.
Yoke Lore came to be in May 2016 almost entirely by accident, when Mike Clemenza, who co-owns B3SCI Records, pushed Galvin to work on solo music after the dissolution of his band Yellerkin. “The foundation and the soul of what was going to be Yoke Lore was definitely there,” Clemenza says. In the following year, Galvin would sign a record deal, produce an album, go on three tours, and produce a second album.
“When you listen to the music, not only does he have that super-unique voice, but he plays a banjo and it’s indie music,” Clemenza says. “Nobody really sounds like Yoke Lore right now. It just doesn’t fit into this trendy hodgepodge of sounds that everybody else is making.”
It’s easy to get lost in the juxtaposition of Yoke Lore’s intensity and Galvin’s smiley, playful nature. The singer, who calls Brooklyn home, sees a similar contrast in the ups and downs of living in New York: “I think everyone has that love-hate relationship with it,” he says. “You have to do January in New York in order to appreciate June and September.”
In the meantime, he’s learning to try and operate at a reasonable pace. “He wants to go a hundred miles per hour every day without stopping,” says his manager, Kelli Fannon. She has to schedule days for him to rest.
“There’s part of me that wants to be enormous — like, huger than huge,” says Galvin. “But there’s also a part of me that’s like, Why the fuck would you want to be famous?”
These days, Galvin draws on an assortment of new age tools in an attempt to strike balance between his ambition and fatalistic tendencies. He often has sessions with psychics, astrologers, and channelers, and relies on the I Ching with near religious devotion.
“When you believe in Taoism, you believe that all of life is in constant flux,” he says. “And flux is pretty uncomfortable, because change is not easy. So they mapped out, like, 64 different transitions you could possibly be going through at any given moment.” He rolls up his sleeve to show off the simple black tattoo on his forearm. This specific series of solid yang and broken yin lines represents a hexagram that he rolled using the coins a few years ago. Galvin was looking for answers.
“I was kind of in a bit of a funk and I was feeling a bit lethargic, so I got up and I rolled the I Ching,” Galvin explains. The resulting hexagram told him, for lack of better words, to get off his ass. He did.
On July 7, Yoke Lore celebrates the release of his new EP, Goodpain, at Baby’s All Right in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 6, 2017