“Mom’s gone, now we can talk about sketchy stuff! Like 9/11!”
Five minutes into our interview, Adrian Galvin (better known to fans as Yoke Lore) has me laughing out loud after his publicist jumps off of our Zoom call. The L.A.-based musician is impeccably sunny, reflecting his shape-shifting and upbeat sound that’s found listeners as he’s dominated the streamers (“Beige” recently went Gold, ICYMI) and hit the touring world hard with artists like Goth Babe and Mt. Joy. Galvin has seemingly had a hand in the modern state of alternative rock for forever, yet we sit a month away from the release of his debut album, due out on September 22nd on Yell House Records.
Toward a Never Ending New Beginning is a stunning, reflective record that brings to mind the best of 2010s blog-rock with a shimmering, glowing vibe. Galvin has a remarkable ability to create a swirling world of sound in your headphones — lead single “Shake” is a mesmerizing alt-pop song, twisting and turning into an anthem that’s imminently living in your head if you sit with it long enough. Every other song on the record exists in that same sphere — this is an album of straight whoppers, as Galvin would put it, and a remarkably full-formed debut from one of the best around in alternative music. Today, Yoke Lore has dropped a music video for “Hallucinate”, which is similarly whimsical and kaleidoscopic as the song behind it — read along for our chat with Galvinabout the song, and scroll to the bottom to check out dates and tickets for THE HOLY HAVOC TOUR that kicks off this weekend.
It’s been a long time coming for the debut — I know I’ve been following you since 2016 or 2017, and here we are years later and it’s time for your “debut record”. I don’t talk to many artists that have as dedicated of a following as you where that gap between introduction and debut has been so long — how does it feel to get this in the world, and what has your life been like over the past three or four years?
It definitely shaped out that way for a couple of different reasons. For one, I’m playing along to the climate of music that we’re in — we live in a world where it’s very expensive to make records, and people listen to whole records less. Providing a smaller listening experience with my releases has been way more financially feasible, and it’s made more sense in the culture of Spotify and the streamers. I’ve also always put my focus on the road. You can put me on as many fuckin playlists as you want, but there’s nothing like being in a crowded room and feeling the music hit your chest. I put my time into touring and playing shows, and really honing my performance. I made that call early on — touring was really what drove this project forward — and I knew that the debut would happen at some point. I’d also be foolish to not mention the fear of making an album; it’s a huge undertaking and massive offering to fans, and I definitely was a little scared of it too.
The fear is a real component of releasing music — I talk to artists where every album is like a new era, and I feel like your project has kind of metamorphosed outside of the typical release structure. There are defined events and eras of Yoke Lore despite the lack of a full album. How far back do the songs on this album date to?
It’s a bit of a mix. I’ve gone through a lot of stages of life and stages of musical maturation. The record is called Toward a Never Ending New Beginning — there’s a Chinese proverb called the I-Ching that I reference a lot through the record, and it’s a system of coins that you flip that correspond to a certain number of lines, and it looks like this. (shows tattoo)
The I-Ching is referred to “The Book of Change” by Daoist monks, and there’s a huge emphasis on the changing seasons of life and how these different arrangements have a real specificity to those who abide by it. This is probably TMI…but there were times that I’ve backtracked to an ex and started hooking up again, and I’d go and pull the I-Ching and get a reading like “YOU HAVE OFFENDED THE GODS” and “YOU HAVE GONE AGAINST THE LAWS OF NATURE” that really reflected to be true. (Laughs) There’s one arrangement called “taming the maiden” that basically means that there’s an upcoming task that someone has to be prepared for — and there were parts of this album where I’d pull that, and lo and behold, it’d be the strenuous points in making this record.
Where did you pick up this philosophy?
I kinda got into a little bit in college. One of my favorite writers is this guy Tom Robins, and he haphazardly mentioned it in one of his books, and I latched onto it and connected to it in a big way. He was a cooler extension of the Beat Poet scene, which is basically where I get all of my cool ideas (laughs). I dove deeper into Daoism as a result and it stuck around in my life — I roll the I-Ching at least once a week if not more. It feels like a good orientation tool, and I think those ancient Chinese dudes had something to it, realizing that everything changes and is in flux all the time. It’s a good way to center yourself when the rest of the world can be pretty crazy. And it’s kind of how I’m treating this record — it’s an era of change for me.
I listen to the lyrics of “Hallucinate” and I don’t hear a love song, but rather a “chasing” love song — and that philosophy bleeds through in that way, in that shit’s just changing all the time. I feel like this record reflects that — I’ve used the word “kaleidoscopic” to describe your sound, as it feels like everything’s shifting around in your music at all times. What does that creative process look like to you to pull all of these disparate ideas and sounds together?
It starts with poems, more often that not. I kind of pull from my stream of consciousness to begin, and it’ll fall on banjo or piano first to see where melodies come from. From there, the song dictates itself as to how it wants to be heard. There are some songs that need the intimacy of space and emptiness, and then others where it’s just this amalgam of sounds that shouldn’t be next together (laughs). I think there are certain lines of songs that necessitate different textures and different levels of intensity, but everything ultimately comes from the words.
There’s a song on the record called “Take Shape”, and the first time I made it it was huge. It had a massive dancey ending, and big synths, and after a couple of months of working I realized it felt wrong. The song’s about this fear of not growing and not changing, and here it was in line with this more straightforward pop arrangement behind it. It didn’t need to have some sonic celebration going on behind that fear; it needed a real, gentle bed of moss to lay on. I wanted someone to hear that and not feel like they needed to dance to their own uncertainty.
It’s funny hearing that story and thinking about “Hallucinate” — it’s got this upbeat drive to it that feels anxious the whole time, and in a way you’re singing like you’re sort of stressed out to be in love. “Your love makes me hallucinate”, you know? Not necessarily a positive, but also not a negative.
You’re totally right — that song is a frantic, disorienting snapshot of having your reality altered by a romantic feeling. There are people who feel things harder and more intensely, but there’s also a natural change in the chromosomes that happen when you’re in an intense relationship with someone. Love can literally change the physicality of a person — and it can feel really fucked up sometimes (laughs). Like, where’s the ground, you know? I think there’s a general anxiety that comes with that feeling, even if it ultimately ends with something beautiful. Writing this song was an attempt to tell myself that it’s okay to be disoriented, and it’s okay to not know which way is up for a second when you’re falling for somebody.
I know the philosophy of the I-Ching dominated the creation of the record, but I’d love to know what you were listening to when you were creating this album.
I really struggle to listen to new music while I’m creating; I find myself going back to the stuff that originally sparked it for me. Radiohead, always. I’m no stronger than any other millennial man (laughs). They could put out a song that’s just a broken air conditioner and I’d just eat it up. I think what I go back to the most is this two-year stretch when I was a freshman in college and it was only bangers in the college-rock world: Merriweather Post Pavillion by Animal Collective, Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear, the first LCD Soundsystem record, the first MGMT record—
You are speaking my language in a dangerous way right now. (Laughs)
Dude, it was just fucking whoppers for like, three years straight! The XX, Phantogram, Mac DeMarco — it was just a stretch that was crazy for me that I still dive into because it’s so comforting. I want to put whatever they put into that stretch into my own music. I don’t know what was going on in the world, but those are still my favorite albums of all time.
What do you want listeners to take away when they listen to this record?
I think all art should be practically used to make your life better. I want people to find real meaning and use with this art. Art can be good for art’s sake, but with this music in this time, I want my music to be put to practical use. In the best-case scenario, people hear these songs as orientation tools — I want them to locate themselves within these lyrics, and hopefully articulate themselves in ways that they couldn’t before. I come from a family of artists and also a family of therapists, and a family of devout religious people, so I was given a very intricate vocabulary and education in how to think about myself and my movements in the world. With that in mind, I feel like I have a responsibility to pass that along — to give words to people who might need it.
Preorder Toward a Never Ending New Beginning here.
THE HOLY HAVOC TOUR DATES
August 19 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
August 20 – In Between Days Festival – Quincy, MA
August 22 – 9:30 Club – Washington, DC
August 23 – Irving Plaza – New York, NY
August 24 – Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY
August 26 – Studio TD – Montréal, QC
August 27 – The Axis Club – Toronto, ON
August 29 – Metro – Chicago, IL
August 30 – Fine Line – Minneapolis, MN
September 1 – HI-FI Annex – Indianapolis, IN
September 2 – Headliners Music Hall – Louisville, KY
September 3 – The Basement East – Nashville, TN
September 5 – Variety Playhouse – Atlanta, GA
September 7 – The Heights Theater – Houston, TX
September 8 – Scoot Inn – Austin, TX
September 9 – Granada Theater – Dallas, TX
September 11 – Gothic Theatre – Englewood, CO
September 13 – Crescent Ballroom – Phoenix, AZ
September 15 – The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA
September 16 – The Observatory North Park – San Diego, CA
September 18 – The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA
September 21 – Wonder Ballroom – Portland, OR
September 22 – Showbox – Seattle, WA
September 23 – Hollywood Theatre – Vancouver, BC