Musician Yoke Lore is thriving as a pandemic hermit. Here’s what he did – The Forward

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The last real concert I attended, before the pandemic hit, was at the Sinclair in Cambridge. I saw a band called Yoke Lore – really just a guy, playing banjo music with electronic and dancing influences. I had just joined the band and was listening to a few songs on repeat, but didn’t know much more when I decided to go. Then Adrian Galvin, aka Yoke Lore, took the stage, picked up his banjo and started crying on it like it was an electric guitar. It was, to this day, one of my favorite gigs of all time, and that’s saying something considering I spent two years working for Sasquatch! Music Festival.

While I love folk music, I realize that not everyone is immediately turned on by the visual of someone swinging on the banjo. Still, Galvin’s music doesn’t sound like what you think of when you think of the banjo – in fact, when I first started listening to Yoke Lore, I had no idea he was playing the banjo. Instead of twangy bluegrass, his songs are heavy with mellow vocal harmonies, cheeky chords, and thoughtful lyrics. Despite being extremely sweet, Galvin has a lot of stage presence and charisma, and he spoke of each song thoughtfully before launching into a very energetic, bouncing performance on the stage.

Galvin’s passions lie not only in music, but also in philosophy and social justice, which is immediately clear when he speaks. In the first few minutes of our conversation, he was explaining an attempt to write his thoughts down on the iconic German Expressionist horror film from 1922 “NosferatuAnd its meaning for Weimar Germany in a few song lyrics. “It got a bit off the rails, intellectually,” he said.

Before the pandemic, he had bounced back and forth between New York and Los Angeles, living a bohemian movie life; he grew up on the Upper West Side and his whole family works in the theater. Now, however, he’s settled full-time in the West, where he dabbled in a bit of Hollywood work, scoring his girlfriend Kelly Oxford’s new film, “Pink sky ahead. Galvin is, annoyingly, thriving in isolation from the pandemic – he told me he hasn’t been so creatively productive in years. (He also promised me a new album soon, so I’ll forgive him.)

I’ve spoken with Galvin for far too long – again, I’m a fan, and treated him – about his creative process, his personal philosophy, and how he almost ended up going to Harvard Divinity. School with me. The interview has been edited and condensed to omit this last piece.

What is it like living in LA after living in New York? Has being in California changed your creative process now?

It’s more insulating, in a way that’s both good and bad for my creative life I think. You don’t see anyone in LA. It’s automotive culture, there is no street culture here. Not that it’s a terrible thing. But it’s just something New York City has a lot.

Not having that really forces me inside me more. You really have to fight with yourself because there isn’t so much that you can focus on and be distracted. There is so much to do in New York all the time; every time you go out of the house there are people, things and street parties – it’s a great community. Here it is much more an individual lifestyle.

And honestly, that’s kind of why I came here. Because I am slightly hermetic and I appreciate my isolation a little.

Can you talk about your spiritual practices? I know your mom is a yoga teacher and it seems like contemplation is part of your life.

My mother is Jewish and my father is Catholic, and I was both brought up. They are both quite pious people, and we have both been bar mitzvahs and confirmed. We went to church every Sunday and to the synagogue every Friday. This is where I have always encountered the biggest questions and the best stories.

My spiritual practice is very integrated into my intellectual life. I was actually writing a song that I was working on called “Shake,” and I realized that I was really writing about this idea of ​​shaking like in, getting out of a rut or stagnating.

I was writing about Weimar Germany and “Nosferatu”, it was really esoteric, but I was writing about how someone can start a fire in you. I went back to the story of Adam and Eve, and they kind of received that spark from Lucifer, the Lightbringer, and it opened their eyes and condemned them at the same time. And that spark of life is that ‘jerk’ that I’m trying to define that, for better or for worse, brings us to a new emotional and spiritual place in which we have to face our new enlightened self.

So where have you found that “jerk” or spark in the past year? I know this is something I have a hard time with.

I think I go back to books a lot. I read Anais Nin’s autobiography. She’s a force of nature – wow. I read a lot of science fiction, I read collected stories of Isaac Asimov, of William S. Burroughs.

Opening a book is like – you’re in your own room all the time, you only know these four walls, you only know the color of the ceiling, and you open a book and it’s like walking into a whole. other room and you’re like whoa, there’s all these other paintings on the wall in that room. So I go into books to find new worlds to live in.

I need to read more.

It’s hard! It is not that it is not supported by our culture, but it is not made essential. They make it a lot easier to do other things.

It looks like your whole family is into the arts, or at least your siblings, Noah Galvin and Emma Galvin. Was it part of your upbringing? How did you all end up in the creative world?

Yeah, it kind of happened. Well I know how it happened – the genes. I have two grandmas who were both painters, my aunt is a painter, I had another great-uncle who was a sculptor. My father was an actor and my mother was a director. My sister is an actor, my brother is an actor. I think our genes are like that. My grandfather used to walk around and sing show tunes – it has always been part of our family zeitgeist.

Both of my parents, at one point, had the idea that art was the highest form of expression, that art was the highest value of human activity. I think they really made us realize that you can create the world around you with the things you put in it. I think this has been extremely influential for me. We could become good Jewish lawyers or doctors, but it was incumbent on us to participate in a more macrocosmic way.

Why did music win for you in the end?

I was singing before I could speak. My brother was on Broadway when he was 10 years old. I started playing the drums when I was 9 because my sister had started taking drums lessons and she was just Great fresh. I was a very energetic kid, with a lot of hyperactive tendencies, and I think my parents were like, “What a gold mine, just put the kid in the basement with a battery and we’re home. free. “

I always felt a bit outside of the conversation to be creative when I was little. I was looked at as a boy who was still struggling and running. So I think the drums was the first time I felt I could be a part of this world of dance and music and a more sensitive relationship to the world. Not that the drums are super sensitive, but it was my starting drug.

So how did you find your way to the banjo?

I found banjo in college because it was a bit like a drum. It interested me because I’m a big history nerd, and the banjo plays a very specific role in American history. And I like it. A guy named Roscoe Holcomb is my favorite banjo player. He has the most haunting voice in the whole world, it’s like listening to a beautiful broken air conditioner or something.

I think it was something that I could really get involved in and create my own. The guitar was played all over the place. I’m great on guitar, but there are 9-year-old virtuosos running around playing guitar behind their backs and with their teeth and left-handed people, and I won’t play that game.

I know you did live broadcasts at the start of the pandemic. How do you manage this new paradigm?

I am a little Luddite. I don’t really want to do more livestreams. For a while, I resisted the reality of having to be apart from my fans and play. But more recently, I accepted it and found value in it – I am in my isolation.

I was afraid at first that I would lose my momentum and my presence in the world of my listeners. But they will be there, or they will not be. It is a time when everyone is forced to be with themselves. I think you have to face this head on.

I want my art to be really good! I want it do things. I can’t do this if I’m running with my head cut off trying to find the input button to set up the mic on my livestream. Some people are super good at it! But I needed this time to come to myself and start writing again in a really confident way.

I have the impression that your style has changed a lot since “Security”. And now you’ve reissued that debut EP “Far Shore”, which was very brash in its sound. first version and now is much smoother and softer.

The thing with the reissue is that the rights just came back to me. I wanted it to be entirely mine now, and I have a label I released it on. It is not a question of attracting all Marxists to you, but it is important to have the means of your production.

I guess, consciously or unconsciously, all art is a response to what’s going on in the world and our culture. Maybe the world needs a little more sweetness right now, a little more care than they are getting. I think if your music stays the same you are not doing the job right.

I know you wrote Kelly Oxford’s new movie, “Pink Skies Ahead”, and just released a new song, “Seeds, “for that. What was it like writing for a movie?

It was super cool. I mean, Kelly is my girlfriend, so I was part of it from the very beginning.

It was a really wild process. Making music is so insular in a way, it’s usually just me in a room, or me and another person in a room, max. With the making of movies, it’s literally hundreds of people. I was just a cog in this awesome creative community.

Was it harder to write music for a movie, since you have to follow someone else’s ideas and not write on, for example, “Nosferatu”?

I obviously know Kelly very well, and the film being partially autobiographical gave me a real “in”, because I know what she went through and I know her story. So it allowed me to better identify with the character. It’s weird knowing that you’re in love with this character in the future.

Musician Yoke Lore is thriving as a pandemic hermit. This is what he did





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