Photography by: Sam Hanson
By: Zeke Hanson
Historically, the 1500’s were an interesting time but the jury is still out on whether or not they were that great time to have lived in. But there was this dude, Michelangelo (ever heard of him), who was commissioned to build a bronze horse for Pope Julius II only to have it melted down for a cannon. Art and ownership are at constant odds with each other. That’s business. The process of creating is about the journey for the artist. Being appreciated in your own time is never a decision left up to the artist.
I don’t know a whole lot about Michelangelo but I do think that his approach to creative endeavors would match up with Adrian of Yoke Lore.
The saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey;” is something we’ve all heard and something we can all relate to in hindsight. Yoke Lore stands out not just because of his talent on the stage, but because he is all about that journey. And it works for him.
“Yeah, I have been with several groups and this is my most recent iteration of my music. I was in a band called Walk The Moon and I dropped out of college to tour with them, and we got really, really successful and actually... college is better. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to do music, it just wasn’t my music necessarily. I was really into academia. I still am. I was really deep into Hagel and reading Marx, and Shopenhaur and Slayerocker,” Adrian says, “and really figuring out what I wanted to make my life about and the ideas that I wanted to use to navigate my life and I think I found a pretty good set of ideas to run with.”
It wasn’t immediate. He didn’t walk off campus one day and into the bright lights of the stage with a screaming audience the next. There was some basement dwelling in Cincinnati and a hunger both physically and emotionally that needed to be fed.
“I think that there are a set of necessary sacrifices that you inevitably must contend with. They’re not the same sacrifices for everyone. But there’s an element of…it’s just being able to put yourself aside for a second and being able to not take yourself so seriously and place less value on the things that bring you comfort. That’s a weird thing to base something on, but I really do believe in the idea of, this sounds morbid, but I really do believe in the ideas of sacrifice and endurance.”
Adrian continues, “I guess, enduring something to achieve something else. I’m always putting myself in these really adverse circumstances for some reason, and I think it’s because I have this instinct that it makes me better or stronger…it gives me more perspective or something. When I was growing up, kids would always do fun stuff with their Summers, like go get a fun job at the ice cream shop or some shit…and I would always put myself on these really tough backpacking trips, or I once did this kayaking trip in the North Atlantic and it rained for three weeks and I was miserable, but I always do that. Or when people were going abroad in college, people were going to South Africa, Cape Town…and I grew a beard and moved to India and sat for nine months and meditated. It was great, but it was fucking awful, and I seem to have that instinct to do that, and I think that’s why. I have this idea, whether it’s true or not, that it makes me a stronger, more valuable of a human being.”
Walk the Moon started when Adrian was a Freshman, he was there at the beginning and all the other bandmates were Seniors, “so they all graduated and started touring so I was like…let’s go. Then we signed that big deal with RCA, and I was like…I’m gonna take the money and run guys if that’s alright.
And they were all super gracious about it, they were like, ‘yeah, do what you need to do.’” They still see each other. They still appreciate their shared past, and encourage each other’s futures.
Adrian went back to college, finished a major of his own creation, a mix of Liberation Theology and German Social Theory and took that knowledge and reapplied it to his own creative outlets.
“It’s sometimes really hard for me to learn things.” Yoke Lore says, “so, it was really mind blowing to go there and see all this stuff that I really wanted to learn, that I was really willing to admit that I had no idea about and I couldn’t understand by myself. That was really refreshing and really important for me.”
His own music and sound developed, along with writing his own books on theory, and after graduation Yoke Lore came to be. “I do all the playing and writing by myself and then I have a producer help me record, and then I bring people to play live with me.”
“Starving artist” is another phrase we all know. There are times of feast and famine but when you talk to people who have stable jobs and have played it “smart” and “safe” they always seem to be jealous. No one looks at a starving person and thinks…man, they’ve got it made. I think that while you can be financially strapped, being able to feed your creative side lets you breathe a little easier and maybe a little deeper. At least until next month’s rent is due (am i right).
What kept him creatively hungry before, continues to keep him hungry even when he’s on tour.
“The chase of a good meal,” he says, “I guess a lot of it for me, is this is kind of a compulsion, making music and working with my creativity. it’s not even an essential aspect of my life it’s just what I have to do or I won’t do anything. I could probably do something else but it would crush me, and I would feel awful about life. This is just what I’ve always done, since I could walk. I’ve been singing since I could do anything. And playing instruments... it’s never been anything else for me. This has just always been it.”
A true pursuit.
Adrian grew up in New York where his family still lives. His girlfriend lives in LA. He’s back and forth between the two when he’s not touring, but these days he’s always touring. Always. He’s got two weeks here or two weeks there, but his insatiable hunger takes to the road and the tour dates pile up.
“It’s fine for right now,” he explains, “it’s not the most comfortable thing in the world to not have your spot, but it’s alright, it’s not the end of the world. I have a storage unit in Queens that’s really full.”
There isn’t a pinnacle he’s chasing. No summit to plant a flag. The end game is not to play to a sold-out Garden or to book a record show. Those things don’t hurt, but for Yoke Lore, it’s about more than that.
“I really want to be useful. I think that’s my highest pursuit. I really want to be useful to the world, to myself and to the people around me like my family, and to the people I love. I want to be useful. I don’t want to be some dude that can sing well, or some dude who writes pretty music. I want the music to really help people get to the next place or help them figure something out or help them decide something or give them an insight of some kind.”
Whether you like movies, music, painters, athletes…whatever your art, as a patron, you can see the complacency in being a one-trick-pony. The roots don’t go deep, they go just far enough to sustain life. Failure can be a great driving force for some artists, but it can also bury you. It can consume. Only the strong survive a fear of failure.
“I don’t know that I have many creative fears. I fear stagnation. I really very much subscribe to the idea that movement is paramount. And I value progress over perfection. You never drink water from a still pool because that’s where disease breads. You always go to the rushing river, and I want my life to be that rushing river and not that stagnant pool of water.”
When Steve Martin wrote his autobiography Born Standing Up he mentions that the first time he played a big show the venue sent a limo, and he said something along the lines of “I don’t need a limo, it’s just me.” The next day the venue didn’t send a limo, and he said, “where’s my limo.” Success is a fickle mistress. Maybe the key to keeping that in check is to not see it as success.
“I kind of see everything as a failure. We were somewhere the other night, it was a sold out show, there were 600 people there and it was awesome and I wanted to be really jazzed and excited about it…but all I could think about is ‘where are we going to play next time’… ‘what’s the next show gonna be there’…‘if this many people showed up to this then we could have played a bigger venue or something.’ I think it’s more of an awareness to see that everything has a bit of failure in it and that those little failures are really valuable to notice. Not that you have to see your whole life as a constant failure, but if you can keep each aspect of your life dynamic and that it has everything within it, both achievements and failures then I think you can get more out of each experience.”
Adrian’s been playing music since childhood. If you give him a few minutes on most any instrument, he’ll figure it out. “I started on the drums.” That’s what he played in Walk The Moon, “that was my first. That’s still my main sonic outfit, is the drums. I feel most comfortable behind the drum set for sure. I feel like everything else I do, like playing the banjo, is basically like playing the drums.”
Yoke Lore says, “Anytime I meet drummers who do other things, it’s so cool to talk about that, and to see that in physical form. Having that sense of rhythm informs everything. It informs the way I walk down the street, the way I chew my food, the way I speak, like the pentameter of my words, you know, it’s like a framework that is so large and so meaningful to me. And I think that everyone can have access too that if they so choose. I really feel lucky to have been a drummer first.”
The name, like everything has a story.
Adrian lifts up his shirt sleeve and shows a tattoo of a yoke as he gives a history of the name.
“A yoke, like an oxen yoke. It holds the oxen together as they till the fields. And Lore is a set of stories. I think I’m trying to tell stories about how things are bound because I believe wholeheartedly that’s where you find the juicy shit in life, where the lattice is woven. In everything, in relationships, it’s where you learn the most about yourself is when you bounce off someone else. That’s how they learned about molecules, they “put them together and see what happens.” And by the same token, I think when you build a brick building, the thing that is of value is the mortar, more so than the strength of the bricks themselves.”
Adrian of Yoke Lore pushes his boundaries and finds creative lines to cross. There’s a challenge of “I didn’t think that I could do this…and now I know that I can”. He definitely marches to a beat of a different drum, and if you check out his works both by ear and on paper, you might just find it useful.
ONE MORE THING
Bleeds: Do you want to do Desert Island or Last Song on the Titanic?
YL: I’m playing the last song!?
Bleeds: You have a life raft waiting for you off the Titanic, the band may have played on…but you’ll be
YL: Man. Here Comes The Sun.
Bleeds: I’d probably start whistling Always Look on the Bright Side of Death.
YL: Life of Brian, yeah.
Bleeds: I would stay for both of those. What instrument would you play it on?
YL: Drums, can I play it on drums?
Bleeds: Of course. We would stay for that. We’d go down with that ship. Encore?
Keep up with Adrian on instagram: