Popdust Exclusive: Young & Sick Talks New EP "Size of Relief"

The Dutch artist and musician's newest release is buoyant dance music inspired by nighttime bike rides.

You might recognize some of the art created by Nick van Hofwegen, aka Young & Sick. It's adorned the covers of Foster the People's Torches and Mikky Ekko's Kids, among many other albums.

You might also recognize his music—and if you don't, you very well may be hearing him everywhere soon. His newest EP, out May 3, is a collection of dance music that's as atmospheric and complex. With its crystalline production, pumped-up rhythms, and dreamy loops of synths and keys, it's tailor-made for clubs, bike rides, or for any time you need a pick-me-up or an excuse to take off and drive. Ultimately, it's the product of a mind that's clearly enamored with its own ability to distill color and sound into shapes and tunes.

The music has a buoyancy to it, a clarity that belies meticulous attention to detail but still meshes well with its sense of electric intensity and free-spirited energy. Standout tracks include "JET BLACK HEART," a track that—despite its brooding lyrics—feels like the sonic equivalent of making it to the top of a mountain after a long trek; the thrilling, bittersweet "IT'S A STORM," and "SIZE OF RELIEF," which layers van Hofwegen's angelic, slightly overdriven vocals over an arrangement of reverb-drenched horns, cool synths, delicate strings, and tense rhythms.

Popdust talked to Young & Sick about the relationship between visual art and music, inspirations for his upcoming EP, and the importance of listening to albums all the way through.

Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming EP, and the inspiration behind it?

YOUNG & SICK: This collection of work was made right before I went on tour with the Knox. In the back of my mind, while knowing I was gonna be on tour with them, I got really in the mood to make something more uptempo and uplifting, so that drove me to be faster in BPMs than I usually am. I'd also been making a lot of remixes for people, so it tied in with that, too. I took European dance roots and made something more sample-heavy and dancey.

At the time, I was also living in the valley in Los Angeles, and when I was making all the songs I was going on long bike rides in the evening. The songs I'd listen to while riding also shaped what I was creating—it was more dance music, so it made me shift towards that.

Are there any other inspirations, sonically or in terms of place, that you feel influenced your new work?

This EP is very largely inspired by the emotion of the city passing by on the bike. A lot of my inspiration—especially with this record—is drawn from sampling; I'd find a nice little piece of music that I'd chop up, and it would guide me to the next spot.

Have you always been into dance music? Did you grow up going out and dancing?

Growing up in the Netherlands, dance music was always pretty prevalent. I grew up a rock kid. Nirvana was my first love. There was always a lot of dance music around me, though, and when acts like the Chemical Brothers came out and started merging rock music with dance, a lot of people like me got very into that. Dance music has always been around me, and I've always had a big love for it, but it hasn't necessarily always come out in my music before.


I know you do a lot of art as well, and it's pretty unique to see someone doing such high-quality work in two fields at once. Which did you start out with—art or music—and how do you see those two fields relating to each other?

That's really kind. I've always done both, as long as I can remember. I've been drawing as long as I've been playing guitar. I always say I feel like they come from the same place, and anyone's brain that can do one can do the other—it's multidisciplinary. They feed off each other so well. If I get stuck in either, I just switch up and keep going. I don't think there was one before the other; it was a chicken-and-egg kind of thing.

Your art and music seem to fit so well together. Do you have any sort of synesthesia? Do you see music in colors, or see them related in that kind of way?

I do think they tie into each other incredibly. I know people have full-on synesthetic things where they actually see color in sound—I don't have that to the full degree, but if I do artwork for my music or others' I tend to listen to it while creating the artwork, to really shape them around each other. I do see a very strong connection between them. When a band or artist gets that connection right, it makes me very happy—when someone's just getting it when the music and art live in the same world, it's such a gratifying feeling.

Did you feel pressure to choose between them? Was there a moment when you decided you weren't going to pick one of the two fields?

I wouldn't say I was pressured to ever choose. There were early moments where I was thinking, I want to use this name for both fields, for doing art for other people and for myself and also for making music, and there were definitely moments where people were kind of wary of that. But I never had to choose, luckily.

Your music and art are very psychedelic. Is that something you're interested in and do you explore spirituality in any way, or where does that imagery come from?

My work draws from 70's psychedelia, and obvious bands like the Grateful Dead that I've always looked up to, in terms of their art and how well they made an insane brand for themselves. I'm a big proponent of that type of art, going that far in detail and tying everything together that well. I'm not necessarily a very spiritual person but I do tend to like the occasional psychedelic… I definitely draw inspiration from that.

What's happening next with your music?

I'm working hard on a follow-up. A lot of musicians like me, as soon as you finish something, it's kind of out of your system. I'm working to follow it up with something different, but in a similar line.

What's the inspiration behind your band name?

My manager used to throw a lot of parties in New Orleans when he was going to Tulane University. He'd ask me, do you know a good name for a party? I'd come up with one and make a flyer, and he'd start passing them out. One day I saw those two words [young and sick] together, sitting next to each other, and I made a poster for him with that name, and he said that was one of his favorite parties. I had that poster up in my bedroom in London when I was living there, and I was looking at it and thought, I kind of need that name. I started putting out songs and making art with it, and it kind of stuck. It's a simple, striking name—you just have to tell someone once and they remember.

Are you going on tour soon?

There's going to be a few shows—LA and New York and some festivals—and I'm doing a bunch of DJ sets as well. We're figuring out what the next tour is because we just came off of one.

You do a lot more than visual art and songwriting. What other fields do you work in?

Remixing is something I've been very fond of lately. Obviously, the art for festivals and other people and that kind of thing has been amazing. Fine art and making things, in general, is definitely a big passion. With music and art, there are so many little nuances within each field.

Are you particularly excited about any of the songs on the upcoming EP?

Every time you make a release, there are a lot of songs that don't end up on it—usually I make about triple the amount, and we send them to the people we work with at the label and they come up with their favorite lists, which were pretty close to what I had in mind for this one. Sometimes it's hard to pick between the songs because you made all of them, so it works well when somebody on the outside picks one and it aligns with your choices. My favorite songs all ended up on this EP. The song that's about to come out, which will close the EP, is called "SIZE OF RELIEF," which is also the name of the EP. I wrote it in New Orleans in such a short time—maybe a two-hour window of making the first loops and all the vocals—and it just felt so right. I just had to change a few things, and detailing and mixing took a lot more time—but initially, it just took a few hours, and when that happens, I just feel so good. That one is definitely one of my favorites.

Anything else you want people to know?

I know it's hard for a lot of people these days to take in more than a few songs at once, but I'd encourage people to take off 20 or 25 minutes and listen to the EP in full.

It seems like kind of a lost art to go through and listen to a full album, but it's super rewarding when you do.

That's kind of how it was meant to be heard. If anyone's able to do that, that'd make me happy.

Young & Sick's debut album was released in 2014. "Size of Relief" is now available on streaming services. Listen here.

Eden Arielle Gordon is a writer and musician from New York. Follow her on Twitter @edenarielmusic.

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Yoke Lore: A Delightful Contradiction

The artist sits down with Popdust for an in-depth interview on spirituality, art, and the things that bind us together.

Before his sold out show at Bowery Ballroom, I sat down with Adrian Galvin — better known as Yoke Lore — for an interview that turned out to be a study in contrast.

Despite a soft voice and a less than imposing physical presence, there's something about the singer that captures your full attention. He's thoughtful and perceptive, but also frenetic: he switches easily between eloquent observations about Buddhist teachings and anecdotes about his favorite sneakers in which he uses phrases like "one hunnit." If you combined a Venice beach skate bro and a gentle forest nymph, you'd probably get something close to Adrian Galvin.

Brooke and Adrian somehow came to the conclusion this was the best pre interview pose position.

This versatility is made clear in the unusual and varied trajectory of Galvin's career. He was previously a member of Walk the Moon, before leaving the band to strike out on his own with a group called Yellerkin. But, ever-restless, Galvin soon left Yellerkin behind to create his third, and perhaps most successful, musical incarnation: Yoke Lore. A distinctive monniker, Galvin describes the meaning of the name in the same roundabout, exploratory way I soon learn he describes everything: "I'm very interested in real things. A yoke is something that brings up work and human praxis and a certain type of reality that I'm interested in exploring. A yoke holds things together. Lore is about what's happening."

To Galvin, "what's happening" is just as broad a category as it seems. Perhaps recognizing this lack of specificity, he thinks for a moment before continuing, "It's about, you know, the stories of how things happen, how things are bound together." He searches my face, clearly wanting me to recognize the beauty of the name. He gently places a hand on the brick wall behind us. "I believe very much that the value of this wall isn't in the value of the stones but in the value of the mortar. I want to explore the value of the things that hold things together." I nod, causing him to smile brightly, pleased I see what he means.

Galvin is no stranger to these kind of spiritual inexactitudes, he mentions that there's a lot of biblical imagery in his music because he grew up "steeped in religious education." He explains that this is because of another contradiction that made him who he is: "My mother's a devout jew and my father's a pretty ardent catholic. So we did both. And there's a lot of biblical imagery in my music because those are the words that I know."

It's not only the language that strikes a holy chord in the music of Yoke Lore; there's also a reverence that runs through the heart of his sound. While the seeds of this are in his previous work, it's clear that Galvin finally found the full breadth of his musical voice in this project. His music is distinct and atmospheric, with folk components layered under scintillating percussion and synths, creating a product as delightfully contradicting as Galvin himself. He says he never necessarily intended this sense of reverence, but said, "I want it to be meaningful, I want it to feel elevated. And I think that conversation around spirituality is such a built-in part of our culture."

That sense of spirituality is as much a part of Galvin's life as it is his music, when asked how he's adjusting to his growing fame, he first says, "I'm comfortable with it, I'm ready for it. Its expected and welcome." But, he adds, "I don't want to be a megalomaniac ever, I want to stay small." He hesitates for a moment, struggling to phrase his next sentence in a way that won't come off as pretentious, "I studied a lot of religious...shit." He smiles sheepishly, "The buddhists say something I really like about making yourself small, like making everything small in order to exercise your humanity more. There's this guy called E.F. Schumaker who wrote a book called Small is Beautiful and it's all about Buddhist economics and how you live in the loud and big modern world and play against it with your own life." But then, clearly feeling qualms that this wasn't an entirely honest representation of himself, he backtracks, saying abruptly, "I'm arrogant as fuck sometimes. But it's the same thing as being small and quiet, it's more of a device to balance my external environment so I can feel okay."

He looks at me again, eager for me to understand, eager to be understood. He continues in a softer voice, introspective, "I also had this idea when I was little... well, I was always around these big loud men who didn't have anything to say and I really didn't want to be that dude ever. I've always wanted to be a little bit quieter, speak a little bit softer. When someone's like super loud they can't listen. I want to listen."

"So you want to listen, but what is it you want to say?"

This question frustrates him slightly, the first time he's anything but cheerful, his eyes seem to accuse me of not listening to the subtleties of his answers so far. "It's not something I'm trying to say as much as it's a feeling I'm trying to engender," he firmly asserts, seeming to genuinely care that I see who he is as an artist. "I want to create this space for people to think more, to be reflective, to listen more, and I want the visual art to do that for the music. I want the art to set up a space in which people can hear things a little bit cleaner or feel things a little bit more personally." His passion is infectious, and I nod enthusiastically. He relaxes again, smiling, and I ask about the visual art he mentioned.

He lights up, all but pulling out a portfolio to show me the drawings he's referring to, excitedly sharing he's going to have an art show in LA this May.

He explains the relationship between his music and his drawing as two different ways to say the same thing: "I guess it's like when you're shooting a movie you want to have like six angles for every shot, and the more perspectives you have the better picture of reality you can create. I wanna take an idea and present it in many mediums. So that you can really get it, or it can be a little bit more familiar." For all his previous emphasis on the importance of listening, he's suddenly harping on the very thing I've sensed from him all along: a desperate desire to be known and understood.

"And so that's what this is all about for you? Being heard? Or is it about the fame or the money or the fans — one of those classic tropes?"

He gestures at the concert venue around him, "This? No, this is just a compulsion." I laugh, shocked by the ease with which he asserts this despite the obvious intention and mindfulness he brings to everything else in his life. Straight faced and defiant, he continues, "it's just like when you put Adrian on the ground, he sings. It's just what happens. If you eat food you have to shit in a couple hours. You put life in my body, I'm gonna make music. So this is something I've done since forever. Since someone gave me an instrument."

Later in the night, this is easy to believe as I watch him bewitch the packed house with his ethereal voice and absolute self-possession. He's a magnetic stage presence, ceaselessly moving to the music as he croons, plays guitar, and interacts with the audience. His performance is precise, like worship, but also delightfully messy and human. Most of all, the concert feels like watching the most expansive, honest form of the fascinating person I met that afternoon. Purpose mixes with compulsion. Bravado mixes with a desire to remain small. Intense introspection mixes with a lack of self awareness. Spirituality mixes with the absence of belief. Adrian Galvin is all of these things and more, and the music he makes as Yoke Lore is as varied and colorful as he is.

Check out his newest music video for "Beige (unburdened)" from his forthcoming acoustic EP, Meditations.

Yoke Lore - "Beige (unburdened)" (Official Music Video)

For more from Yoke Lore, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.

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