Band Profile: Turnstile

This is Turnstile.

Turnstile is a lesson in ‘how its done’.

Formed in Baltimore, Maryland in 2010, the band has relentlessly toured, played shows, wrote music, and generally embraced the hardcore ethos of the edgy, core, punk-laced scene that surrounded them. What is immediately apparent about Turnstile after one wades through a few songs, is how easily the band can veer outside the lines of expectation that comes with being a ‘whatever-core’ band.

The pocket of creativity in which Turnstile exists is unique and rarely executed with precision and vision at this level. They can embrace any musical direction with a ‘What of it?’ attitude and make it work. I could choose 5 different Turnstile songs, and show them to 5 different people, and you’d get 5 different genre descriptions for a review.

Some bands REQUIRE you listen to more than one song before you, ‘get it’. Turnstile is one of those bands.

So let’s get this started with a track that has a hook so catchy… I can’t think up a clever ‘it’s so catchy….’ joke here, so let’s just say… the guitars in this song are pure hardcore riffage bliss. It’s the kind of riff that makes people who don’t typically like this kind of music go… “Yeah, that’s pretty cool…”. It’s the kind of riff EVERY rock guitarist wish he’d have wrote, because it’s dumb simple, but just so greasy cool. I give you ‘Holiday’…. (the vid has a couple songs, ‘Holiday’ is the first….)

“Too bright to live, too bright to die
I wanna celebrate
Beauty is built not from outside
And I imagine it”

See? Catchy as hell, right? A lot of their songs are like that. But they do stay rooted in their punk/core/indie rock foundations for much of the work that spans three full lengths as of 2022.

Bass player “Freaky” Franz Lyons testing out Nike’s new ‘Anti-Gravity Pit Blaster’ tennis shoes.

The first material to come from Turnstile came in the form of a couple of EP’s, (“Pressure to Succeed” in 2011 and “Step 2 Rhythm” in 2013, both via Reaper Records. Then their full length debut, also on Reaper Records, “Nonstop Feeling” in 2015.

“Nonstop Feeling” Reaper Records, 2015

You will see a distinct pattern emerging here. Record, tour, record, tour, record, tour. Repeat. For many years.

But this initial volley of post-punk hardcore riffage, coupled with the vulnerability of vocalist Brendan Yates’ delivery softens the edges… just a bit… like when a crusty punk kid is walking around wearing a Cure shirt. You KNOW he is still punk as fuck… but has a kind heart beneath the crust.

And that is Turnstile. A band who can’t help but be… sorta nice… even though they are raging with the best of them. Perhaps it’s the impressions I’ve gotten while watching interviews and interactions between band members… and band members and fans… their whole scene…. just seems inherently inviting and cool…. while maintaining the out-of-control wrecking ball that is a live hardcore show.

A standout track and personal fav from that album is ‘Drop’. It has old school thrash-like qualities that reminds me of Prong… and it’s ONLY this song they have in their catalog that reminds me of Prong. Even though it starts with a blast-off punk jump-start, the grooves just get thicker as the song breaks down into heavier and juicier riffage.

Their whole debut is chock full of guitar goodness wrapped in a tasty hard-core candy shell. That might sound like a slight diss… as the ‘core scene tends to pride itself on its overtly macho, tough-guy bully breakdowns, but Turnstile just isn’t trying that hard to be anything other than a great band. ‘Can’t Deny It’ hints at some of the more melodic chances the band would take in future albums with the songs intro… before crunching down hard on those beefy, chunky guitar chops again.

Lots of touring followed, which resulted in their signing to Roadrunner Records (that’s a big deal for those that don’t follow labels) and their second album entitled, “Time & Space” released in 2018.

“Time & Space” Roadrunner Records – 2018

It fine tunes what was presented on their previous album and presents the assault with bigger sonics and more risk-taking in the constructions and arrangements of songs. The controlled bursts of aggression were still hitting on all points, but the band started to be more daring in what they presented as the counter-balance to the edge, namely, little forays into melodies and softer sounds.

It needs to be pointed out this flies against what most bands that wear the same genre tag typically experiment with when it comes to ‘hardcore’-anything. But it’s what makes Turnstile unique. It’s what makes them inherently… listenable. It’s why you are here right now reading about them.

“Generator” is a highlight with a sludgy, almost grunge-esque intro that drags the song in… and then that classic Turnstile tempo upshift pushed by Yates’ unique howl. It shows Turnstile harnessing a lot of that ‘core energy, but ending up with more of a rock song with some catchy backing vocals.

While “Time & Space” does feature a fair share of leaner, meaner, and perhaps a bit more speedy punk infusion, there are tracks that show Turnstile pushing the boundaries of their genre. Like the stop/start rhythms sections of, “Lost Another Piece Of My World” that slice into the song’s more tearaway punk tempos.

As mentioned previously, the band tours. A lot. They’ve built their fan-base with the ‘anywhere, anytime’ mentality that comes naturally in the punk and rock scenes.

 

 

With each album, each tour, each new fan made, the band just kept getting tighter and more hungry. Keeping with the pattern of tour, write, release, repeat…. August of 2021 saw the creation of “Glow On”.

“Glow On” Roadrunner Records – 2021

This is the album that has launched Turnstile into a whole other stratosphere of success. They made their TV debut in December of 2021 on ‘Late Night With Seth Myers’ (who has been CRUSHING it lately with spotting new music talent). In March of 2022, they took they stage at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ and killed it with tracks from “Glow On”. That album has the ‘Holiday’ track I hit you with at the beginning of this article.

Another breakout hitter is, ‘Blackout’. Everything that is good about Turnstile guitars, Yates’ vocals, and drummer Daniel Fangs always catchy beats is on display with this offering.

The single from the album that gets pushed a lot is the opener, ‘Mystery’. It’s nowhere near the album’s stronger tracks, but it does have the ‘softening of the edges’ that seems to be a good entry point for bigger audiences that might not be so welcoming to the ‘core in their normal listening patterns. It’s the same reason, ‘Nothing Else Matters’ basically broke Metallica internationally. It seems audiences respond when really aggressive acts take it down a notch… while their rabid true fans appreciate the bands ‘range’. I see it for the label pleaser it is… but it’s not outside of Turnstile to take things in whatever melodic direction they damn well please, even if it veers a little too close to some poppy punk that doesn’t wear on Turnstile as well as their more edgy numbers. But maybe it’ll do something more for you…

And I would be completely neglecting my duties in introducing you to Turnstile… without hitting you with a little ‘TLC’.

 

The band has an excellent work ethic. I heard of Turnstile long before I HEARD Turnstile. These kinds of bands have my upmost respect. When they hit the stage recently for their Jimmy Kimmel set… I knew they EARNED every fucking bit of that success. I shouldn’t care HOW a band gets success, right?

Turnstile at Damaged City Fest 2018. Photo by Angela Owens.

But I do. I care a lot. It matters to me as a musician and as a long time passionate music fan. I have a very negative reaction to anything I don’t think has put in the time to be in the spotlight. Because I know that spotlight only shines so little for so few… that for everyone that gets that shot…. a thousand more don’t. So when your Machine Gun Kelly type ass-clowns who start beefs for publicity, and jump genres like they are changing clothes somehow manage to fail upwards into success, I am saddened for the hard-working, actually talented bands, who could have benefited from that press, from those slots on rock festivals he doesn’t belong on, and talk shows who give him publicity because he is a joke.

Turnstile is the antithesis to all the pink-covered, industry manufactured, trend-humping bullshit. And have been for over a decade now. It seems this last year or so has been REALLY productive for the band. And good on them because they’ve been on the road earning their shine in the spotlight for a generation now.

They are appearing among the headliners at 2022’s Lollapalooza in Chicago. It makes my metal heart swell to see ANY kind of rock act hitting those heights of success. And all the more so knowing how they got there.