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Turnstile on Baltimore, Hardcore's Mount Rushmore, and the Cult of Personality

"A lot of the nu-metal radio rock is definitely not an influence or a goal for the band, but I think it's that everyone has their own frame of reference for how they hear."
July 24, 2015, 3:23pm

It's been a few months since we last checked in with Turnstile. In that time, the Baltimore band has positively exploded, moving from exciting prospect to one of the most talked about bands in hardcore. The reason why is simple; Turnstile's approach is fresh, taking 90's influences from everything from hard rock to metal and mixing with more traditional hardcore ideas. While hardcore is talking about positivity while juxtaposing those messages against downtuned, minor-key riffs, Turnstile is keeping things sunny and fresh with a strong "nonstop feeling."

Blake Roemer interviewed Brendan Yates from Turnstile before their triumphant return for This is Hardcore 2015. The results are below.

NOISEY: Hearing Turnstile for the first time, I thought it was a really similar to Trapped Under. Was your instinct to start a band that was similar to the one you were in?
Brendan Yates: I think honestly, the first record we did was just a demo, it was six songs that we did. And that was straight up, it was me and the guitar player Brady who lived up the street from me, who I've been playing in bands with since I was a young kid. So I just wanted to do something with him. So basically we just did it half and half, he wrote two songs all himself, I wrote two songs all myself, and then we did two songs together. It was, honestly, the freedom of starting a band and not having a specific sound was like what we embrace, obviously, taking from similar influences because that's the kind of music I'm a fan of. So I can definitely see similarities but also there's like kind of just trying different things…

It's not as limited. I've come to see it's a lot more creative and it's a lot less mean, if that makes sense? It's not dark and aggressive. I don't wanna say it's positive to create the illusion of some posi-core nonsense, but it's more energetic and fun than it is negative. Trapped Under Ice was a harder thing as a listener and a fan of both bands…
Yeah, definitely, I think musically that comes a lot from more rock, alternative influences like 90s and late 80s rock that's not as heavy but more rocky I guess.

Our overall goal is make music that's exciting, by the way it sounds and not anything that's, I don't know, I'd say exciting is the main goal if I had to put it into one word.

It's definitely energetic. A buddy of mine a long time ago compared it to a style of writing that a lot of people share where it's like you just put a lot of interesting parts together that might not necessarily make sense but the changes are so drastic- it's like a rollercoaster almost, the parts change and there are surprises. There were a lot of turnarounds I didn't see coming…
I think what me and Justice have in common, with writing with Trapped Under Ice for example, I think Sam brings the heavier side but also the song structure, you know like verse-core sort of thing, whereas Justice brings the weirder, pretty much Angel Du$t style. That's what he brings to TUI which, mixed in with Sam's stuff, is what makes the band. I think what Justice and I have in common is being sort of A.D.D. musically where you don't want to sit on certain parts for too long. I like in and out musically, with the way the structures and stuff like that works. I like songs that are no longer than three minutes. We're sticking to two-minute range.

Touching upon our conversation earlier, is there a nu-metal radio rock influence? And if so, is that an intentional thing or is it ironic?
A lot of the nu-metal radio rock is definitely not an influence or a goal for the band, but I think that's just kind of that everyone has their own frame of reference for how they hear. One person was saying it sounds like 311 and another person would say certain parts sound like Bad Brains. I don't know, I think we're not really going for anything other than building off of influences and trying to make it our own way and make it exciting. Not just exciting as in crazy and fast, but even the singing parts and the way it catches your ear a little bit.

One thing I hear tossed around a lot which I think it really funny is all of a sudden is this obsession with Living Colour. What are your thoughts on Living Colour?
I love Living Colour.

Alright, confirm or deny: the only good Living Colour song was "Cult of Personality" and it was only a trick to make everybody else think the rest of it was that good but it wasn't…
I'm gonna have to deny. Because I love a lot of songs off that record [_Vivid_], that's a record that feels very creative and it's not trying to. They're straight up; they love the Bad Brains and you can tell that, but it's straight up pop songs. I love all the records, and I love Vernon Reid on the guitar…

He is great. It's just funny because everyone in my age group growing up heard "Cult of Personality" for the first time we were so for it; we thought it was like the hardest shit ever. We all rushed out to buy the record and got home and put the record on and called each other. "Dude, what the fuck is with the rest of it, it's not that good, this was totally like a trick…"
I know. I'm younger maybe, so I guess you hear it differently. When I heard it I think I just got excited and all the poppy songs were just so, cuz honestly that was a song that I heard on the radio when I was like 10-years-old or something like that? So that seemed kinda hard to me, that was like, I wouldn't say they were one of the harder bands I got into, but that was a hard song. So hearing the pop songs they did with distorted guitars and the craziest guitar solos, I thought it was sick.

Your shows are always real crazy, which brings me to This Is Hardcore last year, which was the first time I saw you guys play. People were going ape shit and it was fun to see that. You guys had one of the best sets that we saw that day, yet the fest had a lot of older bands that didn't get that good of a response and probably got paid a whole lot more… How do you think the hardcore scene is with ushering in new bands? You think all these older bands who are hanging on and sucking up the resources, is it misbalanced or displaced? Where do you see yourselves in the scheme of things?
A band that hasn't played for however long, obviously it's exciting but I think I can definitely see an imbalance. I forget who headlined our day, was it Madball? That is awesome, that's a band that's still relevant and has been putting out music consistently for a longtime. They played Set It Off, which I think was awesome. I guess it makes sense because these bands haven't played in so long and the only way to get them together is toss a guarantee in their face.

That was definitely an exciting show and the first This Is Hardcore too. Both that we played were really exciting because it's a hardcore show with 3,000 people or something.

Being a band that's played so many different fests around the world, how do you think This Is Hardcore holds up to fests like Fluff Fest or Ieper Fest? What's the experience? I think there's nothing like it in the states, it has this Euro-Fest vibe going on…a lot of bands to see in a small window.
I think This Is Hardcore has built a strong foundation for an East Coast Hardcore fest and I think United Blood is a great fest on a smaller scale. This Is Hardcore is four days so there are so many bands, which can be draining a little, but those four days you capture every aspect of hardcore. Every style of band that you can imagine from a band like us to a band like Full of Hell…

Or Stigmata, I love the diversity… it isn't one dimensional, he welcomes all different styles and walks of life…
Definitely, it's crazy. That's the biggest fest. I think it holds the flag for getting the most people in one hardcore fest in the United States.

This year who is your #1 pick that you want to see at This Is Hardcore?
Oh man, there are so many bands on the flyer. Let me think. I think it'll be cool to see Snapcase because I've never seen them, I've also never seen American Nightmare. There are a lot of cool bands. I think Forced Order from California just got added. I think that band is great.

If you had to make a Mount Rushmore of hardcore characters, who would be your four?
Oh man. Justice would definitely be one of them, for a couple of reasons. I think he's a really interesting person and I've always looked up to him as a bigger brother for starting to bring me to shows and I've always admired his creative ability to do things that I think are really cool. For me he's definitely up there.

HR from Bad Brains, for sure. Everyone has his or her own definition of punk, but I think he's the ultimate definition.

He's the ultimate wildcard.
I think Daniel Fang because he's the cornerstone to every Baltimore band. I feel like he has a lot to contribute and he's also one of my best friends. I admire him a lot and everything he does including his drumming. We've always kind of fed off of each other a little bit with drumming and ideas about things like being in a hardcore band. We've always kind of pushed each other.

I'll say Freddy Madball because that was the first hardcore band I ever heard in my life. I used to listen to Madball and I didn't even know what hardcore music was. My friend had a tape and he would play it, so I went to my friend at school and I was like "Hey this is a band called Madball you have to download the record for me," because I didn't have a computer, she got me a mixed CD and I would listen to it all the time.

That's a solid choice. I was lucky enough to see them when Set It Off came out and that's when I was transitioning into hardcore from being into metal and thrash. They were ferocious, that show was a life changer for me. That made me want to be in a hardcore band, just the hardest and coolest band at the time. That period in time when it was the first two 7"s and the first record, they were untouchable.
I remember there's a song called "Show No Fear," that I remember from that mix CD. I put it in my dad's car and I was so excited, and the song starts off with Freddy going "Fuck you!" super loud. My dad tried to take it out and throw it out the window while he was driving and I was reaching like "No!!"

There were so many terrible bands I would play in the car all the time, my dad probably said "Man, this is pretty bad." It probably was.

It's par for the course.
If I had to take Freddy off I would put Zach de la Rocha. I think Inside Out is a band that screams urgency more than any other hardcore band. I've always admired him as a frontman, a person with energy and something to say. I think he's someone that captures something I love about hardcore as far as bringing an energy that's undeniable.

Maybe we can give Daniel Fang and Justice a half head, their faces make a profile.
I may have to give Freddy Madball a half head.

Where do you see hardcore going for you guys? What do you want to get out of this? What are the goals you want to conquer that you haven't?
I'm not sure I think everything that we're doing is everything that I want to do. I think the only thing we haven't done is just play to more people and just really enjoy the creative time as much as we can and tour just be able to make music and just be excited about it. I don't know. It's hard. If you asked me four or five years ago, we've been a band for a good five years now and I wouldn't say much has changed. I'm sure, I don't know what the lifespan of this band will be because it's hard to say, I never know what the lifespan of any bad will be. But at least for right now we're all just really excited to be creative and be doing something that excites us and playing hardcore music. I think that's the only goal. Playing to more people, that's always a goal for every band I guess. Sharing and connecting with more people I guess.