“You really gotta see it live to get it,” Turnstile bassist Franz Lyons sings on ‘No Surprise’, an interlude from the Baltimore hardcore band’s fantastic, five-star new album ‘GLOW ON’. It’s the kind of backhanded compliment given to many bands like Turnstile, fuelling the idea that nothing they commit to tape could be as fiery and energetic as their live shows.
With ‘GLOW ON’, the band rubbish these ideas. Their third album is a whirlwind of hardcore bluster and boundary-breaking left-turns – and it’s also a whole lot of fun. If you’re yet to see them live, the new album is more than sufficient for a kitchen moshpit, and firmly stands on its own two feet.
The band’s live show is lauded for good reason, though, and across the last two weeks they’ve been blazing a trail across the United States around the release of ‘GLOW ON’. The dates began with a huge outdoor show at a bandstand in Clifton Park in the band’s hometown, the free show raising money for the Healthcare For The Homeless initiative.
Footage from the show is more proof of what ‘GLOW ON’ already illustrated: Turnstile are the band of the moment, and the sense of community around their shows and new album could define the first year of post-pandemic live music.
As they close with the thunderous ‘GLOW ON’ highlight ‘T.L.C.’, frontman Brendan Yates hands the mic to a fan who’s made their way up on stage. “I want to thank you for letting me be myself / I want to thank you for letting me see myself,” the fan screams to close the song and the set, and it’s proof of the cast-iron connection between Turnstile and their fans. Through making themselves vulnerable on the new album, the band have allowed fans to confront their own troubles, and the offering goes both ways (the song’s title stands for ‘Turnstile Love Connection’ for a reason).
In a short gap between shows on their run of tour dates, which takes them through to mid-November, NME catches up with Yates at home in Baltimore to discuss the reaction to ‘GLOW ON’, working with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, and why decamping to a Tennessee farm helped the band focus and make their best album yet.
Hi Brendan – you’re about a week back into touring, how has it been so far?
Brendan: “The most amazing thing is being able to see the songs come to life, and then exchange with other people that are in a room with you, and experience it together. The Clifton Park show was particularly great. It’s such an amazing place, and this hidden gem in Baltimore. [The bandstand] is very under-utilised in the park, and it was something that we dreamed about for a long time. It was a perfect time and place to be able to do the show out there, for it to be our first show back and to do it as a benefit show for Healthcare for the Homeless, it felt very appropriate and necessary.”
The hardcore scene revolves so much around in-person interaction and live shows. Did the time alone during the pandemic affect how you see your scene?
“There was a lot of reflection and a lot of time to kind of sit with all your feelings and questions: ‘What are we even doing? What are we? What do we want to do? What’s important? What feels good? What risks are worth taking?’ All those kinds of things are constantly happening, but are definitely accentuated by time alone and not playing live. I definitely grew a level of appreciation for opportunities, and know that for anything moving forward, I am just extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to play and be in a band and make music and meet people and learn.”
Did that time alone make you more determined to be in a band and create art, or distance you from it?
“I think we had a lot of focus on the music and a lot of goals to put our energy into. With that, we want to be able to build something that is a little bigger than us. I think that’s how a lot of people probably felt in quarantine: it was about personal growth, but also finding different ways to look at the world. How do you make something that’s outside of your personal little bubble?”
To make the album, you travelled to a remote farm in Tennessee to work with producer and former Dr. Dre protege Mike Elizondo – did you know from the start that you wanted to do something different this time around?
“We knew that we wanted to do something different for this record as far as a recording process was concerned, mainly because we wanted to make sure that we weren’t too comfortable. Every record is an opportunity to learn. It’s a big opportunity to grow. Once we were able to find someone that was excited to do the record and then once we went down and saw this secluded environment on this farm, it seemed like a good place to just go and seclude ourselves, and to put our energy into a record in a new environment that we hadn’t really experienced before. We knew that we wanted to switch it up, and once we found that kind of opportunity it seemed like a good way to go.”
You worked with Dev Hynes – aka Blood Orange – on two songs from the album. How did that collaboration come about?
“We’ve been in touch for the last couple of years very loosely about doing something, and are fans of each other’s music. I’m such a big Dev and Blood Orange fan, so it was definitely a great experience for us. It was just a great and positive experience and everything that we ended up doing together felt really, really good and natural. In a lot of ways, I admired [Hynes’] openness to just come in and try these ideas in a very free way. We weren’t overthinking anything but embracing natural thought. It made me appreciate the mindset of not limiting any kind of possibility. Everything’s worth trying.”
And do you see the positives that can come from trying and failing, before eventually reaching your goal, in life as well as in a band?
“Yeah, it’s always a process of trying things and figuring out what you do and don’t like. It goes hand-in–hand with your constant growth as a person, finding out things that you like and things that you don’t like. Both of those things equally define what comes out of you. Everything is a process of filtering out and trying to achieve what you’re looking for and what you’re feeling, and getting that out of you in the clearest way possible.”
Turnstile’s ‘GLOW ON’ is out now via Roadrunner.