Ready Or Not, Turnstile Is Breaking Through

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Can a hardcore punk band impact the U.S. mainstream in 2021? Turnstile may soon provide an answer: Ahead of its third album, Glow On (out Aug. 27 on Roadrunner Records), the Baltimore quintet has been steadily gaining buzz beyond the hard-rock community, thanks in part to enviable live bookings, new collaborations with Blood Orange mastermind Dev Hynes and recent social media shoutouts from Blink-182’s Tom DeLonge and Paramore’s Hayley Williams. (“This band has always been so cool and the new music smacksssssss me,” Williams tweeted in July.)

The major cosigns coincide with an album that is both more ambitious and accessible than Turnstile’s 2018 Roadrunner debut, Time & Space, which peaked atop Billboard’s Heatseekers Albums chart and has earned 36,000 equivalent album units, according to MRC Data. “We’ve never been this happy with how everything has turned out,” says drummer Daniel Fang. “I feel like a teenager putting out my first demo.”

Elektra Music Group senior vp Chris Brown adds that there’s a palpable excitement around the band within Warner Music Group. “People are coming out of the woodwork just talking about the record, wanting to see this band win.”

Turnstile didn’t have grand aspirations when childhood friends Brendan Yates (frontman) and Brady Ebert (lead guitarist) formed the band in Burtonsville, Md., in 2010, with Fang, bassist Franz Lyons and guitarist Pat McCrory soon joining the fold. The group dominated Baltimore’s hardcore scene in the early 2010s and issued debut album Nonstop Feeling on Reaper Records in 2015, then jumped to Roadrunner for Time & Space, all the while refining its groove-laden brand of metalcore. Now the band’s crossover potential rests on that expansive sound: Glow On combines mosh-ready riffs and Yates’ caustic vocal jabs with disparate elements including piano lines (“Don’t Play”), cowbell (“Blackout”) and Mustard-esque beats (“Holiday”).

Turnstile made gestures outside of its genre prior to the album: After Diplo was corralled to co-produce a song on Time & Space, Turnstile released Share a View, a dance-infused collaborative EP with Australian producer Mall Grab, last year. For Glow On, the act brought in Hynes to contribute to three songs, including psychedelic singalong “Alien Love Call.” They also brought in veteran producer Mike Elizondo, who’s worked on major projects from a diverse array of A-listers — Maroon 5, Fiona Apple, Twenty One Pilots — after starting out as Dr. Dre’s protege.

Yates, who co-produced the album with Elizondo, says the band wanted to inject “more imagination into these songs,” and didn’t shy away from instruments or production techniques not necessarily associated with heavy rock.

“It’s allowing your gut instinct to come out in the music, whether it’s with percussion stuff, pianos or different sounds,” he says. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But if it pops up in your mind, it’s for a reason, and we always try to capture that.” To ensure each detail popped, a painstaking mixing and mastering process lasted nearly a year after the album was recorded in summer 2020.

The release of Glow On, which was previewed by the four-song Turnstile Love Connection EP in June, coincides with the group’s return to the stage and the communal thrashing that their live show produces. Headlining gigs will take place between appearances at festivals like Firefly and Slipknot’s Knotfest, as well as dates in support of hip-hop duo $uicideboy$, in the fall.

“The intersection of shows coming back and this album coming out around the same time is so revitalizing,” says Fang. Meanwhile, Brown says Turnstile’s team wants to energize its hardcore base while also courting new listeners who may latch on to Glow On’s immediate hooks.

“One of our big goals has been building a streaming fan base,” says Brown, “because coming from a niche genre like hardcore, there’s not a ton of streams coming out of that space. So we knew that we needed work to be done there, and we’ve seen great results and some strong support from the [digital service providers].” Turnstile has been featured prominently on current rock, punk and alternative playlists on Spotify, while Brown notes that the band’s first real rock radio push is “something that we may look at doing a little bit after the record comes out.”

Whether or not Glow On is the album to facilitate Turnstile’s breakthrough, Brown sees an undeniable opportunity for the act to serve as a natural interloper between hard-rock purists and the sonic melting pot of the mainstream. “They can be a face for where music is today, as far as being genre-agnostic,” he says. “Rock is, unfortunately, segmented in a lot of ways, but we see hip-hop artists wearing metal T-shirts. I think we’ve been waiting for an artist who can really bring different sounds together, update the genre and change the game.”

For the members of Turnstile, the commercial viability of Glow On is less of a focus than unveiling the project that required the band’s longest start-to-finish recording process to date. “It feels… not scary, but vulnerable, in a way,” says Yates. “You never really know what will happen when someone finally hears what you’ve been doing for so long.”

This story originally appeared in the Aug. 28, 2021, issue of Billboard. 

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