Turnstile are next-wave hardcore traditionalists. Turn up.
Photo by Nic Samoya
A voice bellows out to a sea of knowing squad; “This feeling is what they want! This feeling is what they get!”
And so begins Turnstile’s latest effort, Nonstop Feeling, which was released earlier this year to the excitement of hardcore kids everywhere, and to more fanfare than expected outside of that community. The tour they’re finishing up has put them in front of more people than ever, with crowds topping out at 1,600. It’s their first consistent experience with big stages and barriers, and something they’re still trying to navigate while doling out their exuberant brand of music. A recent date in Paris served as a respite from the monster crowds—500 kids with no barrier seems to be the sweet spot.
Turnstile are smack in the middle of an eight-band bill that traverses pockets of Europe once a year called the “Persistence Tour.” Still, amongst the fray, it’s easy to find solace far from home, which for most of the band’s members is Baltimore. The top of the tour bill features venerable old guard favorites like Sick Of It All and Ignite. “Most nights we play cards with those dudes,” Turnstile bassist ‘Freaky’ Franz Lyons says with a slight twang that is an instant reminder of how close his home state of Ohio is to Kentucky. I (falsely) picture SOIA bassist Craig Ahead—formerly of NYHC legends Straight Ahead—raising members of the Turnstile tribe ungodly amounts of money in a cutthroat game of Texas Hold ‘Em. I ask who wins the most money only to find they play Mafia, the sort of game where everyone draws a card, puts their head down, and is assigned a role.
With two jobs at home, Lyons assures me that no one is making enough money to be gambling from this. It doesn’t look like they will be changing up their attitudes any time in the foreseeable future, either. Franz uses a shirt from his first hardcore show in Dayton, circa 2001 as a pillowcase on U.S. tours, and his mantra to getting older in hardcore is simply, “Let everyone know you’re a hardcore kid.” In a scene best known for sticking to its own with a particular ferocity, their new record has been met with nearly universal acclaim. Still, there are plenty of ill-advised comparisons to be made.
It goes something like 311 x Red Hot Chili Peppers x Rage Against the Machine, the last of which they don’t mind, but maybe more because they like the band than because they made an effort to sound like them. Scattered verses from the LP’s standout “Can’t Deny It” come closer to Desperate Measures-era Leeway than any 311 song. Check Leeway gem “Catholic School Girls” if you need further proof and a guarantee that all thoughts of Kiedis’ stupid sock rock will quickly vanish. If that’s not enough, give the title track from Bad Brains’ oft overlooked ’89 release Quickness a spin and you are fully assured to feel exactly where Turnstile stand with their sound.
In many ways, Nonstop Feeling is like a book reopened; the experimental funk of late ‘80s hardcore tinged with the alternative rock wave that followed it. This musical hybrid informs their visual aesthetic as well, evidenced by the colorful illustration laid over the black-and-white photo gracing the album sleeve—evoking early ‘90s jammers Living Colour, among others.
Although songs had already been written for the record, the look helped the songwriting all take shape, putting color to the melody, shading to the driving beats. Therein lies the trick. Friend and band mate to members of the band, Trapped Under Ice/Angel Du$t frontman Justice Tripp chalks the vibe up to personality, without discounting its intent; “They are real deal weirdos that do something just different enough that it stands out, while as a hardcore punk fan, you can still relate to it.”
Ultimately, any analysis gives way to a record that’s both joyous and heavy, celebrating a dance that’s always been an object of outside scorn and internal pride: moshing. You don’t need to know that they’re following up an EP called Step 2 Rhythm to get the idea that Turnstile wants you to move. But while this sort of dance has always been tribal in nature, and certainly designed as an aggressive outlet, the music on this record eschews the violence usually aligned with the sound. “I think it’s important so people feel like they can come to the show and genuinely express themselves in the pit, diving off the stage, or whatever,” says Franz. The booming drum beat makes you want to jump and swing your arms, without needing to beat the person next to you.
Upcoming tour plans will take the band to Japan, Brazil, and back across the United States twice over. Even far from home, keeping a firm grasp on who they are and what they do won’t be hard for the Turnstile crew.