Bayou City

Turnstile Proves Hardcore Can Exist On a Major Label

Turnstile's latest release "Time & Space" has received praise from everyone.
Turnstile's latest release "Time & Space" has received praise from everyone. Photo by Jimmy Fontaine

Twenty years ago, if you were a punk band and you signed to a major label, you were called a sellout. Not much has changed in the punk underground in regards to that sentiment, but when you look at a band like Baltimore's Turnstile, the phrase sellout shouldn't enter your mouth. Recently dropping the album Time & Space, the five piece who have never really followed the rules of hardcore put it out with Roadrunner Records.

The album, hailed by pretty much every critic in music, isn't a far cry from what the band did on smaller labels, while adding a bigger production to their sound. The Houston Press sat down with singer Brendan Yates about signing to a major label, working with Will Yip, and what they have planned for their show here tonight.

When you look at the Baltimore and D.C. music world, there's an obvious sound to the bands that come up in those cities. The scene is rife with names like Ian MacKaye, Mary Timony, and on and on. When asked if growing up in that scene helped shaped the band's sound, Yates replied, "it definitely did. Growing up there and still living there, the bands from there have a notable diversity that added to and influenced our sound."

And while that sound has never really changed too much, the fact is that there's a notable thing that happens to hardcore bands that sign to major labels, they typically get called out and can't grow a fan base. In the case of Turnstile, that hasn't seemed to have happened, as they already deterred from what most hardcore bands would do in the first place. When we inquired if such a move scared the band, Yates says, "I think of a label as a tool that a band should use to make their band the best they can be. Roadrunner had reached out to us years ago to put out something with us, but we didn't really have a relationship with them at that time. Over the years, we realized that we had a lot of friends who worked there, and so it was an easy decision to work with them."

With a larger budget and a larger amount of time to make the album, Time & Space has a couple of different things like a track with Diplo production as well as a track with Tina Halladay of Sheer Mag on it. When asked if the budget and time helped get those newer elements on the album, Yates says "I think everything we do is a natural progression. The label, using Diplo and having Tina on a track, they're all friends we had known for years. We talked to Diplo in the past and had talked about working together on something, but we never really had anything to use him on. Then I wanted this laser sound and that's how he came to work on that track. The same with Tina, she just stopped by the studio and added her vocals. None of that was forced, it was all natural."

And those moves may have caused some rumbling from the punk community, though that's just par for the course as per Yates. "I think with anything you do, the bigger the platform, you'll get that for the most part. But, overall the reception to the album and the tour has been really positive. We didn't really change on our end. You can tell when a band changes for financial reasons, but that's not us."

There are moments on Time & Space where it really just feels like Turnstile on a larger scale. produced by Will Yip (Lauryn Hill, Circa Survive), the album has old school hardcore moments as well as thunderous parts that stand out more than the typical hardcore release. "We met Will years ago in 2015 and Daniel recorded a seven inch with him. Then he did an Angel Du$t release with us, and he became a close friend. You have options when you go to record a record, and you can either go with some big name that you know nothing about, or you can go with someone who cares about your band. That's why we chose Will, cause' he had a connection with us," says Yates.
"Time & Space" is an energetic ride from start to finish. - ARTWORK COURTESY OF ROADRUNNER RECORDS
"Time & Space" is an energetic ride from start to finish.
Artwork courtesy of Roadrunner Records

Now, with a record that charted high and received tons of critical acclaim, the band is back out on the road doing what they do best, playing live. For anyone who's never seen Turnstile live, the shows are a mix of crazed energy and sweaty thrill ride from beginning to end. When we asked how the record's acclaim has affected the band, and what they have planned for their live shows now, Yates responds, "I don't know how the charting thing really works, so it doesn't factor into any decisions we make as a band. All we wanted to do was get back out on the road and play some shows. I think the shows are typically the same, though they've changed a bit just cause' there's new songs and new kids at the shows. Overall, the live show is who we are as a band first and foremost, and that won't ever change."

No matter what, Turnstile should be a band that's on your radar sooner than later. You can stream the entire catalog from Turnstile in all of the usual places, or order Time & Space directly from Roadrunner Records. You can catch Turnstile live and in person tonight at Houston Undergrnd. The all ages show will also feature sets from Touche Amore, Culture Abuse, Razorbumps, and The Real Cost. Doors at 6:30 p.m.; tickets $18 to $20.
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David Garrick is a former contributor to the Houston Press. His articles focus primarily on Houston music and Houston music events.