Clockwise (from left): Brady Ebert, Franz Lyons, Pat McCrory, Daniel Fang and Brendan Yates.

Brendan Yates

  • Words Stephanie Phillips
  • Photography Justin Chung

The Turnstile frontman on hardcore's sweet side.

  • Words Stephanie Phillips
  • Photography Justin Chung

Yates and Ebert had formed their first band as teenagers living on the same street. Lyons was the merch guy for their previous band, Trapped Under Ice, and Fang was a friend from college. McCrory joined from the Baltimore band Angel Du$t.

Life in a touring band brings with it a particular set of hazards. Brendan Yates, lead singer of the Baltimore hardcore band Turnstile, has just experienced the big one: The tour van broke down. “I had a rough morning,” he confesses over the phone, speaking from the recently repaired van as the five-piece band races toward their next show in Phoenix. 

Judging by the reaction to their new album, Glow On, this won’t be the last time the band will be faced with battling the vagaries of life on tour. Their eclectic sound, which merges everything from R&B and samba music to noughties rap rock and funk, has lured in fans beyond the US hardcore scene: They’ve even played Coachella. The band’s ascent toward the mainstream has also been spurred along by their collaborations with producer and artist Blood Orange, a major label deal with Roadrunner Records and their unswerving commitment to having fun with it all. 

Stephanie Phillips: What was your first entry point into hardcore music?

Brendan Yates:  We started going to hardcore shows when we were super young. We would go to neighborhood shows where our friends’ bands would play. Once we started going to high school, we found our way to hardcore shows in the city and met older friends who started taking us to more shows. When you become a teenager, you realize you can actually be a part of the music that you’re hearing and it’s not just like this distant mysterious thing that only exists in your headphones. 

SP: The sense of community that you find in those kinds of spaces can be as important as the music.

BY: Yes, it’s important. Growing up, I loved music so much, but it wasn’t really anything that existed outside of me in my bedroom. My first experience of being able to go to a show and meet people that like similar music, it started to become real.

SP: What do you think people get wrong about the hardcore and punk scene?

BY: People being excited and dancing can come off as people trying to hurt each other. When there are shows, at least the ones that we’re familiar with, people are going and looking out for each other. It’s a way to let people express themselves and throw their bodies around, but we’re also picking each other up. No one’s trying to hurt each other.

SP: There isn’t the kind of violence that people assume there is in those spaces.

BY: And that’s not to say it doesn’t exist. The cool thing is, when there is a community, it’s something that’s regulated within itself. If there’s someone causing trouble at a show, then that’s not cool.

Yates and Ebert had formed their first band as teenagers living on the same street. Lyons was the merch guy for their previous band, Trapped Under Ice, and Fang was a friend from college. McCrory joined from the Baltimore band Angel Du$t.

SP: I read that you wrote most of your songs in your bedroom. I always write on the sofa. Do you feel it’s important to have a place you go to spark creativity?

BY: The bedroom is the place where I can pace back and forth for hours straight, thinking about a thing. If you go somewhere else outside there’s maybe subconscious pressures on time. [The bedroom] is the most comfortable place where you can fully turn your brain off and submerse yourself in your own thoughts. 

SP: While on tour, do you have any pre-show rituals?

BY: I’ll try to do things, breathing exercises, to feel more connected with the moment. I physically prepare as well so I don’t hurt myself if I’m jumping around or acting silly. I do little vocal exercises too because I don’t really know what I’m doing when I’m singing. I just get excited and yell and lose my voice so I try to do anything to be more conscious of stretching that part of my body out. Once we’re playing I totally don’t think about it. I definitely lose my voice way more than I would like to.

SP: There’s been a resurgence in hardcore and heavy rock which has seen bands like yours, as well as IDLES and Chubby and the Gang, rise in popularity. Why do you think people are leaning toward it?

BY: Maybe it’s just the way that life naturally circulates. People want something that feels different. It is exciting though, because there’s so many great bands. I don’t think visibility or accessibility ever determines the greatness of a band, but it is cool when those two things overlap.

SP: Hardcore fans have often bristled against bands that move beyond the scene. Is the idea of selling out something you and rest of the band ever worry about? 

BY: No, I don’t think that’s ever a concern for us. The only way that happens is when you’re changing yourself for some reason. I look at the band as an outlet to reflect our growth as humans as well, so it’s always going to be reflective of where we’re at and our influences and things we’re excited about. To ever keep that in one place is essentially stunting your own personal growth. I try to be open—to always be learning and challenging my perspective.

You are reading a complimentary story from Issue 43

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