Forget about all the cliches of hardcore punk when listening to Turnstile. The five-piece Baltimore act—frontman Brendan Yates, bassist and supporting vocalist Franz Lyons, lead guitarist Brady Ebert, rhythm guitarist Pat McCrory, and drummer Dan Fang—manages to embody them while simultaneously breaking them, turning up the production of traditionally cheesy metallic hardcore tropes and intersplicing them with soul, rock, R&B, and more.
Hardcore purists have turned their noses up at Time & Space, the band’s first new album since 2015’s crossover record Nonstop Feeling. How can you take a band like Turnstile seriously when they pair thick, melodic breakdowns with highly produced vocals on “Moon” or a hard rock outro on “Generator”? It’s simple. You listen closely and hear how much fun they’re having; that’s when it all makes sense. The larger embrace of that on Time & Space has gotten them a lot of attention, especially at their live shows. It’s there that the people most often banished to the fringes of hardcore—people of color, the youth, women, nonbinary and trans folks—can feel welcome. The further their music is shared, hopefully the more people will come out to their shows and feel welcome, fans or not.
“With every record, we naturally do what feels good for us at the time as people are always progressing,” says frontman Brendan Yates. “Getting press about it has been so cool. The Washington Post, the New York Times, the New Yorker, stuff like that was cool and special because those are the kind of things I can show my dad as he actually reads those. It’s cool to be in the eyes of a diverse selection of people. That’s always true, no matter the context. This album and everything happening around it has been super special.”
To get to know the day-to-day backstories that bring life to an album like this one, we interviewed Brendan Yates for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Time & Space as the prompt, his answers are both uncomplicated and jocular—personality traits that the whole band will sport when headlining the Paradise Rock Club this Monday.
1) “Real Thing”
DIGBOSTON: Can you name two of the realest issues hardcore still struggles with decades since its formation?
YATES: In general, I think any problem that exists that I can think of isn’t a total problem. Some people think certain ways and others think other ways. This isn’t a huge problem with everybody. I feel weird talking about negative things I don’t like about hardcore, you know? I think people supporting each other more and tearing each other down less. There should be more promoting of things you think are great and less energy spent on things that aren’t.
The other issue is embracing diversity in everything: sound, outlook, people. Just what people would expect so far of hardcore and learning to go bigger than that.
2) “Big Smile”
DIGBOSTON: Out of all the people you know, who has the best smile?
YATES: Honestly, probably Franz [Lyons], who plays bass in Turnstile. He’s got the pearly whites and the beautiful, huge smile. He makes everyone feel amazing even if you just look at his face. It’s extra contagious. If you see him smiling real big, then you’re locked in with him.
DIGBOSTON: Who in the band generates the most energy onstage?
YATES: I think it’s a team effort, because everyone feeds off one another. Franz does a good job of feeding off whatever is going on, though. I’m giving a lot of praise to him, I realize, but he’s the type of person you look at if you lose focus and gets you back in the zone.
DIGBOSTON: When you were growing up, did you ever create your own mini explosives, like cherry bombs?
YATES: Oh yeah, I did those all the time. We blew up a lot of stuff. We made potato guns that we would shoot houses with. We got big PVC pipes and rigged this little explosion thing to the end of it so it shoots the potato a thousand miles an hour out the other end of it. We were always lighting things on fire and blowing small things up in my neighborhood. I grew up between Baltimore and DC, right between the two. A potato gun is so fun, though. It was the craziest thing to have when young. My one friend was the extra bad kid in school, and he knew how to make bombs. He got suspended from high school for having bomb ingredients in his bag—not that he was trying to blow us up, he just wanted to make a tiny explosion like a cherry bomb. Life was crazy growing up because of him [laughs].
5) “I Don’t Wanna Be Blind”
DIGBOSTON: Which place or location do you frequent that you would no longer go to if you were permanently blind?
YATES: This skate park by my house, probably. Skating in the lower park by my house would be dangerous without vision. I skate pretty often. We always bring our boards on tour and skate when we can. We skate when chilling at home, too.
6) “High Pressure”
DIGBOSTON: When was the last time you were under a lot of stress?
YATES: I think there’s always a constant stress when you keep yourself super busy, whether it’s a negative stress or a positive stress. Just being sick recently while traveling, because traveling can be hectic and on the go, being sick has made it a lot harder and stressful. I’ve been stressing to make sure my mental and physical health are being taken care of while traveling, playing hard, and trying to sleep.
7) “(Lost Another) Piece of My World”
DIGBOSTON: Which memory from your childhood do you think others could benefit from had they experienced it, too?
YATES: Maybe getting beat up? Sometimes getting roughed up a little bit can be a reality check. I would get beat up for being a little brat in school. [laughs] I want to think of something cooler, though…
Actually, having a camping trip with my dad was a great memory, as simple and minor as that sounds. It’s stuck with me forever. Small, magical moments like that in your childhood are things you connect to and think about often throughout life. Being in the wilderness with my dad and having someone try to expand my imagination through an experience like that was a really cool thing that I enjoyed as a kid and is something I imagine would help others if they had that experience, too. I had an older sister who would show me music. Having someone older than you who takes this little kid under their wing is great. She made me tapes and showed me cool songs. It’s so important to have people that show you things at that age because you’re in such a vulnerable point. All the things my sister showed me totally shaped what I’m doing now in my life.
8) “Can’t Get Away”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something or someone you’ve been trying to distance yourself from over the past few years but it’s been hard to do so?
YATES: I’ve been trying to distance myself from eating too many sweets. Sweets are my downfall. I definitely have an extra sharp sweet tooth. I still love ice cream a lot, but yeah, I need to tone it back. I’m at Whole Foods right now and I’m going in a positive direction: looking at the hot bar, getting some vegetables, that stuff. The easiest sweet to cut out has been soda. I’ve been replacing it with kombucha. It’s definitely not the same, but it’s giving me a similar taste for the carbonation and the bitter soda taste. I haven’t had soda in a few weeks now, which is pretty cool.
DIGBOSTON: What are you reminded of when you look at the moon?
YATES: Probably individuals in my life that are special. Without going into too much detail, it’s people who positively affect my life are who I think about.
10) “Come Back For More / H.O.Y.”
DIGBOSTON: Where was the last place you ate a second serving of a meal?
YATES: Oh, it was at the Twin Peaks diner in Seattle where they shoot it. It’s called Twede’s Cafe or Diner, I think? So I got a big-ass slice of pie and a black coffee. I finished my slice of pie and it was so magical that I had to get another one, even if I shouldn’t have. I got another slice of pie in the Twin Peaks diner to go with my cup of coffee. I just started drinking coffee, too, so late in my life! It was just such a perfect magical experience so I had to go back for more. Both were cherry pie. They had different flavors, but that’s the one to get, you know?
11) “Right To Be”
DIGBOSTON: When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up that felt “right”?
YATES: Honestly, I wanted to play in a band. That’s all I wanted to do. I knew it when I was young. I’ve been lucky because I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do. I grew up drumming and always wanted to drum. I play drums in another band. That’s all I wanted to do, that and skateboarding, but that felt a little less possible.
DIGBOSTON: If you were alive for the disco heyday, who would have been your must-see artist?
YATES: I love the Bee Gees, so maybe them. When I think disco, I think of the Bee Gees, and I love them. That’d be a classic one to see.
13) “Time + Space”
DIGBOSTON: What’s something you want to own but don’t have the space for?
YATES: A hot tub. I would love to own a hot tub. There’s no way I could fit a hot tub where I live or ever afford having a hot tub. I could have my friends over and we would just chill in it. In a dream, it could fit like 100 people. It’d be a big-ass hot tub. In Budapest, they have huge hot baths that’s basically the biggest pool ever except it’s all a hot tub. So cool.
TURNSTILE, TOUCHE AMORE, CULTURE ABUSE, RAZORBUMPS. MON 5.7. PARADISE ROCK CLUB, 967 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 6PM/ALL AGES/$18. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM