Hardcore, in the broadest strokes, follows a known live formula: a guy death-grips a microphone in his fist and screams about betrayal into a pack of other guys crowding a low stage while some more guys scramble to get on said stage to front-flip off it. (While there are infinite regional permutations of hardcore, they almost all involve a lot of guys). Quick songs, quick sets, pure energy and aggression. As Adlan Jackson aptly put it in The New Yorker recently: “Something you wouldn’t expect of people involved in hardcore: they actually love rules.” Turnstile breaks a ton of those rules.
Formed in Baltimore, Maryland, in 2010, the band has gotten big via hardcore heterodoxy. 2021’s trippy and beloved GLOW ON was a breakthrough, bringing them more press and bigger shows. Through it all, Turnstile has grown a following that hugs each other and sings every word. No one minds that frontman Brendan Yates dares to twirl and slide and dance.
At a recent show in Queens, New York, it was clear that Turnstile’s fans adore them for creating an inclusive space. They don’t know about the rules and they don’t care about the rules. They’re uniquely internet kids who remain genuinely agnostic about the conventions of the purported subculture of the band they were seeing. From that point of view, Turnstile is a definitively internet-y band, in that they are also free.
My instinctive response to Turnstile—that they are “rule breakers”—makes me feel stuck in the old, ’90s ways of thinking, the days when there were all kind of rules. But for the first time in a long time, watching Turnstile play, I felt the internet as a force of good. My default state of mind is that the promise of music on the internet long ago slipped away into the dominance of streaming services that force or trick millions of listeners into prefab genres. But here was an older, less cynical idea, acted out in front of me: Without the internet providing them access to everything, these kids would likely still be stuck in the old ways of thinking too.
Turnstile, explains drummer Daniel Fang, grew out of a very specific subculture, and now attempts to operate in a post-subculture mentality. “The more accessible music is, through the internet, through streaming services, the better,” he says during an interview from the band’s tour stop in Oslo. “We definitely grew up playing super DIY basement venues where everyone came from a very common thread of preference in terms of culture and music. But while that’s really beautiful and grounding, it’s cool to have a really shocking variety of people come from different backgrounds and somehow feel an even greater sense of solidarity at these shows even though the only thing tying it together is that feeling that’s spontaneously created at the live show.”
Exactly. But how did you do that?