Baltimore hardcore rockers Turnstile have never been afraid to take a boundaryless, fluid approach to their creative process.
Whether it’s frontman Brandon Yates making his directorial debut with his 2021 short film TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION, or the band’s new collaboration with Converse for their Create Now, Create Next campaign, it’s evident that Turnstile are ever-evolving and refuse to be bound creatively.
Speaking to Rolling Stone Australia, Yates and guitarist Pat McCrory discussed the group’s creative process behind Turnstile’s culture-defying music, while detailing their constant need to strive for growth without limits.
“We take time to just collect ideas, really small bits and pieces of ideas over days, weeks, months, even years,” Yates explains of how a Turnstile track comes to be.
“Once they kind of start to take shape, I don’t really put a time limit on it and naturally let it take shape, whether that’s like one song or the whole album – or whatever it ends up being.
“Once it feels complete we will then take the time to make it come to fruition in the studio or whatever it is.”
McCrory adds, “There tends to be like a natural process, but tends to be like whatever the song demands. Sometimes that might be meticulously sitting down and going over and over a single chord or a single progression in a song and flipping it back and forth and changing it up.
“And sometimes it’s just the first take and Brendan might come in on piano and then there’s the song. It’s just whatever energy is kind of coming from everybody.”
Known best for their genre-bending punk records, which infuse classic rock guitar riffs to create a unique sound rooted in impulsive risk-taking and personal expression, Yates explained the importance of not sticking to societal norms when it comes to making music.
“It’s not so much pushing ourselves somewhere different, I think it’s just kind of pushing ourselves to embrace what we want, like what feels right to do as opposed to trying to expand unnaturally,” he says.
Embracing what “feels right” creatively is a theme evident in tracks like 2015’s melodic “Blue By You” and the infectious “MYSTERY”.
“I think songs like [Blue By You] are ones that just feel right and I think a big thing with creating is accepting that some things may not make sense, but if they feel right that’s the most important thing, let that lead way as opposed to if it makes you feel vulnerable or if it feels too different. You’re mostly just embracing your gut feeling.”
Their unrestricted approach to making music isn’t surprising, given that most of the band’s members also feature in other bands among the close-knit Baltimore music scene (Yates is also the drummer for Trapped Under Ice and sings for Angel Du$t, a supergroup composed of Trapped Under Ice and Turnstile members of which Pat and drummer Daniel Fangis are also a part of).
“Baltimore is such a small place that has always fostered this intimate community where there are a lot of different things going on, but because of it being a smaller city, a lot of the things are just forced to overlap, people all know each other and people play in the same bands together,” Yates describes of growing up in the Baltimore hardcore scene.
“At one point I think Daniel was playing in like 10 different bands. I think Pat was like literally 10 or 11,” he laughs.
Their latest project has them included in Converse’s Create Now, Create Next campaign as the brand continues its legacy of championing self-expression by bringing together established and emerging creatives from over 18 cities around the world.
The first-of-its-kind campaign presents more than 20 different creatives as they share their artistic vision through a series of 20 individual, 6-second films, with each video being seamlessly brought together in a longer form brand anthem showcasing the power of the collective.
Turnstile will be joined by fellow creatives Vince Staples, Honey Dijon, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and more for the creative project.
“I think the band is our vessel for creativity and expression, and with that comes a world of meeting people and opportunities,” Yates says of the unique opportunity with Converse.
“It’s kind of all somehow connected to what we do. So it’s always cool to kind of just naturally leave the door open for these connections to happen.”
You can check out Converse’s Create Now. Create Next campaign here.