Summer 1981. The New York B.Y.O proudly hosts an all-ages show to the kids at The Sink Club, 3rd Avenue, New York City. Six bands, August 6th. The Mob, No Labels, Agnostic Front, Ring Of Fire, Corrosion Of Conformity and, from D.C., a special guest, – Minor Threat. Agnostic Front guitarist, Vinnie Stigma, declares in true New Yorker mafia-style “If you don’t come you’re marked.”
“IF YOU DON’T COME YOU’RE MARKED…” – VINNIE STIGMA
Thirty six years later, the doors of legendary clubs like CBGBs may be closed, influencers such as Black Flag and Minor Threat may have split, and the likes of Madball’s Freddy Cricien may not be squatting on 10th Street. All the while, Cro-Mags vocalist, and now health powerhouse, John Joseph may no longer be a heroin mule for the potent angel dust in Rockaway Beach. A lot can change in thirty years, and the once underground subculture that is hardcore no longer hangs out on the fringes of the globally recognised genre of punk.
As far away as we could be from the rough side streets of the great NYC, and the equally as sweaty and active basement shows of the American state, there is still a sense of both comradery and spirit in the small city of Leeds, England. Crashing into our photo shoot with almost wrestler styled tactics, the scene that unfolds in front of our camera in the backstage of the Canal Mills for Outbreak festival, is equally as fascinating as it is entertaining. Bucket hats, missing teeth, impulsive yoga movements, intense abdominal muscles, the only incarceration here is dog piling on top of a small couch. Seven friends. 3 bands. This is Angel Du$t, Trapped Under Ice, and the recently hailed Turnstile. These are arguably the three biggest bands that are the powerhouse at the very heart of the new age of hardcore.
“THERE’S A REFRESHING STATE OF CHANGE…”
– BRENDAN YATES
“I started playing with Trapped Under Ice when I was 18 and it was the first band I really travelled with.” Reflects now Turnstile vocalist, Brendan Yates. Having formed in 2007 , Trapped Under Ice quickly became a staple in a new wave of hardcore, a wave that was determined to solidify it’s own trophy within the cabinet case, which at the time was still proudly displaying decorations from what was seen as the, ‘Golden Age’, the aggressive amalgamation of early punk – the 90s. But while the Baltimore outfit went on to tour globally, filling the basements, the clubs, and the festival fields with masses of bustling and sweating bodies, creating new anthems for the youth with tracks such as, Big Kiss Goodnight, and assigning themselves a reputable title within both the local and international live scene, in 2013 the band had decided to slow down. Note, the band. Not the musicians.
Ironically named after the drug that was shifted through the naval ranks of the genre’s hometown, the birth of Angel Du$t brought a new boombox of almost funk driven punk to the party. “All bands share songwriters but have different musical approaches, different focuses and styles on melodies, groove, or hardcore rock elements.” Commentates Yates. It seems rare to find a series of modern punk musicians who’s side projects take on a life outside of the usual realm of the ‘every now and again EP and odd show’ these days, and two years later the tribe gained a new member, Turnstile. While the band had put out two EPs in the form of the groove driven, ‘Pressure To Succeed’, and, ‘Step To The Rhythm’ since their formation in 2010, it wasn’t until their 2015 debut record, ‘Non Stop Feeling,’ that everything would change.
Quickly finding that their moves in the middle of the hardcore dance floor were drawing attention from not just their surrounding hometown of Maryland, of which Brendan humbly describes as “always having been a good place for hardcore,” with it’s “different waves of new bands and venues,” and a “refreshingly constant state of change,” but once more the international scene, it’s safe to say that playing music has allowed Yates to clock up a fair few miles.
“Our band’s ideas of how we want to play and connect to people will be different from every other band’s.”
“I think my least favourite part is flying. I found a Jon Boat (in Thailand) on the side of the road recently that I’m fixing up, maybe I’ll start travelling by that to avoid flights.” At the time of this interview, the band are currently situated in Thailand after five days prior, having played in Korea, the ‘back up to college’ for other recognisable names in the punk movement such as Trash Talk. Move over a few continents and it’s not only Turnstile who are nervously posed next to other species and mammals, but of all genres, hardcore is now seeing it’s comrades such as Stray From The Path play in the dusty tracks of Nairobi, or Canadian OG’s Comeback Kid sweat in the tropical rainforests of South America.
Whether it’s performing on the steps of temples, or in your neighbour’s back yard, this movement that Turnstile find themselves a part of is being continuously recognised for one very crucial aspect. “To have anyone connect to your music is a special thing”, recognises Yates. “It’s amazing to have a connection with people, especially those whose life is so much more different than mine, but to find a common ground in music or a song about something that we both can relate to.”
““The only goal was to make music…”
But while Turnstile are humbled by the fact that their talents, and passions have given them life experiences that so few still get the chance to experience, Brendan is firm with what not just Turnstile’s goal is, but it’s counterparts. “The only goal was to make music with friends. I feel we’re constantly achieving and growing together and always progressing. We’d be doing that anyways, but it’s cool to have the band to reflect that and do it as a unit.” With no frontman syndrome in sight, it seems that Brendan isn’t the only one swapping up duties throughout the musical projects. One of the most distinct tracks from their sophomore release, Time & Space, the anthemic, Moon see’s bassist, Franz Lyons step up, in fact a concise majority of the record does. “Franz has a beautiful voice and when the song was written , it was a very natural realization that it felt so right with his voice on it. He’s amazing.”
From the outside, like most forms of extreme music or sub cultures within the anarchism of punk, hardcore can be portrayed as violent, narcissistic, and at times overwhelming. But if you’ve ever stepped foot within a show from any of the tribe’s members, it’s far from it. The new age of hardcore brings groove heavy basslines, dance pits, and at time’s it’s own now colourful attire, of which has even had the world of fashion reviewing ‘who wore what’ at the band’s show . And while Turnstile have become determined to make the ‘uncool cool’, it seems that even the most conforming are jiving in the band’s enthralling neon. “Being in the Washington Post, the paper I’ve been exposed to since I was a young kid was so cool. Especially as the reach for that kind of exposure is very far in a different direction from where we were.”
“It’s a matter of being true to yourself.”
And so it seems, that while the traditional values and ethics of hardcore remain, a genre that has forced it’s own sense of identity and influence within popular culture, arguably more now than ever. The tribe are still showing that their creative outlet shows no boundaries. “It’s a matter of being true to yourself.”, concludes Yates. “Our band’s ideas of how we want to play and connect to people will be different from every other band’s. It’s what makes bands and people unique.” Coupled with not just Turnstile’s, but generation after generations of refreshing optimism that seeks to solve the problems posed by the majority, and ongoing fright that has plagued both the punk scene and society. It seems that hardcore in the path of corruption still continues to refuse to reform.
TIME & SPACE IS OUT NOW VIA ROADRUNNER RECORDS.