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Turnstile’s Brendan Yates on Blink-182, Rosalía and his mom

Turnstile frontman Brendan Yates says he secured his date to February’s Grammy Awards ceremony many years ago.

“When I was younger, it was always a thing that my mom joked about. ‘All right, stop drumming, it’s 9 o’clock.’ And I’d be like, ‘Please, let me get 10 more minutes,’” Yates says. “She would always say: ‘Well, when you go to the Grammys, you know you have to bring your mom.’ And I was like, ‘All right, fine.’ Then I could play for 10 more minutes.”

The Baltimore-based hardcore punk band Turnstile is one of this year’s surprise Grammy stories, nominated for three awards: rock performance, for “Holiday,” and rock song and metal performance, for the song “Blackout,” both tracks from its breakout LP, “Glow On.”

With the help of “Glow On” producer Mike Elizondo (Dr. Dre), the band seamlessly incorporated 1980s-era synthesizers and tropical percussions into its thunderous rock.

“Baltimore breeds a spectrum of cool and interesting creativity and different voices,” says Yates, 32, from his home there. Under the big tent of a shared do-it-yourself ethos, he explains, punk scenesters regularly shared community spaces with hip-hop and dance-music artists.

For its most recent tour, Turnstile recruited fellow Baltimore acts like singer-songwriter Snail Mail and hip-hop avant-gardist JPEGMafia.

The band has also drawn a number of influential admirers to their concerts. At the band’s latest run of shows in L.A., audience members included Billie Eilish, Miguel, Nick Hexum of 311 and Scott Ian of Anthrax.

“I felt like they revolutionized hardcore again for a whole new generation,” said Ian, who was interviewed backstage at the Palladium for Turnstile’s tour doc series, “Turnstile Love Connection.”

These are edited excerpts from our conversation.

A rock band sits on a sofa.


(Jimmy Fontaine)

Congrats on your three Grammys nominations. How did the band first respond when you heard the news?
It was a gloomy, rainy morning, and we just woke up in the bus and [got] a call that they were announcing [the nominees]. So we were just sitting around the TV watching the nominations, and [we] did not expect that would happen. We were all in shock and so pleasantly surprised. It made a gloomy, rainy day really exciting and special.

This year’s rock categories are such a mixed bag. You’re competing against Beck, the Black Keys, Idles, Ghost, Ozzy Osbourne. … Are there any acts that you’re intimidated by, or excited to compete with this year?
We were really excited that Idles were nominated, because we’ve played with them a lot over the last year. But we’re excited just to be listed.

You’re from the Baltimore, or the “DMV” area, a place many would consider the birthplace of hardcore. What was it like coming up in that scene?
There was a spot called the Charm City Arts Space and it would have shows every weekend of all different kinds of stuff — hardcore, indie, rap, whatever was going on. When we were younger, me and [Turnstile drummer Daniel Fang] actually played a show together at a community center before we even knew each other.

What you highlight is why keeping those D.I.Y., community spaces alive is so important. Can you throw out a few Baltimore artists we should know about?
In the spring we toured with Truth Cult, a great band. There’s a lot of great music in Baltimore, like End It, a newer band, and DDm (Dapper Dan Midas).

While your heritage is hardcore, you play with some really cool sounds on “Glow On.” You hear some soca and reggaeton influences; you also hear a touch of go-go, something that’s so integral to your band’s sound. Why was this so important to grow up with?
Go-go music is very special to the DMV area. Every school dance, no matter what, there was always a half-hour of go-go. Until I started traveling, I didn’t realize that it wasn’t as big in different parts of the country. Our band is full of drummers, and go-go music is such a percussive and energetic [genre]. It really speaks to the voice and the culture of the area.

What inspired you to pick up maracas in the middle of a song like “Don’t Play?”
A driving factor is how it feels rhythmically. That sets the tone for a lot of [our] songs. What drew, and still draws me to [hardcore], is that none of us really were musicians. Punk and hardcore is less focused on skill and more focused on expressing yourself. It’s hard to imagine other communities where you [can have] people that come out and support while you’re really bad at your instrument. The way I taught myself how to play guitar is so wrong — I played with the wrong fingers and stuff like that — but I learned enough to feel good about what I was trying to get out. I think making music in general is just a shot in the dark. It’s this open canvas.

A rock band performs onstage, and lead singer jumps in the air

Turnstile performs at Coachella in 2022.

(Christina House/Los Angeles Times)

What’s been the most exciting music discovery for you, whether at Coachella or one of the other festivals that you’ve played?
A more recent [act] that I saw very briefly — but wasn’t familiar with, and now I’m just kind of obsessed with — is Rosalía. I can’t think of a context where Turnstile would play with her, but I would love to. Her music just gives me so much energy.

Turnstile will be opening for Blink-182 on its upcoming tour. How did that work out?
They reached out to us! [We’re] super excited about the idea of touring together, we’ve never done an arena tour like that. For us, [Blink-182 was] the soundtrack to elementary, middle and high school … and Travis [Barker] is a big drum hero.

Going back to the Grammys: Is there anyone that you’re really rooting for?
I’m pretty sure Domi and JD Beck got nominated for something. [Best new artist.] I’m very much rooting for them, I think they’re amazing, just like next-level musicians! Super exciting to see Idles as well, and Wet Leg.

I feel like your mom low-key manifested you being at the Grammys. You thought she was joking, but it turns out your mother is a very powerful witch.
She is very powerful.

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