It’s 8 PM on a Tuesday at The Forum, the historic Melbourne theatre. Pundits outside have formed a line, swiftly ushered in by security. Already, the crowd was lively, preparing for Sydney hardcore band SPEED to grace the stage. From the first guitar chug, the place began to erupt into chaos.
“I never envisioned playing a hardcore show in such a palace,” vocalist Jem Siow shouts between tracks, surrounded by the eye-catching decor of the venue’s Moorish Revival interior. As more fans flock to catch the band’s propelling pandemonium, he acknowledges the diversity of the crowd, howling, “I see a lot of beautiful colours in here tonight.” With every song played, the place becomes more cramped with enthusiasts. For some, you can tell this is one of many times they’ve caught SPEED. Others you can assume missed out on the group’s headlining shows in 2022, where tickets flew faster than the drummer’s ability to smash out face-crushing patterns. Standing at the back of The Forum, all you can see in the crowd are spin-kicking silhouettes, but as you delve deeper, you witness the new faces of Australia’s hardcore scene, rich with people from different cultures and backgrounds, unified in a circle-pit utopia.
With these moments in mind, it’s hard to believe that SPEED was simply the opener for this show, and it’s hard to imagine who could follow the frenzy they were flowing through. As they prepare to close out their 30-minute set with the bellowing swagger of their standout track ‘Not That Nice’, Jem takes a moment to serve up a tribute to the evening’s headliners. “I often view people on the same level, but Turnstile I look at as idols” he yelps, foreshadowing the striking presence of the Baltimore-bred, worldwide sensations who would soon grace the stage.
Turnstile selling out a 2000-cap nearly-century-old venue on a Tuesday evening in Melbourne is one of many nights on what has now been a year-and-a-half-long globe-trotting conquest. Since releasing their 2021 album GLOW ON to critical acclaim, they’ve played festivals such as Lollapalooza and Coachella, and toured across North America, South America, and Europe. Their current run of dates down under finds them at the top of the bill as a part of Laneway Festival in Australia and New Zealand, with headline shows in Sydney and Brisbane still to come.
It’s easy to imagine the exhaustion of a hectic touring schedule extinguishing the illumination that they strive to glow on with, but as I spoke with the band over Zoom last Friday, they served up a reason for that radiance never recoiling. “I think when it comes to this stuff it’s pretty easy for us because it’s led by creative impulses, so whether it comes to being in the studio or touring, it’s led by a very genuine excitement,” drummer Daniel Fang tells me. “We all feed off each other, and all value the same things that we commit our lives to.”
Fang, alongside bassist Franz Lyons and lead vocalist Brendan Yates, have been united as Turnstile since 2010, with guitarist Pat McCrory joining in 2016. The band began in small bandrooms across their hometown of Baltimore, releasing EPs such as 2011’s Pressure to Succeed and 2013’s Step 2 Rhythm, eventually leading into their 2015 debut album Nonstop Feeling. By the time their sophomore full-length Time & Space dropped in 2018, it became clear that their artistry wasn’t limited to the fast-paced barrages of the genre they’d become known for, with songs like ‘Just Right Be’ featuring production from Diplo, and following on from that they’ve toured with Wicca Phase Springs Eternal, $uicideboys, and other acts outside of their bubble.
This ability to expand the depths of hardcore music and expose it to new audiences reached its peak with GLOW ON, which found the band enriching their distorted base with elements of dreamy pop, jangly indie, ambient soundscapes, and ear-catching appearances from fellow genre explorer Blood Orange. Much like their friend and fellow Maryland native JPEGMAFIA blending sounds to signify the limitless creativity of hip-hop, Turnstile has championed the values of moshpits that make up their origins. “There’s a physical and emotional intensity to hardcore music, but at the same time it’s one of the most beautifully sensitive things I’ve ever experienced,” Fang expresses. “You can be anywhere on the planet, and find a hardcore community you have a bond with. That’s the most sacred, intimate part of this music.”
Community seems like the main priority in the current day hardcore scene, and why we see it often converge with other genres today. If you popped down to the Evelyn in Fitzroy last December, you could catch SPEED alongside popular hip-hop prospect Babyface Mal and AUS grime pioneers Smash Brothers. If you head to the UK this June, you can catch acts like Earl Sweatshirt, Death Grips, and MIKE alongside metal bands like Loathe and Brendan Yates’ other band Trapped Under Ice at Outbreak Fest.
These different fanbases now have a knack of forming in a singular place, much like Turnstile’s goal to “Never feel the cold” on their standout track ‘HOLIDAY’. The catharsis of a moshpit across the sounds of punk, hardcore, rap, and experimental music relate to Mcrory’s interpretation of the band’s avoidance of wintry weather, explaining that “It’s a constant matter of addressing things that feel cold and digesting them.” In a more literal sense, Franz flees the frost alongside those at the show, saying “Motion requires the body to lose some water and that’s what I’m in search of whenever I plug the guitar in. I hope I never stop getting energy from hearing feedback in the amp, or the sweat of being pushed around at a show,”
I took a question in my time with Turnstile to flashback to over a decade ago with the lyrics “I shot down my own dreams to avoid the pressure to succeed” from the title track of their 2011 EP. McCrory, Franz, and Fang presented faces of contemplation before answering, appreciating the lyrics of their lead singer before analysing the relevance of these words today. “That lyric is a great reminder of the fact that there’s always going to be a pressure that slips through the cracks while we’re on this quest to continue creating from a place of enjoyment, and that those external forces will make us more secure and better when we do find the right answer,” Fang states. “Being active in shooting down the pressures that build in the background is a really good practice because it allows us to refocus in both our creative and personal lives.”
The results of this constant practice help shape the current state of Turnstile in 2023, which is aptly represented by the final song they performed at The Forum: ‘T.L.C (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)’. They continue to traverse the world, with their love for one another and simultaneous roles as each other’s support systems alleviating the adversity of a hectic schedule. On stage, they come together in a shared love of creativity, singing, shredding, and smashing away across a discography that abolishes boundaries, and brings people from different musical tastes together. Their fearlessness results in moments like Jem Siow viewing them as “idols”, continuing to spread SPEED’s messages of equality throughout the Australian scene. As Turnstile finished up their set and began to exit the stage, the 2000 in attendance sang the closing lyrics of ‘T.L.C’ back at them in unison, chanting “I want to thank you for letting me be myself.” Yates held the microphone out, and the beauty of hardcore music was on full display in the form of a community. Every step Turnstile takes in their quest to avoid the cold, creates the next step in these effects glowing on.
Follow Turnstile here for more, and check out tickets for their remaining Australian shows with SPEED here.
THU 16 FEB – ENMORE THEATRE – SYDNEY *SOLD OUT*
FRI 17 FEB – BIG TOP – SYDNEY
SUN 19 FEB – FORTITUDE MUSIC HALL – BRISBANE