Photo: Kat Nijmeddin
Angel Du$t (Justice Tripp, center)
Justice Tripp On Angel Du$t's New Album 'YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs,' His Brotherhood With Turnstile & Not Acting Like A Cop Online
With his rangey rock band Angel Du$t, Justice Tripp writes music that the average listener wouldn't peg as coming from hardcore guys. But their new album, 'YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs,' is all about the punkest value of all: Thinking outside the box.
Like many others in the chest-piece tattoos and basketball-shoes set, Justice Tripp's early immersion in heavy music charted the course for his life and career. But parallel to Pennywise and Dead Kennedys, he communed with other genres—R&B, soul, pop, and rock 'n' roll. Most crucially, while studying rock history, the future leader of unorthodox punk band Angel Du$t learned there was punk before punk—and, in a sense, concurrent with it.
"I didn't know what hardcore was when I was six, you know?" Tripp tells GRAMMY.com of his early musical development. "I wrote this record touching on all the stuff I grew up loving." To that end, he cites Tina Turner, Prince, and Tom Petty as foundational—artists that some in the insular, masculine-to-a-fault hardcore scene might blanch at. The values he absorbed from those artists, though, are exceptionally, unmistakably punk: courage, vulnerability, and thinking outside the box.
"As far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been," he says of Angel Du$t's new record, YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs. "Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you."
Due October 22, YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs may have dyed-in-the-wool hardcore roots—after all, the band grew out of the bruising Baltimore group Trapped Under Ice. The same goes for Turnstile, who shares three members with Angel Du$t—rhythm guitarist Brendan Yates, guitarist Pat McCrory, and drummer Daniel Fang—and is having a banner year of their own with the critically acclaimed new album Glow On.
YAK's finest tracks, like "No Vacancy," "Fear Some," and "Cool Faith," show the band is far more inclined to ear candy the one they sprang from. Arguably, they bear far more similarities to alternative bands like the Violent Femmes or Teenage Fanclub than TUI.
Still, the album isn't a thumbed nose at Angel Du$t's heavy roots, but a lovingly executed off-ramp from them. To this end, they're in excellent hands with producer Rob Schnapf, who helmed edgy-yet-sophisticated classics by Elliott Smith, Guided by Voices, and other greats.
In an in-depth interview with GRAMMY.com, Tripp opens up about Angel Du$t's creative process, how his rough-and-tumble past shaped his demeanor and worldview, and why being a punk means not acting like a cop on the internet.
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
You've done interviews for years now about pushing against the orthodoxy of what hardcore should sound like. Have things loosened up in recent times?
I wouldn't say I get too much heat, you know? People are on board. They get what I'm doing. We're still involved with the hardcore community and everybody in our band does other bands that play to that community. Angel Du$t exists in that community on some level. But some people don't get it, and that's fine too.
YAK: A Collection Of Truck Songs sounds like you've absorbed many decades of folk and pop music. Early on, did you get into that stuff parallel to your interest in heavy music?
Oh, yeah. Definitely before heavy music, before punk.
Just rock 'n' roll. My family has always had rock 'n' roll and doo-wop music. And I guess pop music, too, on some level. They played a lot of stuff from when rock 'n' roll was pop. And then you're a kid and you find punk, and you're like "Oh, s*. This is me. I'm different. This is the stuff I identify with." That really sculpts who you are—or who I am, at least.
But I grew up with music. I got my first guitar when I was six, and I didn't know what hardcore was when I was six, you know? I wrote this record touching on all the stuff I grew up loving. I don't know how much this influences anything I was making, but my mom was bumping Rod Stewart and Tina Turner religiously when I was a child. And Prince—Prince is one I heard a lot when I was a kid that stuck with me.
I'm just taking in all those things I heard when I was a kid, All the things I grew to love about hardcore and punk-rock music in the last couple of years—learning about production and the things I love about production—and all the things that Angel Du$t as a band has learned to do throughout our different records.
We've made very different records, taking pieces of aggressive music that we've made and pieces of [other styles]. Pretty Buff was a pretty dialed-back record tonally and tempo-wise. It's finding a way to make something hopefully unique and creative out of all that.
I feel like part of getting into punk is realizing that it existed 25 years before the genre was coined. You get into '60s punk with the Nuggets box, and then you find elements of it in '50s artists like Link Wray and Gene Vincent, and then in the blues, and so on.
Absolutely. I grew with the punk that was around me at the time.
I think I was a little kid when I got the Pennywise record. And then I went back and got the Dead Kennedys CD. Which is, of course, before that time. But I kind of grew up with punk of that era. And then, when I was in my twenties, I discovered the Stooges and Iggy Pop, and that's kind of been the obsession for me.
Iggy Pop's my favorite artist of all time, 100 percent. In his career, there's a lot of peaks and valleys, but the one thing that nobody can take from that man is his endless rock 'n' roll nature. His desire to create something new—just to do whatever the f* he wants. You may not love this record or that record, but he did his thing. I love everything he's done on some level.
But what you're saying about the history of rock 'n' roll, I think the Stooges are a great way to discover that. They talked openly about their influences, and you can dig into that. They talked openly about the blues, and you can dig into that. You see all the stuff in the '77 era of punk that came from what the Stooges were doing. It's a good beacon right there in the history of punk rock and rock 'n' roll music.
What's your favorite off-the-beaten-path Iggy record that isn't Fun House, Raw Power, or The Idiot?
Aw, man. That's tough. Some of those records—no offense—I'm not listening to the whole record. Just a couple of songs. Blah-Blah-Blah is really good. I don't know if we can count Kill City. Can we count Kill City? It's Iggy Pop and James Williamson. I'm gonna go with that, for sure. I also like some of the newer stuff he's done. Post Pop Depression. He's kind of all over the place.
Both Angel Du$t and Turnstile grew out of Trapped Under Ice, embracing sounds not necessarily from the hardcore mold. They went in the direction they did, but how did you choose your own instrumental template—acoustic guitars, synths, and mellotrons?
Honestly, I'd say we all went in that direction—do you know what I'm saying?
We all make music together; half of Turnstile's in my band. We all grow together and push each other. In the times I'm learning about synths and production, at the same time, those dudes are over there in Baltimore—I live in LA right now—doing the same s*. We're showing each other music and teaching each other stuff all the time when we're together.
I've been really interested in sounds and playing with different synthesizers. That's something I got from Rob Schnapf, the producer. Those dudes are over there actually learning to play the keyboard. Like, I can't play the keyboard. I can f* around and make sounds. I can push the E note, hold it in and maybe add something else to it.
But it kind of blew my mind when they were here recording the record. Dan [Fang] was playing—actually playing—the piano and keyboard a little bit, and Brendan [Yates] came a week later, and he's doing really good at that stuff. We're all growing and pushing each other at a similar rate and taking different things from it.
When you listen to the Turnstile and Angel Du$t records both, there's a lot of growth—a lot of new tools—just used in very different ways.
When I think of Rob Schnapf, I think of his work on Guided by Voices' Isolation Drills. Great record.
I've been a big fan of Rob before we worked with him. It happened almost by accident. A friend linked us up, and he's a producer on a lot of my favorite recordings.
But I still didn't know his whole catalog, so when we were in the studio, I'd end up referencing something—"I like this one song from the '90s and they did this thing!" It'd always be him saying, "Well, what we did was…" and that's how I found out he did that record.
I referenced Guided by Voices and he was like, "Well, what we did was this on the record." I was like [Stupefied] "What?" That was a good way to know his catalog better.
You can take this question any way you like: What did you want to say with these songs that you didn't in past ones by any band of yours?
A theme I try to say on every record is: Just try something. Get out of your comfort zone and do something. But I don't know if I'm saying something that hasn't been said in the past—at least in the context of music. Maybe I'm speaking of elements that exist in music that I hadn't spoken to before.
But as far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been: Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you. Hopefully I spoke that message louder and clearer than ever before.
I've read that you're a big Tom Petty fan. What do you take from his music? To me, it's a sense of humility and courage I don't hear in a lot of stuff these days.
I think you nailed it. He was a great songwriter, obviously. His voice was so vulnerable. That's one thing I really strove for on this recording. He was up there in the list of people who influenced that particular element.
But then, you could say Tom Petty was not a great singer, you know? He was definitely great in the way he uses his voice to move people, but on a functional level, there are better singers—you know what I mean? But he could speak so honestly and so vulnerably.
I relate to that. There's great singers out there. If you want a great singer, that's not really what I'm trying to offer. I'm just trying to give a piece of myself and create some moments on the record that spoke to that.
There were some [makings of] songs where I was listening to Tom Petty and didn't think much of it. And then I heard it as the songs were developing. I think one of the only songs I handed to Rob and was like "I want to reference this sound on the recording" was "Time to Move On." There's some drum tone—and the relationship with the vocals—that I wanted to reference.
Ian Shelton of Regional Justice Center and Militarie Gun is another iconoclast in this space. What do you appreciate about working with him?
Dude, Ian's my man. He's just relentlessly motivated, which is incredible. I can't believe he gets as much accomplished as he does.
I'll talk about an idea—like, I want to do a video or something—and he comes to my house and we start riffing. Then, he casually goes home when it's appropriate. I find out later that he was working on this video that morning. And after he left, he went and recorded some demos for the new Militarie Gun songs he's working on.
So, the next time I see him, we might get together and be like, "Hey, let's riff. Let's play guitar and sing or something, and go over some ideas." We get together and do that. I don't know where he finds the time. The man's on tour with two different bands.
I really appreciate his desire to step outside his comfort zone. That's what I appreciate most about artists—especially in current times. In guitar music—in rock music—I think people are more afraid to do that than ever. And then you have somebody like Ian Shelton who gets off on it and wants to keep pushing himself. He inspires me to do that more.
I feel like to be that motivated, you have to have an imaginary gun to your head at all times.
Dude, you just nailed it, man. I know he's like this, too. I love the gun metaphor.
Last night, I was getting ready to go to sleep and I got an idea in my head. I'm still recovering from COVID: "I should be asleep right now. I've got to rest." But then I was up and set my little studio up and started riffing until 5 a.m.
You just can't turn it off if you've got that type of brain. It'll haunt you through the night and keep you awake and make you a crazy person. But it's just worse if you don't acknowledge it and scratch the itch. Again, Ian Shelton's definitely a great example of that.
I'm not trying to be like, gothic, emo guy, but I don't relate to a lot of people on an individual level. I have people I really love and trust. Ian is somebody I trust, who I know differently than a lot of them. He has that creative, psycho drive. Maybe he doesn't think I'm a weirdo that I stay up all night and don't have a real job, quote-unquote. He's fully down.
What makes you so distrustful of others? Why do you keep your cards so close to the vest?
I'm from a crazy place, up top. I've seen crazy things. I've seen people murdered. I've seen the evil nature of people, and it manifests itself in different ways. If you're in Baltimore, certain things happen—someone might get murdered! If you're in L.A., it's the same s*—people being selfish and greedy.
I mean, [obviously,] murder happens in L.A. But in a music-business sense, I've seen it. That's why we started our own record label—me, Brendan, and Dan—because we've seen the greedy nature of people and said, "Hey, we can do this. We can contribute this." Not that that's the only incentive; it's not like it's a spiteful thing because we've seen people do bad things. But we saw that we can do things better and treat people better than this.
For me, it's always been like that. I've got a tight little group of people that I really trust and, I think, understand me. That's Brendan and Dan. I try to be human and let people in. I have a lot of really great friends and people I trust, but when I say "a lot," it probably doesn't mean as much as it does to some people.
Angel Du$t. Photo: Kat Nijmeddin
I don't want to be like "Yo! I'm a tough street guy! I've seen murders on the street!" That's real. I've seen people do really ugly things. Then, you live your life and get away from that particular environment, but it follows you. It's in every environment. You see this in [all kinds of] people. It's not outside the nature of man to be s*y. It leads to a tighter circle. Being smarter about the kinds of people you have around.
It might sound strange because I think the average person knows I'm really nice. I'm really friendly. I might even say I let people in easily. But the second I see it, I can't. When I see selfish motives in a person, I just turn it off. I do that a lot. That's probably, definitively, one of the most specific personality traits I have: My unhealthy ability to cut people off.
I think of banal evil all the time, specifically, the way people treat each other online. Ruining someone's life on Twitter fulfills the classical definition of the word.
Dude, it's insane. You're so right. I see that on the internet a lot.
I was talking to someone about the evolution of social media. It's always this pattern that happens. The first social media in my recollection was Makeoutclub, which was a long time ago. I want to say it was about 20 years ago. And then it got weird with buying and selling. It became a marketplace on some level. And then it got sold out and died out or whatever.
And then it was Friendster, I believe. Same thing. Social media has the good intention of people connecting with each other, and then it becomes buying and selling. It switches and switches. It's gotten to the unhealthy point now where it's a place to sell something.
And now, on social media, people see it as a way to sell themselves. They project the fantasy-life of themselves on the internet to sell you something. I don't have the energy to do that. Maybe it's jaded-old-man talk, but I don't really give myself on the internet. I actually have friends and people I care about.
I do think one thing that's specific about our particular music community is that it is a community. I know a lot of the people that I interact with on the internet. I do post on the internet [like], "Hey, it's me. I'm doing good. Here's this little update on my life." But it's interesting how it's so much about branding at this point.
It's hard to be a fully branded internet persona all the time. If you can make your life look perfect and then you come see me at the show, I'm still a dude from Baltimore who's seen murders and s. I can't be that internet guy all the time—everyone's friend and s.
Well, people are projecting more than their perfect house or relationship these days. Moral purity is their brand—it's used as a hammer.
And you've got to bring everybody down who isn't exactly like you. That's very far from who I am.
Don't get me wrong: This isn't me being like, "Yo, f* cancel culture!" I have a moral code. I do think the internet has brought attention to a lot of those evils of man that we're talking about. I think, in a lot of ways, it's helping make the world a better place.
But I also see people being petty and evil on the internet, trying to tear people down for not being exactly like they are, and that's fing crazy to me. It's bully s. I didn't like bullies when I was a kid. Bullies have kind of changed now. You can't bully someone for what they look like or who they are, and that's real. The difference is that in the era when I grew up, there was no internet for people to talk amongst each other, so you'd go and beat 'em up [Laughs].
"As far as a direct message, it's the same as it's always been. Just do your thing and don't be afraid to step outside your comfort zone, as long as it feels natural and authentic to you."
I don't know if that's the right way, but [the current method] has created a level of policing where people are always looking for someone to call the bad guy—to tear them down and make themselves look better. That's ugly.
If we're really trying to create this perfect utopia that people are selling on the internet—I don't know, man. People need to talk more. Just talk. There are a lot of people in the world I don't agree with, but I can talk to them and find mutual ground and respect for where they're coming from.
Obviously, there's that place where I can't rock with you. People are just different, and we're not going to see eye-to-eye, and that's fine. But at least we talked. We gave it a shot.
Like you, I'm not interested in a prosaic discussion about "cancel culture," which can go in all kinds of embarrassing directions. It's just not OK to be a bully—full stop.
I'm not a cop. I'm not a police officer for a reason. I don't want to be a police officer. I'm a punk rocker; that's my identity since childhood. It's not my job to police everybody, but it is my job to stand up when I see someone doing something actually wrong. There's a big difference between the two.
To guide the conversation toward the light a little bit: I just saw you co-wrote Turnstile's "UNDERWATER BOI." That's a fan favorite right now.
It's a minor contribution. Brendan, straight-up, is like how I was talking about Ian Shelton. He's one of my biggest influences—a brilliant songwriter. He's always pushing himself; he's always pushing me. I was just lucky to be in the right time and place and have a minor contribution to the song. Maybe he gave me too much credit for it.
It's cool to be a small part of a writing process like that and then be able to sit back and listen to it as a fan. Because, again, I couldn't make that song happen. That's Brendan's brain. It's really cool to be part of that team and have any role in or influence on anything they might be doing.
Both bands have been blossoming at once. Is it inspiring to watch Turnstile rise while you do your own thing?
In the last couple of years, we've had a more conscious songwriting process where we don't want to influence the other too much. We don't want to make the same music. We're not super in each others' faces with everything we're writing, but it's not like we hide what we're writing.
I wrote most of this record myself. A lot of times, in the past, I would have song ideas and bring them to the team. We'd all flesh them out together. I wrote these songs, sent them to Dan, and Dan reworked some things—changed a lot of drum stuff. He took my ideas and made them real. Later in the process, Brendan and Pat flew out.
Before that, my vision is complete. I tried everything; I gave it all I had. These are my songs before anybody gets to re-decide the song structure. They're complete before anybody comes in and starts turning stuff. Brendan and Pat came in and contributed so much on top of the songs that I didn't see.
I'm really happy with the outcome and everyone's input. It was a unique way of making a record together that we'd never really explored.
Before we jump off, where do you see Angel Du$t heading in the future?
Anywhere. I'm down to go anywhere. I never want to approach a record with a game plan in mind. I never want to say, "This record is going to be this." You just make songs and use all your new tools—the new things you learned—and apply them to what you're doing.
For me, in this case, it's production. I knew virtually nothing about producing a record, despite making so many in my life. I just kind of show up and play guitar and sing. As with this, Rob Schnapf—and Matt Schuessler, his engineer—let me in on that process and showed me so much.
I feel like I have more tools than I've ever had in my life, right now. If anything definitively will stand out, it's going to be in terms of production and trying to explore that department.
Angel Du$t has an identity as far as our songwriting and guitar sounds. But it's time to try some freaky s* on the computer.
Photo courtesy of Code Orange
As Code Orange Wraps Up Tour With Korn, They Look Ahead To Headlining Stages & Making New Music: "We Really Want To Take A Big Swing"
The Pittsburgh hardcore executioners are finishing up a tour with Korn and gearing up for a headlining run. Code Orange recently unleashed a new single, "Out for Blood," and bandleader Jami Morgan has some intel on upcoming music.
Code Orange's new song "Out for Blood" is nothing if not a blunt instrument. By fusing the most immediate parts of 2000s radio-friendly metal — and pairing it with a viscera-spattered video — it pushed the beloved hardcore band further into the airwaves than ever before. But Code Orange has a fascinating and complex essence that goes past mere riff-mongering.
"We don't subscribe to the idea that you're either a punk-metal band or a 'smart metal' band or a 'dumb, push-people, Monster Energy' band," vocalist and drummer Jami Morgan tells GRAMMY.com. He goes on to remember the old days as Code Orange Kids, where they threw down everywhere from airless punk-squat living rooms to meathead fests and crepuscular harsh-noise covens.
"That's hopefully our imprint on heavy music — to take different pieces from different scenes, because we've been part of all of them," Morgan continues. "We've done it all and we are it all."
This hydra-like multifariousness is what enabled the Pittsburgh hardcore band to make Underneath, arguably their most realized album to date. Commensurately experimental and brutal, the album garnered near-universal critical acclaim and a nomination for Best Metal Performance ("Underneath") at the 2021 GRAMMY Awards. (Three years prior, they'd been nominated in the same category for "Forever.")
So what do Morgan, guitarists Dominic Landolina and Reba Meyers, keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose, and bassist Joe Goldman get to do when they've existed in so many spheres? They can become the most arcane space-rock band in the world if they want. Or, they can write shameless bangers like "Out for Blood" and tour with Korn — which they're wrapping up now.
At the tail-end of those dates and on the cusp of a North America headlining tour kicking off April 3, Morgan caught up with GRAMMY.com to discuss Code Orange's roots, stylistic philosophy and road ahead — which includes new music in the not-too-distant future.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
In these final dates with Korn and your upcoming headline tour, what do fans have to look forward to?
In terms of supporting Korn, if you're a fan of the band, you're going to see the biggest version of us in a setting that's different than they're used to. We're getting to play a record we worked really, really hard on that wasn't able to get the roadwork that it deserved over the course of the pandemic.
In terms of our headline tour, we're hoping to be able to bring the fullest version of Code Orange there's been so far. We haven't done a headline tour in four years at this point, and we're bringing a visual element to it. A lot of what we do is visual — if you follow the band, you know that. Hopefully, the more we're able to step it up, the more we can show that.
Was Korn part of your heavy-music immersion growing up?
I wouldn't say they were necessarily part of our initial heavy-music experience, because we come more from of a hardcore and punk background. That's where we learned about heavy music, and that's where we learned about metal — through punk and hardcore.
But as we've gone on — obviously, Korn has always been everywhere. Korn was actually, technically, the first concert I ever went to. I went to a concert when I was in fourth or fifth grade. It was Linkin Park and Korn and Snoop Dogg.
I think they're inspiring in their longevity and in their push forward. They definitely try to keep it creative, and they keep it moving. They don't sit there and wait five years in between records. They keep pushing. When you look at Korn, you've got to understand there's not many heavy bands left that can draw in the way Korn does. It's kind of an anomaly, you know?
So, I've got nothing but respect for them. They influenced many of the things that influenced us.
Who were the bands that got you going early on?
We got into this really young. I booked my first show when I was about 14 years old. We've technically been a band — in different incarnations, but with the same four people — since we were 14.
My parents are pretty young, so when I was a little kid, I was listening to a lot of hip-hop and rock. Rakim, KRS-One, Public Enemy, but my dad was also into Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains. Your basic ABCs of punk and hardcore. It kind of sprung off from there and we fell down the metal rabbit hole.
We don't subscribe to the idea that you're either a punk-metal band or a "smart metal" band or a "dumb, push-people, Monster Energy" band. We take pieces from all that stuff. We can go as experimental as anybody and push people on the ground as well! That's hopefully our imprint on heavy music — to take different pieces from different scenes, because we've been part of all of them.
We've paid as many dues to the hardcore scene as you can, but before that, we were playing roll-on-the-ground punk shows where the singer was naked and all the bulls<em></em>*. We've played the experimental noise dungeon. We've played the push-someone-on-the-ground festival. We've done it all and we are it all.
Did you guys ever play to an audience of zero early on?
Yeah. We've probably played more shows to an audience of zero than anyone. We toured the U.S. 10 times before we were in a magazine or coming out of anybody's mouth that wasn't under the level.
That's helped us a lot, honestly. That helped us win fans. I find it tough to grow when there's so many bands and artists. Everyone gets attention, but it feels so spread out, especially in heavy music. There's not a linear path like there's been in previous years of heavy music, I would say.
That has taught us a lot. We've played in many basements; we've slept on many floors; we slept on the same floors we played on, right after. We've done it all.
At what point did you feel Code Orange became a unique entity and not just the sum of your influences?
I think we've always had a sense of ourselves. That sense has developed over the years. To me, I can chart it aesthetically. At one point, when we were young, the band was on a certain aesthetic path and kind of came to the end of that path. We had the fortitude to reboot that a couple of records ago because we wanted to go in a different way that would pay off long-term.
I think [2020's Underneath] is definitely a record that you can't say sounds like anybody. You can say that sections and parts sound like certain influences, but I don't think there's a record that sounds like Underneath. It's the most encompassing of that vision. Where do we go from here? We'll see.
Can you drop any hints about the music you're currently working on?
We've been working hard on it. We have many, many more songs than we've ever had. Normally, we'd kind of plot them out for ebbs and flows. But for me, I'm a heavy music fan, but I'm also a big hip-hop fan. I love electronic music. I love rock. Everything.
I get bored going on that same ride. I love metal, but it's hard to sit through these albums all the way through. It can be painful at times. So, the way we try to plot these things out is like a rollercoaster. Up and down. "OK, what are our downs going to be? How do we bring the adrenaline back? How do we [stick] the landing?"
So far, stylistically it's a big departure from anything we've done so far. But that's why we keep working on it. We want to get it right. We really want to take a big swing on it.
I've found that most heavy musicians listen to far more than just heavy music — or sometimes no heavy music at all. What are your listening habits like?
I just get into specific things really hard. Our guitarist, Dom, is an insane metal encyclopedia. He's unreal. Joe, our bass player, is a huge metal/hardcore guy. Shade, our keyboardist, doesn't really listen to it, but he does understand what makes it tick. Reba's really into alternative music and rock. So, we're able to pick these different things.
While I don't always sit around listening to metal all day long, I understand what I think makes it great. My goal is to try to suck the best moments out of it, the fun moments, and make that as many of our moments as possible. Hardcore is always the pit, the mosh part, but you can use that philosophy for whatever.
So, we try to make the songs fun in that regard while hopefully being interesting. We are a rock, metal, hardcore band at the end of the day, and everything else is things we're pulling in. You're not going to hear a record from us that doesn't have a heavy element, but if you've been following our stuff, you know we like to mix it up.
To drill a little deeper, what are you listening to this week?
Let me look. I opened up Spotify. I was listening to that new song by the Game that Kanye produced called "Eazy." That's a killer song. I'm listening to Drakeo the Ruler.
I'm listening to a lot of Nine Inch Nails — they're my favorite band of all time. It's constant. I try to get away from it, to escape it, but I just can't. They're my favorite band because it mixes a lot of elements we're talking about. It doesn't lean on the metal side, but it's just heavy. For the most part, the music I want to make is dark. I'm into the dark arts! Aesthetically, musically, that's what I like.
George [Clarke] from Deafheaven has that new group, Alto Arc. I've been listening to them. I've got a song from that. I thought that was absolutely awesome.
As a relative outsider looking in, I feel like we're in a really fertile period for hardcore. But as someone who's been truly in it for many years: what's the deal? Are we in a boom or bust period?
I think it doesn't really work that way, because most of what's good about it — 95 percent of the bands that are good — is because of that environment. And if it grows beyond that environment, it doesn't work. And it shouldn't work, and it's not supposed to work. It's like taking a character out of a movie and putting it in another one.
There are a small amount of bands that are built in a different way. You can already see Turnstile or Power Trip — rest in peace to Riley — there have been and are bands, and I believe we're a band like that, that can exist and appeal outside of that because of the type of thing they do.
That's the type of thing we've always done. We've never went from being a straightforward hardcore band. We started really f<em></em><em>ing weird and we're still really f</em><em></em>ing weird in different ways. There have to be elements of your sound and vibe that reach out from those things. And sometimes, when the ball gets rolling — like maybe what you're describing — it forces other bands out of that box as well.
And that doesn't make sense. To me. It's best in that environment. So, in terms of a boom period in quality, I'm sure: there seems to be a ton of amazing bands, and people are going, and it's exciting.
In terms of bands that are cutting through that cloth, we'll have to see. But I definitely feel like Turnstile is built differently than whatever other band you do like, and is killing in that environment.
But for me, I can already see where it starts and ends. That's what hardcore is, and there's nothing wrong with that. And for most people in hardcore, that's exactly what they want. They don't want things to grow outside of that bubble, because it would literally make it not hardcore.
There's a lot of good stuff, it seems like, and there's always been a lot of good stuff. But we'll have to see what direction bands go. I don't know if a lot of hardcore bands' goal is to take risks. I think their goal is just to be in the hardcore scene and have a blast and play hardcore.
That's not really our goal, and never really has been our goal. We've been screaming that from the rooftops since day one.
Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images for MRC
2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rock
It isn't just not dead; it's thriving. In 2021, rock became less male, less straight, more genre-fluid and further enshrined modern-day elders — all with a healthy reverence for the past
By the looks of the 2022 GRAMMY nominations, rock in 2021 was about looking backward.
There's some credence to this idea: AC/DC, Foo Fighters, Paul McCartney, Wolfgang Van Halen, Weezer, Kings of Leon and the late Chris Cornell had banner years. Even Black Pumas' twice-nominated Capitol Cuts was something of another permutation of their 2019 self-titled debut — to say nothing of their retro-soul sound. But the real story is more complicated than that.
Beneath the stratum of these legacy acts (and, in Black Pumas' case, an up-and-comer), rock expanded in a multitude of directions. For one, the idea of it being a straight, white male's game was put to pasture: women singer/songwriters from Olivia Rodrigo to Lucy Dacus — as well as a host of acclaimed LGBTQ+ artists — took the wheel.
And when it comes to the sound of rock in 2021, things got more exciting than inclusion alone. Just beneath the mainstream and big-box indie, Turnstile blended floor-punching hardcore with wavy R&B and electronic textures, thanks in part to forward-thinking guest Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange. Hardcore-adjacent bands like Fiddlehead and Militarie Gun wove the angular indie and emo of the '90s into their strongest songs to date.
Certainly, some cultural currents from prior years washed into 2021's rock sphere — namely, classic rock proving as sturdy as ever, pop-punk and emo riding high and Foo Fighters saturating all media. But here are a few other happenings more-or-less squarely in the province of 2021.
Women Stepped Forward
Most importantly, their perspectives were front and center. And while Olivia Rodrigo's Sour was saturated in heterosexual breakup woes, women wrote songs about everything this year, from grief to joy to sobriety to solitude.
If the Bechdel test — which ascertains whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man — applied to guitar-based music, 2021 would pass with flying colors.
Representation Expanded Beyond Gender
Two-thirds of rising pop-punk trio Meet Me @ The Altar — who released their Fueled By Ramen debut, an EP titled Model Citizen, in August — identify as LGBTQ+, but that's hardly where queer representation in 2021 rock ended.
Snail Mail's Lindsey Jordan, who is openly gay, put out her acclaimed album Valentine. St. Vincent's Annie Clark, who once said "I don't really identify as anything," released Daddy's Home to widespread praise.
And Japanese Breakfast's Michelle Zauner, who is bisexual, had a massive year with her new album, Jubilee — which contained the hit single "Be Sweet" — and bestselling memoir, Crying in H Mart.
Plus, the half-Asian, half-Latinx, all-female band the Linda Lindas (of "Racist Sexist Boy" fame) signed to Epitaph Records in 2021 — which bodes well for a women-first 2022 in punk.
The Old Became New
On Glow On, Turnstile interpolated Sly and the Family Stone lyrics and their aforementioned punk peers whipped up a noise akin to Unwound or Sunny Day Real Estate. But those and other bands didn't just dig around in music's past; they made sounds from the past new again.
Across the pond, English duo Royal Blood's Typhoons brought back a bass-and-drums stomp reminiscent of the White Stripes or Death From Above 1979, reminding listeners the world over that rock is rightfully dance music.
They're not the only ones mining the past to new ends — a tidal wave of nervy bands in the U.K., like Squid, Dry Cleaning and Fontaines D.C., are recalling the sounds of post-punkers like Wire and the Fall.
Plus, Olivia Rodrigo's interpolation of Paramore's "Misery Business" into megahit "Good 4 U" showed the new guard is bringing back Myspace-era emo. (Machine Gun Kelly did a lot to weave that connection, as evidenced with his successful 2020 album Tickets To My Downfall.)
International Sounds Resonated
Måneskin's ascent in 2021 seemed to come out of nowhere.
Led by conspicuously codpieced singer Damiano David, the Italian rock band managed to lodge Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons' 1967 hit "Beggin'" into youngsters' imaginations via a big win at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and, eventually, TikTok virality. This year, they dropped their second album, Teatro d'ira: Vol. I, to critical applause.
And the year-end critics' polls featured another geographic outlier: Nigerian guitarist Mdou Moctar's new album Afrique Victime burned an indelible impression of Tuareg desert-blues into rock fans' consciousnesses.
Genres Became Elastic
Weezer tested the boundaries of their tried-and-true power-pop on 2021's OK Human, and it paid off — especially on the single "All My Favorite Songs," which swapped buzzsaw guitars for chamber orchestration.
There's also a separate discussion to be had about how emo — originally a rock subgenre — has come to subsume almost everything from hip-hop to pop to trap, from Juice WRLD to The Kid Laroi and beyond. (Pop-punk, its sister style, turns up in K-pop bands like ENHYPEN and Tomorrow x Together, too.)
A whole article could be dedicated to Glass Animals' genre fluidity — something they've been known for since their start with 2014's Zaba. But their psychedelic smash, "Heat Waves," launched the UK indie-rock group onto pop radio and beyond.
The track made Glass Animals arguably 2021's biggest rock success and scored them their first hit on the Billboard Hot 100, where it reached No. 7. (Spin its parent album, 2020's Dreamland, and Glass Animals' 2021 single, "I Don't Wanna Talk [I Just Wanna Dance]" for several other permutations of their sound-bending stylings.)
Finally — to bring up Turnstile's Glow On one more time — has a hardcore album ever veered so close to Arthur Russell or PinkPantheress territory without betraying its roots?
Bands Embraced Traditional Song Structures
Is this exactly a 2021 rock phenomenon? Maybe not, but it arguably reached a new apex this year.
After years of "vibes" in indie rock — from slacker-songwriters like early WAVVES and Best Coast to the noise storms of No Age and Bass Drum of Death — it seems like songs are back in style.
Check out pretty much any of the 2021 offerings cited above — they offer verses, choruses, bridges and/or legible lyrics. Is it possible that while textures and references are an integral part of memorable songs, listeners are demanding a little more meat to the bone?
A Rock Veteran Mentored The Next Gen
After high-profile collaborations with Post Malone and Machine Gun Kelly in 2020, he partly spent 2021 mentoring the 24-year-old rocker KennyHoopla (the pair collaborated on SURVIVOR'S GUILT: THE MIXTAPE) and helping Willow Smith transition from alt-R&B to pop-punk by featuring on three cuts from her album lately i feel EVERYTHING.
In addition, he hopped on tracks with MOD SUN and grandson, and furthered the emo rap craze with features on songs from blackbear, Trippie Redd, Sueco, LILHUDDY, and Jack Kays, among others.
The rock veteran also helped a fellow longtime punk star begin a new chapter, too: Barker signed Avril Lavigne to his label, DTA Records, in November, also featuring on her first single on the imprint, "Bite Me."
These Rock Heroes Saturated Everything
Grohl was just about everywhere this year. Not only did Foo Fighters release their 10th studio album, Medicine at Midnight; they performed at Biden's inauguration, entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the first-ever global icon award at the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards. (Plus: a bestselling memoir, an upcoming horror-comedy… the list goes on.)
If it's possible to ascertain a future classic rock artist, Grohl is probably your safest bet. And even if Foo Fighters want to take it easy after such a whirlwind year, the irrepressibly enthusiastic hitmaker clearly isn't going anywhere in this decade.
Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
Brendan Yates On Turnstile's Vibrant New Album 'GLOW ON': "The Goal Was To Breathe As Much Imagination Into These Songs As Possible"
From day one, Turnstile have been outliers in the insular, unbending hardcore scene. But to leader Brendan Yates, it's just as well: Their colorful new album 'GLOW ON' is for everybody
Brendan Yates stood in a deserted baseball stadium in Arecibo, Puerto Rico, overcome with emotion. He'd been there before; he couldn't possibly forget it. Where the place had once been filled with sound—roaring fans, a booming announcer, the crack of the bat—wild horses roamed all around him.
"It was this magical place that stuck in my head forever," the leader of the rock band Turnstile tells GRAMMY.com. "Something about it felt extremely lonely and beautiful. That kind of feeling that at one point, those stands would be filled." When it came time to direct their 2021 short film, TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION, it was a no-brainer as to where the shoot would take place.
When that 11-minute film—Yates' directorial debut—premiered in Brooklyn this summer, that forgotten shell of a destination became the framework for slamming rock. Young viewers of countless tastes and backgrounds came out in droves and, when the band appeared onscreen, cheered. What was so unpopulated as to provide grazing land for stallions took on new life.
The stadium feels metaphorical for the music scene that Turnstile grew from. Despite giving the world forward-thinking acts from Bad Brains to Minor Threat, hardcore punk is an often arid space where heterodoxy is tantamount to banishment. Turnstile, who add keyboards and drum machines to their music and collaborate with Diplo, were potential offenders right out of the box. Their intrepid new album, GLOW ON, which arrives August 27, is destined to send them even further afield.
But leaving the bounds of hardcore hasn't limited their audience; like a succulent in a new pot, it's grown and grown and grown. Some tracks like "HOLIDAY" and "T.L.C. (TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION)" are punk ragers with unexpected, ethereal drop-outs. Others, like "ALIEN LOVE CALL"—a collaboration with Dev Hynes (a.k.a. Blood Orange)—eschew power chords and bashed drums altogether, opting to float in interstellar space.
The throughline of all this is a lack of fear—of pushback, of resistance, of excommunication—that defines Turnstile. And, of course, Yates isn't alone in the fray. Together with guitarists Brady Ebert and Pat McCrory, bassist Franz Lyons and drummer Daniel Fang, he's open to try anything, gatekeepers be damned.
GRAMMY.com caught up with Yates over Zoom to discuss the road to GLOW ON, the learning curve of directing his first film and why he views the future of Turnstile as a borderless enterprise.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
There's a certain religiosity and orthodoxy in the hardcore scene. Given that you guys have pop and crossover elements, where do you guys fit in that musical sphere these days?
I think when it comes to that word of categorizing things based on sound, it's all based on an individual's perspective. I think in the world that we come from, we've taken from hardcore and punk growing up and going to shows and stuff like that. It's almost embracing the ideology and the sense of community. Embracing individuality and diversity over what some may predominantly categorize based on sound.
There's some bands that I consider some of my favorite hardcore bands that someone else might not necessarily categorize, sound-wise, as hardcore punk. I think it's more something that's not as easy to categorize by sound and moreso by, overall, where you're coming from.
When Turnstile started to gain momentum, did you face resistance from the gatekeepers of "true" hardcore?
Oh, yeah. But I think that's any kind of music. There's some people who are like, "This is what it is, and this is what it needs to sound like. If it's not that, then I don't mess with it." For us, it doesn't necessarily, in my head, fall into any sort of direct sound category. You can get negative feedback from anyone that needs it to be a certain way.
So, that's always kind of been something that happens, but at the same time, you accept that everyone wants something different in what they expect of you, as long as you're able to swallow that and keep moving forward doing what you want to do.
Was there ever a moment of doubt where it was like, "We've gone too far! We need to reverse course because people are yelling at us!"
Oh, 100 percent. I think with every album we've ever done, there's always this uncomfortable, extremely vulnerable feeling of "Is this OK? Will this be received in whatever world we exist in?" This goes back to earlier Turnstile records. Before an album came out, I felt so proud of the work and ideas we put into it. I felt like that was what we wanted to make, but I was also like, "This could be the last one because I don't think this will connect with anyone else but us."
That vulnerable state that you're in before putting something out, I think is something I grew to try to achieve and embrace a little bit. I feel like it's a sign, a feeling of being able to accept being vulnerable and follow through with it. At the end of the day, it's something you wanted to do.
I'm sure your solidarity with the other guys in the band helps you screw up your courage.
100 percent. We're all so close and there are so many things that we try that are so far from something we've done. We try it and we're like, "Everyone forget that we even tried that. We're never doing that again." It's rewarding to feel those things out, but if something does click or feel right for some reason that's sometimes unexplainable, if we collectively feel good about it and it feels like it's coming from the five of us in a genuine way, then it's like, "Let's just embrace it and let it happen."
Turnstile | Photo: Jimmy Fontaine
GLOW ON is yet another big leap for the band. What did you want to say with this record—literally or abstractly—that you didn't in past works?
I think one thing that I've always kind of felt with our band is: I think the essence of it is in a live environment with other people. Live shows. I think that's always our goal: To maximize that feeling of being at a live show. The energy of the shows that we play. But also, with this recording process, on top of that, the goal was to breathe as much imagination into these songs as possible.
When you have a feeling you want to get across, sometimes, it's hard to capture that on a recording. There were a lot of ways we tried to capture the different dimensions of what one song could offer feeling-wise, whether it's working with a lot of keyboards or drum machines or messing with different kinds of melodies and rhythms. We were trying to let the entire thing feel a little more imaginative.
A lot of times, when I hear a song, my brain automatically goes to thinking of other things that could be in it. "I think I could hear a percussive thing here!" or "A melody here!" I think we had a lot of time to not hold back on trying to build the songs as much as possible, creating a world in each song that is a little more multidimensional, I guess.
Are you involved with the songs as they grow from their foundation, or are you more of the cherry on top as the singer?
Pretty much all the songs start with me in my bedroom. I just make the song and, at a certain point, bring it to the band when I feel like it's a full song. We see how it feels and build and shape it from there.
It's interesting, too, because with this album particularly, I feel like there are a lot of songs that started in such different ways, as far as the writing process goes. The song "MYSTERY," for example, that was on the TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION EP, I didn't even imagine as a Turnstile song at first. [I was playing] chords on a keyboard and singing really lightly, almost like a potential interlude or something.
Once the structure was there and I stacked the melodies and everything, then, we tried it as a full band with drums and guitars and everything. That wasn't what the initial writing was intended for, but once we all got together, it blossomed that way.
It's exciting when that [happens] as far as writing goes, because it's not like every song starts with a guitar riff and "How do we figure it out from there?" This album has taken on a lot of different ways of finding how songs feel good, whether it's starting with a drum beat or guitar riff or having a melody in mind, or having some chords on piano or something like that. That was rewarding: The process expanded in that way.
Was the TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION film your directorial debut?
Yeah, I guess so. I think everything we've ever done has been our idea. We bring songs in and help direct the idea. The creative direction is there and someone helps bring it to life. But this is the first time I fully stepped into a director seat, which was such a learning experience. Now, going through that process, you learn how much goes into it. [I have] so much respect for someone who does that full-time. There are so many small details that go into managing every single aspect of putting it together.
It only ended up being an 11-minute project, but what went into it was exhausting. It was really rewarding to go through the process, but even more rewarding when it was something that came from us as opposed to someone else taking over.
What music videos or films from years past went through your mind while directing TURNSTILE LOVE CONNECTION? What was your vision for the visual aesthetic and sound design?
It was moreso the visuals that were in mind first. I naturally had these visuals in my head for the songs as far as colors and how I wanted it to feel. And, I had location in mind. That baseball stadium that was abandoned, I'd found years ago. It was this magical place that stuck in my head forever. The first time I went there, it was this abandoned stadium that had wild horses running through it.
Something about it felt extremely lonely and beautiful. That kind of feeling that at one point, those stands would be filled. Seeing it in this state had this very strange, lonely feeling. I called my friend [Ian Hurdle], who was the DP [director of photography], and said, "I have these ideas and they're flowing together. They tie together in a lot of ways."
"I think there's a beauty in being open to everything that inspires you, whether it's music, people or relationships. Anything that's inspiring, be open to it and let it come out." —Brendan Yates
I explained the whole thing to him and had the idea of "Who should get to direct it?" and he was like, "I think you have the idea there. I can film. We don't need to bring anyone else in. We have an idea that already exists. Let's just try to make it happen." So, obviously, there was the location, but [as to] how to film it, there was plenty of inspiration from different kinds of films and music videos and live performances. It served as this mixing pot of inspiration as to how to actually film this stuff and edit it.
Back to the agreed-upon template of hardcore, or the lack thereof. Do you guys feel like you can grow limitlessly from here? Do you feel any boundaries after GLOW ON?
I don't think so. I don't think there's any boundaries. At the end of the day, when it's the five of us with our instruments, it's always going to be Turnstile. I think there's something comforting in that, because allowing inspiration or trying things, no matter how different they may be, will always [be our MO]. If it comes from us, it'll be a Turnstile song.
That is never necessarily anything we have to try to mainstain, necessarily. It's just the combination of the two guitars, the drummer, the singer and the bass player coming together. It is refreshing to know that it's a blank canvas for the future as long as it feels good to the band as a group of five.
When you look out at your audience, which is wide, healthy and varied, I'm sure it dawns on you that you won them because you didn't box yourselves in. Does what you do invite a larger, more varied swath of people into that community that might have been very insular before?
I think so. I think it can be. I think any subgenre or community can sometimes be a little insular or potentially inaccessible to some. Coming from Baltimore, too—maybe that's just partially our experience—but I think Baltimore being a small city where there's a lot of different kinds of music and art and people doing a lot of different things almost forces those things to overlap. You play shows together. I think that alone is always subconsciously a trick of how we approach it.
The hardcore or punk community or any kind of subgenre of music has blended together right here, and I feel [everyone's] been welcoming and supportive of each other. I think that has subconsciously ingrained us as being open to play for whoever, to take any opportunity to play for people who would be excited to see the band.
The reason I keep harping on this is because I'm primarily a jazz writer these days. That's also a highly insular world, but the drum I keep beating is "If you don't bring in new blood, this music will die." Do you feel similarly about hardcore?
Yeah. I think, too, [as far as] someone's idea of jazz or hardcore or indie or any kind of stuff, those ideas are never set in stone. It's something that's constantly, always evolving.
It's the way I look at life or being a person. It's cool to have a certain set of directions or have ideas on how you want to be, but I feel it's also important to always be able to change or have someone else's idea or perspective. From my perspective, someone's life could be totally different from mine. If I close it off and go, "No, this is how it's supposed to be," and they're also like that, then it's this wall that's come between.
And for something like jazz, too: Jazz, to me, has always felt like such an inspiration because a lot of great jazz musicians have vocalized this idea of not even wanting to call their music "jazz," because if it's good, it's good. If it feels good, it feels good. That's always inspired me as far as working to ignore the genre barriers that are put in place by society.
People feel comfortable putting things in categories, and I think there's something freeing in jazz, where there's such a wide range of inspiration. The beauty in it, I feel, is in accepting whatever it is for whatever it is. If you like it, you like it.
Everyone's perspective, everyone's truth is very different. I feel like that's how we look at things. We try to navigate through life and be open to whatever. Our music preferences and tastes are all over the board. It's silly to close off the inspiration of what you're doing to only a limited thing that you think would feel comfortable to anyone else.
I think there's a beauty in being open to everything that inspires you, whether it's music, people or relationships. Anything that's inspiring, be open to it and let it come out.
As a musician myself, I like to ask about moments on records more than songs. What are your favorite moments on GLOW ON?
[Elated sigh.] Ah, so many moments.
I really appreciate the song "Alien Love Call," where we ended up collaborating with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange. I think one thing we've always been open to as well—and songs on previous records have formed this way—but there will be a riff, or one little idea, and we'll be on tour and throw it on the set between songs.
That's how so many songs have formed. Sometimes, it works and we do it again. That song, particularly, was a thing that we would play live. Someone might have broken a string and we went into that because the dynamics felt right. Once we played it for so long on tour because it became naturally part of the set, when it came time to record the album, it felt like fully our song at this point instead of this little jam thing. It was worth the effort to try to build it into a song.
After building it into a song and collaborating with Dev, it was different sonically than a lot of Turnstile songs we've done, but at the same time, it was a moment that felt very true to us because we'd been playing it and it formed in such a natural way with the five of us together. Then, when we and Dev came together on it, that's the kind of stuff that I'm really excited about—when those things happen.
Sometimes, they're not necessarily always perfectly explainable. It's something forming and just embracing it.
What do you appreciate about Dev's music—or just Dev as a person?
So much. I'm such a big fan. He's such an inspiring person, especially his ability to exist in so many different lanes while always genuinely feeling like him, whether it's soundtracking or producing or featuring with artists that are very different sonically.
As we were talking about, some people may categorize [him], but especially upon meeting him, there's such a great, wide range of inspiration that is built into his DNA, whether it's metal, rock stuff, jazz, classical or R&B. He's so creative and has such a beautiful vision. When we work on things together, it's just so fulfilling.
It's a vision I feel like I can connect to and appreciate. In many ways, I feel like I can relate to the way he looks at things sometimes, which is super-amazing. I have nothing but love for Dev and what he does.