Are Turnstile’s Grammy nominations a good thing?

Jennifer Moglia, Staff Writer

Connor Youngberg

As someone who mainly listens to punk and hardcore music (with a side of Taylor Swift, Phoebe Bridgers and Lorde), the annual Grammy Awards aren’t something that I pay a ton of attention to. However, when the nominations for the 2023 show were released on Nov. 15, a few categories caught my eye.

Turnstile, a hardcore band formed in Baltimore in 2010, is nominated for three awards, all in the rock category. “HOLIDAY” and “BLACKOUT,” from their 2021 album “GLOW ON” were recognized in the “Best Rock Performance,” “Best Metal Performance” and “Best Rock Song” categories.

My initial reaction was to be shocked – I’m not used to bands that my friends and I have seen in rooms that hold no more than 500 people get nominated for major awards. My shock quickly turned to happiness and excitement when I realized how huge this is for the hardcore community that surrounds this band.

Turnstile’s journey to the top, though long overdue, has been a bit rapid over the past year or so. The release of “GLOW ON” on Aug. 27, 2021, seemed to catapult the band into the mainstream after previously existing in an extremely niche subgenre.

The album received praise from outlets like Rolling Stone, Forbes, BBC, The Guardian, Billboard, NPR and more. In support of the LP, the band has performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,”“The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” over the past year.

The NHL’s Los Angeles Kings even used “BLACKOUT” in a hype video for the 2022 playoffs. All of this popularity seemed unusual for a band in an unpopular genre, but it certainly felt deserved.

Another unique thing about the year that Turnstile has had is the lineups the members have chosen to take on tour. Gone are the days of punk bands exclusively touring with other punk bands; Turnstile just wrapped up a month on the road with indie rocker Snail Mail and rapper JPEGMafia.

The response from the hardcore community to all of this success has been largely positive. Since its rise to popularity in the 1970s and 80s, hardcore has always been about outsiders finding unity with each other in a world where they don’t always feel welcomed. According to Total Guitar Magazine, “in the early 80s, many New York kids, alienated by mainstream culture and turned off by the pomp of hair metal bands like Mötley Crüe and Ratt, took solace in the welcoming vibe of Sunday hardcore matinees at legendary New York club CBGBs.”

For example, the straight-edge movement of the 80s all started with a 46-second song by Washington DC hardcore band Minor Threat. Lyrics like “I’m a person just like you, but I’ve got better things to do than / Snort white shit up my nose, pass out at the shows / That’s something I just don’t need,” were all about feeling empowered by not drinking alcohol or using drugs, something that was seen as unusual by mainstream media.

This sentiment still rings true. I’ve seen most people saying that these big wins for Turnstile are wins for everyone involved in hardcore, whether you’re in a band, you go to shows, or you run your own label or zine.

Illustration by (Connor Youngberg)

This is exactly how I feel. I’ve been listening to Turnstile for almost four years, and to see a band I’ve loved for so long get recognition almost makes me feel like a proud mom. It gives me hope that other hardcore and punk bands will see more success and get recognized for their hard work and talent for years to come.

However, some members of the hardcore community don’t see it the same way, feeling like the band’s success and popularity make it less of a hardcore band. It makes sense to some extent – hardcore started out as a counterculture movement with a do-it-yourself attitude, and in many ways, it still is, but it’s time to stop thinking mainstream success equals “selling out.”

Of course, it’s natural to feel protective over your favorite artists and even want to gatekeep them when large numbers of people start to like them. I may have wanted my favorite bands to stay my little secret in the past, but as I’ve grown up, I’ve realized that I should be happy that the music I love is being heard by more ears, not jealous that I’m no longer the only one listening.

Turnstile’s vocalist and bassist Franz Lyons put it best in an interview with Revolver when he said, “all we really want to do is make music that feels good.” Since the beginning, this band has been focused on songs that feel like emotional and physical catharsis, helping fans feel empowered enough to sing along at the top of their lungs and jump off of stages like they’ll never hit the ground.

How can you be mad at a band for spreading messages like that? How can you be mad at people for feeling like those messages resonate with them?

Although I’m used to being disappointed by major awards shows, I do hope that I get to see Turnstile win some Grammy Awards in 2023. Even if it doesn’t turn out that way, I have no doubt that these nominations are a huge step in the right direction for Turnstile and every hardcore band out there right now – when one of us wins, we all win.