How did your interest in music begin? Do you come from a musical family? Take us back to the very start.
I came from a family in which no one played instruments. Music wasn’t even played in the house that much. My older brother got into punk and hardcore when he was in middle school. That kind of got passed down to me. He would make me mix CDs and I would check out the stuff he downloaded on Limewire and Kazaa. As soon as I was old enough for my mom to feel safe with me going to hardcore shows, I started attending all I could. I started bands with the friends I met at Baltimore and DC shows and have basically been doing the same thing ever since.
Were you always dead set on playing the drums or did you try out any other instruments before you ended up behind the kit?
Technically my first instrument was bass guitar. Some friends asked me to play an Outkast cover at a middle school talent show, so I got up on stage and played something… I’m not sure if it was Outkast or not. During our practice for the talent show I noticed how much fun the drummer was having and realized how much more drums appealed to me than anything else. I immediately turned my focus to drumming after that.
You grew up in the D.C. Baltimore area. How was the scene there growing up and how is it now?
The scene was thriving in the years I was around. From age 16, as soon as I got a driving permit, to 22, when I graduated college, I’d be at a show almost every single weekend. I think the single greatest thing about our scene is the emphasis on inclusivity. I felt welcomed at shows as a scared, 120-pound teenager. Older kids would go out of their way to ask me to eat with them after a show, or to invite me to a house party the next night. When I became older and had formed bands, we would make an effort to get young bands from the area onto our headlining shows. I think inclusivity is the cornerstone of building a community. The older I get, the more I understand that.
How did you get together with the other guys in Turnstile?
Four fifths of us actually went to the same university in Maryland. We had also played in numerous bands before Turnstile and had shared the stage many times. Brendan, who had mainly been playing drums in Trapped Under Ice at the time, was my close friend and we respected each other as drummers. I think it was just natural that he asked me to drum in Turnstile as he was assembling the band.
You have been in the band since the start…and you’re now approaching a decade as an active band. Looking back on this time, what are some of the best memories you have?
I did not even realize that, haha. Ten years is a long time. It truly doesn’t feel like a decade has passed—I think because we exclusively do things that are fun for us. The best memories are ones of us traveling somewhere new together and being able to share those experiences as best friends. I have so many fond memories, like hand-feeding elephants in Thailand, swimming through lakes in New Zealand, going to arcades in Japan, visiting world heritage sites across Europe. Being able to play shows in front of really cool people AND being a straight up tourist at the same time feels to me like traveling in the fullest capacity. I feel super lucky to do it.
After having released a few EPs and your first full length album on indie labels, you signed with Roadrunner in 2018 for “Time & Space”. How was the shift coming to a major label?
Growing up on almost exclusively punk music and culture, I think I had an inherent aversion to major labels and music industry involvement in general. It took all of us in the band a while to come around to actually considering Roadrunner as an option. And I’m so happy we did. Roadrunner has granted us so much freedom and has allowed us to pursue a lot of artistic endeavors that we wouldn’t have been able to otherwise. With more resources than ever, we’ve had cool opportunities all over the place and in general we can kind of let our creativity run rampant. On top of that, everyone at the label is like family. I love it.
Although you’ve been around for close to a decade, one may still argue that you’re a relatively new band seeing as you just released your second album. However, in the short time from that came out until now, you have really accomplished a lot. Do you think the hard work you did touring and networking in the early days paid off?
In our early days we didn’t tour quite as much, mostly because our other bands were more active. But from day one we have always prioritized touring with bands that we feel a connection with, regardless of genre. I guess that has paid off in the sense that we have enjoyed everything so far. There hasn’t been any trudging through something we haven’t wanted to do just in order to achieve some kind of goal. We are lucky to be surrounded by people we love and are constantly inspired by.
Your band’s sound has its roots in hardcore and punk, but have a pretty unique sound that mixes lots of elements from other genres. Where does this stem from? Are you all into a lot of different kinds of music personally?
Absolutely! Every individual in the band has a distinct love for something a little different, but we all have wildly diverse tastes that overlap. And those tastes are always changing.
You’re also in a couple of other bands. Tell us more.
The two other bands I’m in are Angel Du$t and Praise. Three of us in Turnstile are members in Angel Du$t, which makes things easy. Angel Du$t is also a hardcore band that has branched out into exploring our collective musical tastes, across some different genres. Praise is a very ’80s DC hardcore-influenced band. I’m always excited to go from touring or recording with one band to the next. It’s nice to keep things fresh.
What Toontrack products do you use and where in the creative process do they come in?
I love EZdrummer 2 and so many of the kits I have. My main use of the software is to write and demo my drum parts with any of the bands I play in. I love having easily programmable documents of cool drum ideas. EZdrummer 2 is so valuable because it makes those documents sound truly great. It becomes so much easier to communicate an idea to someone—or to just reference for yourself—when the musical document actually sounds like music.
If you weren’t a musician, what do you think you’d do for a career?
I have no idea! Maybe first go back to school to get more degrees in sociology or anthropology. I’ve always enjoyed discussing those things.
Best stage moment ever?
The best stage moment might have been last year when I prematurely left the hospital to play our “Time & Space” record release show in DC. I was in a good amount of pain from the injury I was dealing with, but I had never felt so embraced by friends and family. Hobbling onto stage, still in my hospital gown, I realized how lucky I was to be doing what I’m doing.
…and on the flip-side: Worst studio moment ever?
Worst studio moment had to have been tracking the Turnstile song “Big Smile”. I lost count of how many takes it took. I probably went through about twenty drumsticks during that song. Almost every knuckle on my hands had cuts and bruises. My bones hurt. Will Yip, our friend who recorded the album, does not go easy on anyone—especially drummers. He doesn’t do any sound replacement so every hit has to be solid, because it’s permanent. The first long day of tracking, we finished maybe 3 songs, including “Big Smile”. The next day I come in and “Big Smile” is loaded up again and Will sits me down and says “dude, the snare sounds so good on the two other songs…we gotta do ‘Big Smile’ again.” I laughed and agreed. More blood and broken sticks. Fast forward to the end of the entire session. I had scrubbed the blood off of Will’s drum rims and shells at this point. Will texts me at like 2:00 AM one night and says “Dude… ‘Big Smile’…sorry man… can we do it again?” I was sure he was joking so it actually took me a minute to be convinced he was serious.
What’s next on the agenda for Turnstile?
Turnstile has a US tour with Turnover this spring, followed by a bunch of European festivals in the summer. There are a couple other small things sprinkled in there. The rest of the year will be active with our other bands, while Turnstile focuses creative energy for whatever comes after that.