Friday 8 January 2021

Turnstiles - Interview

Turnstiles are one of the most exciting bands emerging from Ireland at present with five singles under their belt by the end of 2020. They start off 2021 with their debut EP, four new songs that see them stretching the boundaries of their sound whilst retaining the intensity of their early releases. We caught up with Jake, Colm, Cillian and Luke to find out more about them and their approach to their music.

For a new band despite the events of the past year, you’ve been pretty productive - five singles out and now the EP.  Has the focus shifted with lockdown away from the live shows to putting together a body of work - to release the singles, then the EP

Jake : In March it’ll be a year since we did a gig which is pretty mad considering we hadn’t been together that long before.  Those singles were recorded before lockdown and we’d been sitting on them for a while.  Definitely in terms of the EP, before I think our singles were to promote our live shows, we wanted a way to let people know we existed. But now, I think we’re putting more focus on the recording and releasing side of thing.

The songs on the EP, are they songs that existed prior to lockdown or are they ones you’ve written since?

Colm : One of them existed before, the others have been written during lockdown, during the pandemic.

How did you manage the writing and recording process with not being able to meet up as a band. Did you wait until you could meet up to write or did you do that remotely and then get into the studio to record them as soon as you could?

Colm : It’s not really a studio where we practice, it’s more like a shed. Three of the songs were brought by Jake and one of them was brought by me, written lyrically and maybe a basic guitar part or Jake might have had a bass part. When we came together when the first lockdown was eased, we could finish writing the songs.

Is that your normal songwriting process, one of you bringing a song to the band or would you write through jamming?

Colm : Kind of a mix really. Half and half. Often times Jake would write lyrics or a part or I would write a part and we might develop it from something small to a full song really quickly. 

Jake : When I write on my own, I rarely go past a riff, a verse and a chorus and it’s like very loose, it’s not a full song, but two parts, sometimes one, but the foundation of a song and when we get together we expand on things a lot more. 

In terms of the songs on the singles, they were very short, sharp bursts, often under two minutes long. Everything on the EP is three minutes plus. Was that an intentional change in the way you were writing songs or was that something that naturally just happened?

Colm : I think it was a bit of both, we’re just better at writing songs now so it will naturally happen like that.  Also, we’ve not been writing them live, so we haven’t had to focus on keeping the energy levels up or whatever, we’ve had a bit more freedom to just make it a good song.  We’re also better at knowing where to go with a song.

Do think that’s going to surprise your audience - reading some of your early live reviews, it’s very much about very short songs, sharp bursts, lots of energy whereas the EP has that, but also a very different feel to it in many ways to some of those singles. 

Cillian : I think there will be a bit of that. It’s very tempting to follow the three chords punk formula. That’s not something that would concern me. I just look at it as another kind of tool in the arsenal we have. I wouldn’t say we would go down that route consistently. I think it might be fair to say the nature of our early stuff was limited, as Colm said, by our own musicianship and how long we’d known each other and stuff like that.

Colm : We used to play two cover songs in a set and they were three minutes long and had high energy levels so we now just have original songs that are around that left.  They might not be as energetic and quick as the others, but I still think they have a lot of energy in them.

You said that you’d been together less time before than the duration of lockdowns. How did you get together as a band?

Cillian : We’re from Galway in the West, I hope that was a slip of the tongue. The boys are from the city and I just happened to meet Callum the singer at a party and met the drummer at another party. Colm and Jake would have known Callum growing up in Galway and it just all came together very naturally as we all had the same kind of interest in the same music. 

Were you attached to a scene in Galway, or did you create one because your music stood out as being different?

Colm : I think we stood out. I didn’t really notice a scene, but now there is. Maybe that’s because I wasn’t in the scene. 

Jake : One of the things I liked about our early gigs was that there was a scene in Galway revolving around a couple of pubs, but it was a thing of there being a few bands, but it was those bands going watching each other live. What I liked about our shows was that we seemed to be attracting people who weren’t going to see live bands often and we were branching out from that a little bit. We were putting on our own night ourselves with three or four bands on and that’s how we got our start locally because we were emailing around all the local venues and couldn’t get anything so we rented out this pub and put four bands on at once and that was how we got attention on a local station.

How did that expand then to putting out singles and playing outside the city?

Jake : The Clockworks were a big help. They’re living in London, but they’re from Galway as well. When we put out our first single, it wasn’t even really a single, we put it on YouTube, they messaged us that night saying they were playing a kind of comeback show to Galway and they wanted us to support. So that was a kind of break for us, I suppose, and they invited us up to do their Dublin show and I feel that things started to take off around then because they put us in front of their audience. We got a few more gigs in Dublin after that.

Cillian : We were fortunate that Luke’s uncle Richard Burke runs Blowtorch Records. Jake, Colm and I had previously been in bands too and I think that definitely helped us push on and publish music on Spotify because it is a barrier when you’re a new band - is it worth getting to know how to publish music and everything that goes with it. So we were fortunate Luke’s uncle was running a label. It was a big help.

Jake : Richard got us a lot of gigs as well. Where we had been emailing people before asking if we could play people weren’t paying any attention to it, but when Richard started to help us out, it came across as much more official and I think people started to take us much more seriously then in terms of booking. 

Is the EP coming out on Blowtorch?  It’s coming out digitally, are their plans for physical versions too?

Colm : We’re looking at putting it out on vinyl in the near future.

Cillian : Richard has cds too, but they’ll all be limited editions.  They’ll go up in value and be worth millions.

With the EP coming out now, you’re obviously not going to be able to play it live for a while. What methods are you going to use to promote it in the absence of live shows?

Colm : We’ve got a PR company working on it, that’s probably the best we can do at the moment. 

Are you restricted in Ireland from doing live streams, or are you just not physically in the same place to do them?

Colm : We’ve done a few. We did one in December at Mike The Pies that was really good in Kerry. In terms of putting on our own live streams, I doubt it. 

Cillian : With what you said earlier about the difference between the EP and the singles, I think it works well that we can’t gig them straight away so people can appreciate it as a piece of recorded music without the expectation that they’re going to a Turnstiles gig the next week and it has to be really punky and fast.

What inspires you lyrically - is it what’s going on around you, the news, television, books?

Jake : I think we have a strange way of writing lyrics.  On this EP I wrote the lyrics for three of them and Colm wrote the last one. We don’t really write lyrics for specific songs. The way it usually goes it that we would write an instrumental and then we flick through lyrics we have and it’s trial and error, trying out different things over the top until we find something that works. The inspiration really is, for me at least, things pop into my head and I write them down at the time. They can sit on my phone for a year and never get used. Colm’s song was different in that the lyrics and the music were very much written to go together.

I’d written down the opening line “I’m a piece of a puzzle that will never be solved” - it feels very relatable, where bands start to make connections with people who think “those thoughts are like mine”

Colm : My song is the last one on the EP. It’s one of the good things to come out of lockdown. I had so much free time that I could sit down and focus and properly write music and lyrics and have some direction of where it was going.  I didn’t have to worry about other commitments and having to play live gigs. I could work on it myself, it took me a while to write it.  Inspiration, it came from my own thoughts, based on news and books.  But I think the opening line is about people’s thoughts conflicting with themselves. It’s about that confusion I think. 

Moving on from the EP and what comes next. Have you got another batch of songs written, recorded, ready to go - or are you back to square one and starting again?

Luke : We’ve got a few ideas floating around, but not full tunes yet. Backbones of songs waiting to be worked on when we can.

Cillian : Nothing in the bank ready to go yet though. It’s all up in the air right now as to when we can even meet again and how we’re all feeling. As of now we’re just going to release the EP and hope people enjoy it. We’ve nothing in the back pocket other than a few ideas.

Jake : We haven’t really been able to meet up since we recorded it.  We were writing a lot of songs, but since it’s been recorded we’ve been in lockdown, we mixed it remotely and sent it off for mastering. 

Cillian : I think we could meet, it wouldn’t be illegal, but it would be somewhat immoral. It’s hard to know what to do, we’d probably infect each other within five minutes because we love each other so much. 

Finally, when things do change, what ambitions do you have for the band? 

Colm : I don’t look too far into the future. I like the idea of growing nice and slowly. It was quick at first and there’s always been a sense of us getting bigger and that was a pleasant feeling. I wasn’t looking down the line though and thinking ‘I want to be famous’ or whatever. I was really looking forward to playing festivals though and that’s something I’d love to do.

Cillian : Me and Jake were talking about this earlier and I think the days of wealthy musicians, not having to have a job to supplement being in a band, are far more limited. For me, it’s the act of making music, to stay present with it and make the best tunes and I don’t think we’ve set anything like ‘in two years we want to play Glastonbury.’  Maybe that’s a bad thing and unambitious

Luke : I think it’s about making progress, not setting specific goals. We want to better in any way we can, be that bigger better gigs, better quality songs.  

Turnstiles are on Facebook and Twitter.

The EP can be purchased on CD here.


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