Bringing their Casio wonderland back to delight fans with a pare of rare headlines shows, 90s indie favourites Turnstyle are back! Supported by another band of bonafide local legends, the 6s & 7s, and newbies The Sours, the bus pulls into the 459 Bar this Friday, May 18 and Port Beach Garden Bar on Sunday, May 20. Local fangirl Q chats to lead Turnstyler Adem K about time, music and a town called Perth.
Looking back now as something of a Perthonality and elder statesman of the local music scene in WA, did you ever think back in the 90s that Turnstyle would become so embedded in Perth music culture and history?
We remained Perth-centric even though there was some national focus on us for two or three years. That was certainly not by choice, we were just suspicious of having our music and image distilled by the industry. It confused us to the point of making a very patchy record (Turnstyle Corporation) after making a really good record (Turnstyle Country). I felt like the band and my 20s would last forever so I never thought of how we would be perceived in the future. Being a prolific band and releasing a lot of work during those early years along with myself carrying the torch with other projects since has also contributed to the band’s legacy. I’ve been doing this for a while with great passion so I’m happy to be known for that.
Why do you think Turnstyle has aged so well?
Our boyish good looks are still intact! As far as the music goes I feel the relevance of the band has ebbed and flowed. During the early 2000s a lot of bands were generally either trying to rock like Jet or The Strokes or were trying to out-twee each other so I could definitely see us being a little irrelevant during that period. There’s been a renewed interest recently in the style of music others and us were making in the 90s which I compare to some music in the 80s being influenced by the 60s. It’s a cycle. Our last record (2015’s Time Equals Function) was reminiscent of that. The record we are just finishing up has a bit more contemporary influence. We’re not these 40 year old guys who sit around dissing new bands and just listening to old stuff.
I hear the band is getting featured in a gallery at the new WA Museum? That’s pretty exciting, how did that all come about?
The gallery put their feelers out to gauge interest from a bunch of Perth bands. They really liked our creative process, DIY poster artwork and of course the whole Casio thing was quite unique so they thought that would be interesting for their project. We’re excited to see what comes of it and fortunately we have a lot of source material we can loan them which they were particularly excited about.
As you mentioned, your 2015 album, Time Equals Function, maintains that quirky indie Casio sound that made Turnstyle so definable. But I also love the heavier post-punk sounds reminiscent of other 90s legends Sonic Youth and Pavement. What has changed in your approach to making music? Other than having even more keyboards…
Well originally we were all in the same city working out songs regularly as a band. With Time Equals Function that changed. We demoed songs at home and then sent them to our drummer Dean who lives in Brisbane who would work out drum parts. When he was back in Perth we would record the basic tracks and build on them. It’s been much the same with the new album though fortunately Dean has paid us a few more visits so we were able to play as a band a little bit more than last time. I tend to go crazy with keyboards but the others reign me in because although we have amassed quite an arsenal of instruments over the years and the Turnstyle approach has always been to use them in a subtle way. I’m really fond of the band’s heavy moments contrasting with the quirkier ones and that has remained. Paul is the only band member with a decent metal growl so we usually like to throw at least one of those in there somewhere.
I (personally) think there’s been a bit of a resurgence of Perth bands creating music with a distinct regional flavour in the last three to five years. How do you think the scene has changed and what new local bands are you excited about?
Well I think bands in general often pick up on what’s doing well locally and nationally and appropriate those aspects into their sound. A few years ago it was the Tame Impala psych thing and recently I’ve noticed bands proudly singing in broad Australian accents a la Courtney Barnett. This is fine for a young band whose trying to get up there but if we took on those things overtly then we’d feel ridiculous and fake. Our job is to keep it together and reach people who like what we do as opposed to trying to change to make people like us. I’m not immersed in the scene like I used to be which comes down to age and circumstance but I’m always listening and picking up on things that I like. My favourite local acts are Stephen Bailey, Em Burrows, Terrible Signal, Salary and Grievous Bodily Calm, amongst a few others.
Finally, I’m loving that we have the opportunity to be able to catch you guys live again. What can we expect in the setlist and will we get any new tracks?
There’ll be one or two tracks off the new album, half of Time Equals Function and a sprinkling of songs dating back to the 1996-99 period. We’re doing a family friendly show at the Port Beach Garden Bar (this Sunday, May 20 – in addition to the 459 show on Friday) which should be fun – there’s now eight Turnstyle children who have little to no idea about what their parents do when they go to bed!