Punk music is taking over the music scene once again these days. With more punk bands breaking into this market, and well-known bands like Say Anything and The Menzingers going on sold-out tours, it’s impossible to ignore this genre and all that it stands for. To me, punk music is all about making commentaries on life and society, while instilling strength in the listeners to make a difference.
If you love punk music, you’ve come to the right place – meet Turnspit. This four-piece band from Chicago is taking their local scene by storm because of their genuine songwriting and social consciousness. The band has donated proceeds from some shows to organizations like RAINN and Girl Forward to “spread the message of inclusivity,” and their social/political views are clearly stated through each performance. I was immediately interested in Turnspit when I found out they were a punk band showcasing a female vocalist – Being a female rock singer myself, this gave me hope for a more inclusive music industry.
The band just announced signing to Dodgeball Records, and their debut LP, ‘Desire Paths,’ is being released on February, 16, 2018. I asked the band a few questions so you can get to know them a bit better before the release:
ST: What’s it like being a band in the Chicago music scene, and how has this environment impacted you all as artists?
Gillian McGhee: The Chicago music scene is something special, I think. Even just within the large umbrella of punk rock, there are a million little microcosms of different kinds of punk bands that are working together, collaborating and lifting each other up. Generally speaking, I feel like Chicago has a uniquely supportive scene. The competition here is really more friendly than cut-throat. I think that has a lot to do with the identity of the city itself, being Midwestern. Friends I’ve talked to from New York or LA say it’s a very different vibe, but Chicago gets lumped with those cities all the time. How its affected us as a band, we’ve had a lot of help throughout this journey and I think it’s important to recognize that when we consider our ‘successes’ as a band. We work really hard at what we do, but we’ve also been fortunate in the various support systems the Chicago punk scene has given us.
ST: I really like the band’s musical style. For new listeners out there, how would you best describe your sound? Who are some of your biggest influences?
Brad Davis: I would describe our sound as melodic, wistful, and heartfelt punk rock. In the band, we’re all suckers for a catchy hook and chorus, but we definitely strive to incorporate more thoughtful lyrics into our songwriting. Music that makes you move, lyrics that make you think, that’s our sound.
One of the fun things about this band is that the four of us all have hugely varying influences and styles yet we all somehow meet in the middle. That being said, you can trace a lot of this band’s roots to the more melodic side of punk and rock and roll. Everyone from Rise Against and Hot Water Music to the Gaslight Anthem or The Distillers. There’s even a little Liars Academy and As Friends Rust thrown in for good measure. Talk to any one of us in person for an endless discussion of our favorite bands and influences.
GM: Agreed on all fronts, a little rock n roll, a little twang, and a little bit of pop, too. I gotta give a shout out to Avril Lavigne. I learned how to sing and play guitar at the same time to her first record, and I think it still holds up.
ST: Congratulations on Desire Paths being released! What was the songwriting process for the record, and are there any major themes you wanted to touch on within the music?
BD: As a band, we are all fiercely passionate about many social injustices and personal struggles we see in the world and I feel like our music and lyrics convey a sense of understanding, self-awareness, love, loneliness and hope. If the band had to paint a broad stroke of what we would want people to take away from our music I would say it’s that there is beauty in individuality, there is hope in compassion, love is always the answer, and that there is a unifying strength in defending the defenseless. Love yourself so you are free to love others and, in turn, able to receive love.
GM: As far as the mechanics of the songwriting on this record, Jason and I each bring somewhat fleshed out songs to practice, and then we all come together to and work on them. A fun thing about ‘Desire Paths’ is that Brad brought two songs to the table — “Apologies, I Have So, So Many” and “Home Is Run No More”. They were finished musically, and Jason was at the helm of writing the lyrics and vocal lines over them and organizing who sings when. I wrote my verse in “Apologies”. But those songs are neat because vocally, they are some of the most dynamic on the record and having Brad contribute in that way helped that side of the band develop. Personally, I’d love to have more of that in future Turnspit songs.
ST: I always love seeing women rocking out in punk bands – especially being a girl rocker myself – because this industry can seem rather bleak at times for female singers and musicians. Gillian, how does it feel to be in a band like this, and do you have any advice for aspiring young women wanting to perform onstage?
GM: My advice would just be don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t belong. And if they try, tell them to fuck off and keep playing. I started playing out at open mics when I was 13 years old and playing in punk bands at 15. There were a lot of times were I felt like I had to change how I acted so that I could ‘fit in’ with the boys club that is punk rock. As I grew older, I’ve held on to some of that but I’ve also had to unlearn a lot of things.
I feel more confident and comfortable in my songwriting and performing now than I ever have and it’s because I really own who I am now and I know what I want to do and say with my music. I love my bandmates and how supportive they are of me in this… the song “Skin” comes to mind. I think it says a lot about them that 2 years ago, way before the #metoo movement caught fire, I brought a deeply personal song about sexual assault to the table and they didn’t shy away from it. They knew it was important and wanted to help me tell that story. I think surrounding yourself with people who support you and appreciate you for who you are goes a really long way and it’s a very difficult thing to find unless you are sure of who you are and what you want. Even then, it’s still really fucking hard.
Our record release show is all female-fronted bands, and that’s not an accident. It’s a rarity to see a band with one woman on the bill, and I wanted to use our record release party as a showcase of how easy it is to find fucking killer bands that aren’t all dudes. Personally, I think women in Chicago punk are having a moment right now — Sincere Engineer, Blood People, Airstream Futures, Retirement Party, The Cell Phones, Third Twin Sister, Blizzard Babies, Bleach Party to name a few — and it’s really important to me that we all help build each other up and come together to show everyone we can fucking tear it up. I feel honored and excited to be a part of this community.
ST: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
GM: We’re just so incredibly excited to finally have ‘Desire Paths’ out in the world. We worked really hard on this record and are so proud of it. We want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way and can’t wait to see where this record takes us!
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