From Emo Punk To Dream-Pop Melodies: My Love For Turnover Is More Than ‘Temporary’

Emma Stirland

In their glorious fusing of funk, lounge, and disco with a trademark indie grit, Ohio collective Turnover have become one of the most-loved bands on the alternative circuit. Reflecting on their personal significance to her own life, Emma Stirland takes a look at the woozy rocker’s career thus far.

Since forming in 2009, Turnover have moved on from their pop-punk roots to melodies suffused in jazz and dreamy indie-pop. Their four studio albums demonstrate their range, while also staying loyal to poignant lyrics that cut just as deep as the first time you heard them. There’s a reason they were my most-streamed artist of 2020.

Released in 2013 after the band signed with Run for Cover Records, Magnolia is the band’s first studio album and falls on the emo/pop-punk trajectory of their discography. Before this, they’d only self-released a handful of demos and a joint EP with Ohio rockers Citizen, rather aptly named Split. The opening track Shiver evokes the influence of their earlier tracks, but I personally recommend Drown because of its introspective lyrics that listeners have come to cherish as a defining part of Turnover’s style. Most of the Time and To The Bottom feature heavier guitar chords, as well as drums from Casey Getz, creating a dissonance between the lyrical notes and the pop-punk influenced instrumentation.

[Peripheral Vision] has fewer lyrics and the atmospheric reveries make it a dreamy listening experience

Magnolia is a joyous amalgamation of the band’s sound – you can see their early roots, but also branches to the future. Flicker and Fade cinches the top spot as my favourite song from the album, reminding me of the transportive nostalgia that permeates the later Good Nature (2017). The end of summer, and how those hazy, love-filled days will soon fade, set to a stripped-back acoustic instrumental.

Between Magnolia and Peripheral Vision comes Blue Dream (2014). Consisting of three songs, the album is a confession of heartbreak, alienation and self-destruction, themes often associated with emo genres. Mid-track Read My Mind is one of my all-time favourite songs, and I would argue that it’s totally underrated. The words on self-sabotage in relationships and the aching chorus – “cause I don’t wanna be alone/But I don’t wanna fall in love” – never fail to hit me like a kick in the stomach.

The release of Peripheral Vision in 2015 marked a sonic shift for the band. A kaleidoscope of narratives on love, vulnerabilities and disorientation, it was a transition to a more indie, ‘crowd-pleasing’ record. It’s the album I recommend to anyone and everyone – the one I listen to from start to finish, most days. Talking on the record, vocalist Austin Getz told Fader: “I always remember things better than they were and miss people more than I should.” This sentiment, of idealised realities that exist just outside our peripheral vision, captures the album perfectly. The songs have fewer lyrics, and the atmospheric reveries make it a dreamy listening experience.

Opener Cutting My Fingers Off explores the side effects of lost love and the feelings of disembodiment that come with absence. While the album’s closing song, Interpersonal raises more questions than it answers about the voice’s mental state and their experiences with depression and paranoia. In this way, Peripheral Vision plays like an extended narrative, with each song having a deeper sense of purpose. My favourite has to be Like Slow Disappearing, with its chorus line of, “I was afraid, but you were glowing like a most relieving light / You were my revealing light” being perhaps my most-loved lyric from across the band’s albums.

If Peripheral Vision calls out from the dark, Good Nature thrives in the light

Turnover seem to have a transportive effect, taking you to a certain moment in your life blurred by the rose-tinted filter of nostalgia. The title, for me, translates to mean a person, or a feeling, that you want to hold onto but, like everything in life, slowly ebbs away into a memory. The power that people can have in revealing parts of themselves and therefore, not wanting to let them go.

In 2017 came Good Nature, produced by Philadelphia-born producer Will Yip who also worked with the band on Peripheral Vision. A notable difference on this album is the light, almost upbeat, guitar-led instrumentation, suffusing each song with a sort of warm energy. Those sun-filled days with friends in the park, or, as Nightlight Girl evokes, evenings spent under the sheets with a summer love.

If Peripheral Vision calls out from the dark, Good Nature thrives in the light, with images of growth and new discoveries. Someone once told me that being curious was one of the most attractive qualities in people and Curiosity captures this perspective, encouraging learning about ourselves and others, instead of simply believing what we hear. Another top song from Good Nature has to be Sunshine Type, so much so that it influenced the sun tattoo I have on the back of my arm which, I guess, permanently etched my affiliation with the band onto my skin.

Released in 2019, Altogether is my least played and least favourite Turnover album, especially when held up against the dizzying heights of Peripheral Vision and Good Nature. Whilst the sound of the record is relaxed and ambient, I hate to say it, the almost empty lyrics leave me wanting more. The variety of influences, notably jazz with the mix of electronic synths and saxophone solos are, however, impressive and mark yet another move in the band’s style. You can’t help but bop to the rhythm of Sending Me Right Back and the difficulties of distance in relationships in Much After Feeling strikes a chord in today’s climate of social distancing. 

Turnover defined my 2020 – the year that pressed the pause button on life

Temporary Love is my favourite because it does have those poetic lyrics that made me fall in love with the band in the first place: “Soaked in a false or temporary love/Blemished and hung back out.” It explores the ephemerality of desire, defined by simulated feelings and a love that is perfect in the moment, but isn’t meant to last.

Turnover defined my 2020 – the year that pressed the pause button on life. A year of introspection with increased time spent with ourselves, yet often longing to be with others. I took refuge in lyrics that recalled the sadness I felt, ones that transported me to simpler times, and songs that have come to symbolise the happier moments of the last year. That’s the cathartic essence of Turnover – whatever album, whichever song, they make you think of the people you love, and have loved, friends you can’t see right now, and memories that you don’t want to fade. Their music manages to capture life’s euphoria, the comedown, and all the moments in between.

Emma Stirland


Featured image courtesy of Chloe Muro via Flickr. In-article image courtesy of Turnover via FacebookImage use license found here.  No changes made to these images.

In-article video courtesy of Run For Cover Records via Youtube.

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