Interview: Turbo Fruits; performing Friday at Ace of Cups

Turbo Fruits, Wooly Bullies (Cleveland) and Dirty Biscuits (Columbus) perform at Ace of Cups on Friday night. Doors at 9, $5 cover.

Jonas Stein got his start in the music biz as a guitarist in Be Your Own Pet, a noisy, indie rock band made up of Nashville teenagers. As a kid with a head full of music ideas, Stein started Turbo Fruits as a side project and then made it his full-time gig once BYOP disbanded in 2008.

Earlier this month, Turbo Fruits released their third album, Butter, featuring the killer opening track, “Where the Stars Don’t Shine”.

Before kicking off the Butter tour, Stein answered some questions I sent him via email.

Turbo Fruits is often called a “garage rock” band. Have you ever actually practiced, recorded or performed in a garage?

Hmmm we don’t generally practice in a garage nor do we record in a garage but yes we have played many garages and garage-type places! We love playin shows like that when the time is right!

I read a review where somebody said, “Turbo Fruits are what Kings of Leon would sound like had their dad worked in a liquor store rather than been a traveling preacher.” (Okay, I didn’t really read that – it’s how I described your sound to a friend recently). I know your dad is connected to the music biz. Did his record collection have any influence on you or did you discover music through friends/siblings/on your own?

Nice description! My Paps was pretty involved in the country music business while growing up. My influences came from a totally different direction. My older brother, Adam (RIP), gave me my first albums when I was 11 or 12 – Led Zeppelin II and some Bob Marley album. That definitely had an influence on my musical tastes. I grew up a musical outcast amongst a lot of my friends. They were always listening to Blink 182 and Sum 41 and other shit that I couldn’t get into. I was always like “this shit sucks! let’s listen to some fucking rock n roll!”

Do you feel like you got into the whole music “career” ass backwards? BYOP didn’t exactly explode the way another teen girl-fronted band from Tennessee did at the same time you were starting out, but you were doing things before you were even old enough to drive a car that most musicians will never have the chance to do. Did you pick up on the music biz side of things early on and were you able to use that knowledge in what you’re doing today or are you having to go through the school of hard knocks now?

BYOP was a great experience and one that taught me a lot. I basically had to re-build my musical career after BYOP was over. I learned some about the business and I also learned that very very very few bands are handed the opportunities that BYOP was handed. It’s hard to appreciate what you have when it’s just given to you. One thing I love about playing in TF is that I genuinely feel like we’ve earned anything and everything that’s come our way. I’ve never worked so hard in a band and the rest of my bands mates (Matt, Dave, Kingsley) work their asses off as well. It’s great to have a team of people who you can trust and who have the same general goals.

Nashville’s always thought of as the country rock mecca and yet it seems like you’ve never had a problem finding long-haired rockers to play in Turbo Fruits. Would you say there’s been a shift in the music climate of Nashville with the tide turning towards the “new guard” or does country music (and country musicians) still rule the scene?

Country Music has shadowed rock n roll in Nashville for a long time. It seems to me that Country music, if you can call it that anymore, is very concentrated to downtown Nashville and Music Row area. Nashville Rock n Roll was brought up in the Dive venues outside of town.. in basements.. in people’s house parties. Just as of lately have Nashville Rock bands been able infiltrate the larger venue scene. It’s great. Everyone is working really hard around here and everyone is pushing each other to take new steps in their career. We all just want to rock n roll for life. NO MORE DAY JOBS!

Between Be Your Own Pet and Turbo Fruits, you’ve played with a lot of Nashville musicians. Are there any typical hangouts (bars? concert venues? etc?) that you frequent where everywhere you turn, you bump into somebody you’ve played in a band with? And, if so, do you have good relationships with these people or is there any bad blood that makes things uncomfortable?

I have good relationships with anyone I’ve ever played with. Everyone in the Nashville rock scene seems to have good friendships with each other. There isn’t really any “beef” that i know of. We all just want each other to succeed. We’re in this together. As far as spots we might run into each other I’d say the following: Santa’s. Zombie Shop. Foobar. Friends house parties. All over the place. If something fun is going down then you better believe you’ll see all of us there at the same time!

I was thinking, on the drive into work today (I work a corporate day job) how your job and mine are completely opposite. I drive 30 minutes to work every morning and put in my eight hours where as you drive 8 hours to play a 30 minute set (probably longer, but you get what I’m saying, I hope). You’ve pretty much done this since you became a teenager. Have you worked a day job with an 8-hour shift and, if so, would you rather be a desk jockey like I am or be stuck in a van for 8 hours?

I’d much rather be stuck in the van for 8 hours. I wasn’t made to be behind a desk. I always always always despised having to go to school 5 days a week for 8 hours a day. I remember being in the 3rd grade at the jungle gym having a realization that I was likely going to be stuck in school for 25% of my life. It was a depressing moment for me. I managed to get out of high school a year early and start touring at age 17. Thank god! But I did have a day job in high school for a couple of months. I bagged groceries at a health food store and I often times would just wonder around like I was doing something. After that job I made it a personal goal to never work a day job again. Rock n Roll is my day Job and I want to keep it that way!

Today – as I write these questions – is National Video Game Day. When trying to make up a story in my mind how I would answer “What does Turbo Fruits mean?”, I decided that I’d say “You know those strawberries, cherries, and bananas that you gobble up on PacMan and Ms. PacMan? They give you power and speed. I was playing PacMan one day and somebody was looking over my shoulder and said, ‘Eat the turbo fruit before it goes away!’ and that’s when it hit me that Turbo Fruits would be a good band name.” In honor of National Video Game Day, is there a game that you’ll always play if you see a machine in a bar/restaurant/truck stop?

We all love PacMan! I love pinball machines too. To be honest, any video game you put in front of us, especially while on tour, we will use the rest of the quarters in our change jar to play as long as possible. But yeah… can never go wrong with PacMan or Gallaga!

I know that the planning for the Bruise Cruise was probably insane but at any point during the trip did you take a deep breath, look around and think to yourself, “How the hell did I end up with such a great life? I’m standing aboard a cruise ship with my friends, playing rock n’ roll music, eating good food, soaking in the sun. I could really do this full time.”?

Yeah! There were definitely some very surreal moments on the Bruise Cruise. It’s always the first show on board that really tickles me. I start to think “Man, it’s actually happening! It’s actually happening! YES!”

The easiest (maybe) or at least shortest question I saved for last … What is your favorite lyric from the new album?

“Worries.. Fuelin’ this fire. takin me higher. further away” from Sweet Thang.

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