Turbo Fruits put on a very memorable set a few months ago at Bryan Street Tavern, and the Nashville group returns tomorrow with PVC Street Gang, Sealion and Savage and the Big Beat at Dada. Frontman Jonas Stein remembers that show, along with other musical firsts.
Was guitar the first instrument that you learned to play? It was the first instrument that my folks got me lessons for, but I found it kinda hard at first. I didn't really take to it immediately. Then I started playing the drums, which I had a really good time doing. I played drums in my first ever band. Then I started getting bored not having anyone to jam with. All those band members went their separate ways all through school. There were guitars around the house and I started picking up and playing them. It took a while to take to the guitar. Then I started taking lessons and I really started to have an understanding.
Has there ever been a record that you bought and later regretted? Yeah, probably. I can't remember which one it was, but it must have been early 2000s. I bought a U2 record and I didn't like it.
Was it How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb? It must have been. It was around that time. I've bought a lot of records and that's the one that really stood out.
That's the one that has "Veritgo" and "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own." Exactly. I know there are a lot of U2 fans out there, but that's just one that stuck out to me as just not feeling it.
You've played with Dinosaur Jr. Are you a J Mascis fan? I'm a fan of the band in general. It's really fun to see J Mascis play with five Marshall stacks behind him and in front of him. It's pretty insane. On occasion, it will blow your hair back. He's just a shredder. You can't help but have a lot of respect for that guy. That band is a lot of fun.
What's the best show you've ever seen? Best show that I've seen in my lifetime ... Hmmm. Man, that's a really tough question. Let me think here. Jennifer Gentle, that Italian psych rock band. I saw them play in 2005 when I was 17. It was my first South by Southwest. I was playing down there. I think I had taken my spring break and my band in high school had gone down there. I was at the Sub Pop showcase at the old Emo's outdoors. That was when I was young enough and hungry enough and didn't have enough distractions where I would put my ass in the front row and stay there through all the bands. Jennifer Gentle, I had never heard of them, but they played so fuckin' loud that I was just so into it. They were Italian, so their English was pretty broken, but they were singing really good English. It just kinda blew my mind.
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I saw you guys play at Bryan Street Tavern for their "Big Fucking Anniversary," and I remember there were a lot of technical problems, like broken strings. Those things happen at almost any show for any band. Has there ever been a technical mishap that has trumped them all? That might have been the worst that we've ever had, to be honest. I think I broke a string on both of my guitars, it was freezing outside, the power was getting killed, it was hard staying in tune, the microphone volume was all over the place. I don't think I've had anything worse than that.
Well, y'all were still enjoyable. Everybody else was into it. We still had a good time. The best thing to do in those situations is keep on going and try to have a good time with it. Otherwise, the crowd is gonna feed off your negative energy and get pissed off. You know, it's not fun watching some awkward moments happen to other bands onstage, unless it's something really insane that makes for a good story.
Can you remember the first Turbo Fruits show? Yes, I do! It was at a house party for the Fourth of July in Nashville. It was a two-piece band at that point. We had maybe six or seven songs at that point and one of them was "Volcano." I made the Volcano Vaporizer as part of our set. You're familiar with Volcano Vaporizer?
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Uh, not really. No. OK, well, the first song on the first album that was written after a marijuana vaporizer called the Volcano Vaporizer. It was some German-made insane thing that took you to the moon and back. I remember having the idea of it, and we were like, "Yeah! Let's bust out the Volcano!" It fills up these huge bags so you can catch it or pass around these giant bags that are made of vapor. It has a mouthpiece on it so you can pass it around and people can take a puffs off of it. Coincidentally that same weekend, my friend had just finished growing this extremely, extremely, extremely strong crop of weed and he gave me a container of it and I just loaded [the Volcano] to the brim before the show and started passing it around to everybody. I think everyone, including myself, just got scared high. We played our set, we were on the moon, and it was a lot of fuckin' fun. I remember being so stoned after the show that I was really paranoid. I had a bunch more of that stuff in my truck, and I was like, "I gotta get this stuff home." So, I drove all the way back to my farm, 30 minutes outside Nashville and dropped all that stuff off. And then drove back to the party and kept on partying.
Name something you love about Nashville, and what's something that you don't like about Nashville? What I do love about Nashville is something I found out recently by some girls who moved down from Brooklyn: That it's a party town. They told me this and I was like, "What are you talking about? You guys just came here from Brooklyn." And they're like, "Jonas, when do you not go out and have a crazy good time at a different part of town?" I was like, "I guess you're right! Everyone's kinda racing around here and everyone's having a good time." Another thing I like about it, the rock and roll community's small enough where everyone is really kinda supportive of one another and everyone kinda knows each other. A lot of the bands that have come out of Nashville kinda stayed there and stuck together. Something I don't like about it is -- I don't want to undermine the country roots of Nashville, because they're great, phenomenal -- but there's a lot of bullshit going on up there right now. It's like, you walk down Music Row and it's like an actor moving out to Hollywood and walking down the Sunset Strip or something. It can be really fake feeling. There's a lot of really horrible, horrible -- I don't even want to call it country music -- that's coming out Nashville. It's just radio pop bullshit. But it really doesn't get in my way. There's a lot of great rock and roll stuff going on.
Same question, but substitute Dallas for Nashville. What I like about Dallas is, we've had fun shows there. We always have fun shows in every town we go through. The past couple of shows we've played in Dallas have been a good time. That one [at Bryan Street Tavern], even though we had technical difficulties, we still had a good time. Something I don't like about Dallas? To be honest, I haven't been there enough to really find out what I don't like about Dallas. It's been a good time, good people. One time we ended up hanging out with a security guard at the Bryan Street Tavern until like, 6 in the morning. He took us out to what might have been the Super Walmart of strip clubs somewhere at 5 in the morning. I was wearing a tank top. I didn't have a jacket or anything, which I guess is a dress code for a strip club. They made me buy a $25 shirt. They only had extra larges. I'm like 5'9" and I was wearing this giant shirt that was going down below my knees. So maybe that's what I don't like about Dallas: A strip club made me buy a giant shirt for $25.