In case you hadn’t heard, Turbo Fruits are playing Mercury Lounge tonight; according to Jonas Stein, we are all in for a very rowdy, very raucous time. I caught up with him recently while he was vacationing in Minnesota, and when I called, he was in the middle of a lake on a boat. This made me super jealous, but regardless of said super jealousy, I powered though our conversation, which was really delightful and filled with vital information. For instance, we discussed whether or not the band’s most recent album Butter is salted or unsalted, talked New York vs Nashville, and even covered how to cure a hangover the rock ‘n’ roller way. So I am going to stop talking and you are going to start reading, and then we will all head to Mercury Lounge tonight armed with party pants and a LOT of coconut water.
How are you?
Pretty good, thank you. I’m out in the middle of a lake, floatin’ in a boat.
Oh. Well that’s nice! Where is this lake?
My grandfather was raised up in northern Minnesota, and it’s his little lake cottage out in the middle of northern Minnesota, out in the middle of nowhere. It’s a little lake called Sand Lake. We’ve been coming up here every summer since I was a baby.
Amazing! So you’ve had some time off, then, and you’re going back on tour next week, right?
Yeah, on Wednesday I think.
So have you had a chance to enjoy the month in-between? What have you been up to?
Yeah, we’ve been staying busy working on new demos and rehearsing here and there, writing and just kind of preparing for this record release. You know, when you go back home there’s still responsibilities you have to take care of for the band, so it’s nice to get back and chill out for a little bit, but there’s definitely still stuff to be done, always. It’s good, we’re all ready to get back on the road again.
So let’s talk about Butter a little bit. Would you describe the album as salted or unsalted?
It’s very salted. Very salty.
And coming from you, how would you describe the sound?
That one’s always kind of tough to answer; it’s always hard to pinpoint our sound, because we don’t want to put a glass ceiling over ourselves, but I’d say at heart, we’re like a rowdy, raucous rock ‘n’ roll band, and we like to have a good time and party. So we’re able to satisfy the partiers that want to get down, have a good time and get drunk, but at the same time we’ve got a few jams that have some pop sensibility going on. And so while we could entertain a dive bar full of drunk, tattooed rock ‘n’ rollers, we could also play a few of our songs for some mothers out there. They’d probably dig ‘em.
A good time had by all, basically.
And so you recorded the album in just over a week or something, right?
Yeah, we tracked everything in like a week, and we worked with Jim Eno, who’s known for playing in the band Spoon. He really pushed us; he knew our time constraints, so when we did some pre-production with him he really pushed us to rehearse our asses off. He really wanted us to do a tour on the way down to the studio, which we did for about a week, and we played all the songs we were going to record. So by the time we got into the studio we were really time-efficient and really effective with our work.
Wow, that’s impressive. And obviously you’re probably really proud of the whole record, but is there any one song that stands out as a particularly solid accomplishment?
Yeah, I really like the opening track “Where the Stars Don’t Shine,” because that was a live take in the studio, and we didn’t have to do any overdubs. Everyone nailed their parts perfectly, so I was pretty proud of that, and it’s a good opening track; doing an introduction track is really important to an album, because it’s what’s going to suck people into listening to the rest of it. I’m also a big fan of one of the more poppy songs, “Sweet Thang.” That one was a little different than what we’ve normally done, so it was nice to mix it up a little bit.
Speaking of mixing it up a bit, could you ever envision yourself doing anything else career-wise? Or is this it?
I don’t know, I feel like as long as it’s in the entertainment industry in general, I’d be happy doing it. Our booking agent and myself, we set up a festival called Bruise Cruise, and I was kind of really into that for a couple years, but we’re taking a year off right now. I’m definitely capable of more than just playing in a band, but…ideally I’d like myself and my band mates to just make Turbo Fruits our main support, our main income. A couple of us have day jobs still that we go to when we come back into town, so right now my main goal is make Turbo Fruits successful enough where everyone can get what they need and be able to live somewhat of a comfortable lifestyle, as far as not having to worry about scraping up the funds for rent, or not having to eat ramen noodles and shit. I just want everyone to be able to make enough money to get by and be satisfied with what we’re doing. That’s the next step. Once we get there, I’m sure we’ll have a new goal in mind, but we’re just taking it step by step for now.
And so would you say that that is maybe one of the bigger drawbacks about what you do? Or maybe what would you tell somebody who’s just starting out in the music industry?
It’s interesting…a lot of the people who can’t hang get weeded out of this kind of career, because it’s a lot of stress and a lot of work. It’s not all glamorous. Like if someone goes to a venue, you see the band playing and having a good time on stage, having a really fun show, but that’s a very romantic side of the whole thing. You don’t think about, “Oh, the band just drove ten hours, rushed to get on stage, and they all had three hours of sleep last night.” There’s just a whole dark side of things that goes down that people aren’t aware of.
My main thing is just work your ass off; the harder you work, the better things will come out on your side. Don’t give into the vulnerable emotions of wanting to give up, and just give it a good chance. Turbo Fruits has been around since 2005, and it’s been full-time since 2008, and we’re just now kind of getting to the point where we might be able to fully support ourselves just from Turbo Fruits. And I think a lot of people get discouraged really quickly. What I’ve noticed is you’re either a band who’s been working your ass off and been around for a while, worked your way up from the bottom, or you’re a band that catches a lucky break and gets a song put up on Pitchfork or something, you know? So there are a lot of bands out there that are more deserving than a lot of these bands that get a lucky break. (I was in one of those bands that got a lucky break, so I’ve seen both sides of it.) So I’d just say work your ass off and some things will start happening.
That’s solid advice. Just getting back to something you kind of mentioned earlier, though, are you still doing the van to get around this tour?
Yeah, yeah we’ve got the Green Bean. It’s a Dodge Conversion Van, and it’s got four captain’s chairs. We tour manage ourselves and are very hands on with that stuff. You know, we don’t have the space right now to bring someone else on tour, nor do we have the money to pay someone yet, but right now we’re pretty cozy in our little tour van; we’ve got a little system down so I think we’re going to stick with that until it makes sense to get a trailer or something. Having a little van is really convenient, because it’s so easy to get around, versus having a big van with a trailer. A bus would be awesome, but they’re so expensive to rent.
So then if you could have any mode of transportation…like, real, fictional…Bat Mobile, Millennium Falcon, camel…what would your ideal mode of transportation be?
I think it’d be awesome just to be able to fly. By yourself, just like a super hero. Last night I went out to the lake, and I’ve got this boat where you can kind of put the sternum of your chest lying out on the front of the boat, keep your legs in the boat, and you can put your hands out like you’re flying. The wind is so loud that you can’t really hear the motor, so it’s like the closest thing to flying as possible; you ride out over the water, like three feet above it, so you feel like you’re a super hero flying over a body of water. It’s really fun.
That sounds kind of incredible. I’m jealous. That’s one thing that I hate about living in New York, is like, we’re not landlocked obviously, but I’m not trying to go to the beach around here, either.
Yeah I definitely don’t think of New York as a beach town, even though it’s not too far away.
And you’ve obviously been up to New York before, so is there anyplace you really like up here?
Yeah, I like New York, I’m very familiar with it. I’ve done sublets up there a couple of times, and it’s always fun to go back. For me, personally, though, I think if I was up there I’d get caught up with New York in general, and I’d have a hard time being as productive. I just love the convenience of a smaller place like Nashville; I’ve got so much space, and it’s so inexpensive to live. It’s a lot of fun. But yeah, New York’s great. I like to go and cruise around a lot, like last time I was there my buddy and I went to lunch, but we just kind of rolled around from little spot to little spot and just got little things here and there to try a bunch of different stuff. You can’t really do that in a lot of other cities, so it’s great to be able to walk down the street and just try a bunch of really good food, get little samples of food from different places.
And so if we were to come to Nashvegas, what five things or five places would you recommend us to experience?
I would recommend that you go cabrewing, which is canoeing down the river with an ice chest full of beer and partying. There’s this place called Pinewood Canoe & Camp, and it’s about 45 minutes to an hour west of Nashville, and generally in the summer we get a bunch of people to go out there and have a nice five hour river float party. Everyone brings canoes and takes a bunch of beer. There’s swimming holes, and the water’s always pretty cool. So that’s one thing.
Another thing I’d recommend is going to eat some hot chicken at Prince’s Hot Chicken. Hot chicken is like fried chicken, but the batter is made up of different ingredients than just salt and flour. It’s really spicy, it really burns your tongue, but it’s got its own thing going on, and it’s a blast to eat. It’s something that’s native to Nashville.
Hmm…what else. It’s always fun to go out to Percy Priest Lake as long as you’ve got a boat, so get a bunch of people and rent a pontoon boat and just party on the lake. You can get one with a double-decker, and you can find one with a water slide on the back of it, and sometimes it’ll come with a grill so you can grill out.
Okay, that’s three…what’s four…well, this is probably only going to apply to a few people, but I love riding motorcycles, and there’s some really great country roads out there to ride on. One specifically is the Natchez Trace Parkway, which is an old Native American trail that goes from Natchez, Mississippi all the way to Nashville, Tennessee, and it got turned into a paved National Parkway. It is a blast to ride on, or even just to drive down.
Now let’s see…one more…there’s this really good southern cooking restaurant called the Loveless Cafe that’s right near where I grew up, and they’ve got the best biscuits. I didn’t even know I liked biscuits until I had Loveless Cafe biscuits. And all their food is really old-school southern-style, really good barbecue…so that’s another place to check out as well.
Perfect. Well, I don’t want to keep you too much longer, but one last thing…I’m assuming you’ve got plenty of experience trying to figure out how to get your shit together if you’re hungover; as New Yorkers, we are hungover ALL THE TIME, so what’s the best way to cure a hangover?
It kind of depends on the day, but I grew up playing ice hockey, so there’s a few morning open ice hockey sessions. And even if I went to bed as the sun was coming up, I’ll still make myself get up three hours later and go play ice hockey, and just chug a bunch of water before I get there. Then, while I’m there I’ll just sweat so many of my demons out that after I’m done I feel so much better. So I think what I’m getting at in general is, it seems shitty, but it makes you feel better if you exercise. Just drink a fuck-load of water and go exercise and break a sweat, and you’ll sweat out so much of that shit and produce a natural chemical in your brain that makes you feel good. I think when you exercise your brain produces something similar to opiates, and you kind of get that similar buzz after exercising. Yeah, lots of water, coconut water, and exercise.
Excellent. Will make a note of that. Any closing words?
Come out to our show and we’ll have a good party together.
YOU HEARD THE MAN, let’s go and PARTY PARTY PARTY tonight at Mercury Lounge! And then play ice hockey in the morning!