(L-R): Turbo Fruits manager David Newgarden of Manage This!, Turbo Fruits publicist Shira Knishkowy of Big Hassle, Turbo Fruits drummer Matt Hearn, frontman Jonas Stein, bassist Dave McCowen, and guitarist Kingsley Brock all hang out backstage after the band's set at the Knitting Factory Saturday night. (Photo: Michael Zonenashvili)
"I don't know how they're still alive after touring with Deer Tick," Big Hassle Media publicist Shira Knishkowy told me as we watched Nashville garage outfit Turbo Fruits at the Knitting Factory on Saturday night. Despite playing two shows earlier in the day as part of tourmate Deer Tick's DudeSmash Festival and coming down from a nonstop 65-day tour, Turbo Fruits still rocked so hard they upset a drum kit and incited more than a few mosh pits at the final stop on their tour, a set they performed as part of Brooklyn's Northside Festival.
Good-natured tensions ran high at one point when frontman Jonas Stein threw an empty plastic cup at drummer Matt Hearn, who responded with a lightly thrown drumstick of his own. "Sixty-five days, ladies and gentlemen," the ever-polite Southern boys reminded the audience, a mix of average concertgoers, Northside badge holders, and local and Nashville-based press, including NYLON's Joel Kahn; CMJ and Consequence of Sound's Michael Zonenashvili; and Tristate Indie's Rich McKie.
Fortunately, everyone seemed to remain friends when I sat down with the band after the concert, piling onto the couch for a group photo and lovingly referring to guitarist Kingsley Brock -- who lost his voice that night -- as the "baby" of the band (sure enough, Brock fell asleep for a few minutes toward the end of the interview and had to nurse himself back to health with a well-earned bottle of water). After learning that bassist Dave McCowen consumed approximately 1,560 beers over the course of the band's tour with the notoriously fun-loving Deer Tick, I asked David Newgarden of Manage This! about his relationship with the band. Newgarden, who also manages Guided by Voices and Robert Pollard's solo efforts, has been with Stein since the enigmatic singer was 16 years old and fronting punk four-piece Be Your Own Pet at the time. He distinctly remembers bringing the dazed and confused Stein to New York City, who remembers being most blown away by the lack of trees.
Turbo Fruits bassist Dave McCowen on stage. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)
It was through BYOP's label Rough Trade that Stein and Newgarden became involved with Seth Riddle, then the head of A&R at the British label. Like Newgarden, Riddle maintained a working and friendly relationship with Stein through his transition from BYOP to Turbo Fruits and his own to Kings of Leon's label Serpents and Snakes. When the Fruits were finalizing their third record, Butter, Stein sent Riddle a demo just to get his honest opinion. Riddle like the album so much that Serpents and Snakes signed them a few weeks later, which was good timing, since the Fruits were growing increasingly frustrated with then-label Fat Possum.
Butter itself was sort of a fairy tale for the band: Initially slated for release on Turbo Fruits' own Turbo Time Records, home to fellow countrified punk rockers PUJOL and Jacuzzi Boys, Stein waited until two months before the record's release date to tell Newgarden they needed a producer. Even though Newgarden told him it was never going to happen, he reached out to some old friends anyway.
"We were talking about bands we liked, and Spoon and The Strokes both got their start touring with Guided by Voices, so I sent an email to Albert [Hammond, Jr.], Julian [Casablancas], and Jim [Eno]. And Jim responded the next day saying he'd love to produce the record." Eno and the Fruits laid down Butter in eight days at the Spoon drummer's Austin studio, Public Hi-Fi. According to Stein, it's the foursome's most mature and cohesive record to date, thanks to the collaborative relationship between the members of Turbo Fruits' approximately fourth lineup.
Cousin It?: Turbo Fruits frontman Jonas Stein jams out on stage at the Knitting Factory. (Photo: Harley Oliver Brown)
So are Casablancas and Hammond, Jr., who responded about a couple of weeks after Eno with his same answer, in the works for album number four? Not yet, according to Stein, but the group does have about 50-60% of the record already written. But before they even think about that, there's the Bruise Cruise to contend with. Since 2009, Turbo Fruits have coordinated this music festival on a cruise ship with booking agent Michelle Cable of Panache Booking, who became fast friends with Stein when the Fruits toured with her Israel-based outfit Monotonix. The Fruits frontman told her he'd always wanted to put on a music festival on a cruise ship ever since attending Motley Cruise with his father; and a mere ten months later, the duo pulled it off. Last year's lineup featured Fucked Up ( Damian Abraham hosted a dating game for the singles on board), Ty Segall, Strange Boys, and Vivian Girls, among many others, and Cable and Stein are hoping to keep growing.