Artist to Watch: Turbo Fruits
Artist to Watch: Turbo Fruits
by Jess Swarner
“Turbo Fruits. Fruitsss.”
I had to laugh when vocalist Jonas Stein corrected me for referring to his band as a singular turbo fruit.
To be fair, I had never heard of the band until that November day, when I interviewed Nashville alternative group Sol Cat and watched both bands open for The Weeks.
After apologizing for the mistake and striking up a conversation with Stein, I helped him clear their merch table, with Stein graciously offering me two logo t-shirts in the process.
Wearing the shirts often around campus led to many inquisitive looks and questions at dinner tables.
“It’s a band,” I would succinctly reply, leaving most people nodding in understanding.
Not only is the name of the Nashville Southern garage rock group unique, but their sound is as well.
The band was formed in 2006 by two members of Be Your Own Pet, a punk group reminiscent of Hole or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Stein served as guitarist in that band and stepped to the forefront for this project, mixing the snarky attitude of BYOP with some Southern grit.
Turbo Fruits is known for making “party music,” and they carry on that persona in their social media by boldly posting drug-related pictures, selling their own branded rolling papers, and generously using the hashtag #weedistyte. Their fourth album No Control’s release on April 20th was no coincidence.
Past songs reinforce this rowdy image and take listeners on a tour through late night bar scenes, with songs like “Trouble!” from 2009 Echo Kid and “Colt 45” from 2012 Butter telling of feuds turning violent over spastic surf guitar, and others like “Lotta Lotta Ladies” (Echo Kid) and “Sweet Thang” (Butter) returning to the raucous fun.
Through their music, fans can tell that Turbo Fruits are true Southern punks, and their lyrics and attitude reflect a love for their upbringing and lifestyle. The band can manage to make you feel nostalgic for bar-hopping across Nashville on a warm summer night in a pick-up truck even if you’ve never stepped out of the Wild West—or been to a bar.
The Fruits’ latest release No Control feels like a reflection on all of this partying and mischief. Not necessarily a turning point, but a more detached and calculating reflection.
Stein decided to self-finance the record and part ways with label Serpents & Snakes while also pairing with the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney for some production help, both major decisions that influenced the album’s creation.
Single “The Way that I Want You” was the first glimpse listeners got of the album, and it set the tone very nicely. A tune about longing in a relationship is not necessarily new for the Fruits, but its simplicity and honesty are definitely noteworthy. Stein’s gravelly voice admits that he is frustrated, but he sounds more open to compromise than utter resignation.
Other stand out tracks “Don’t Let Me Break Your Heart Again” and “Favorite Girl” continue the theme of thoughtful lyrics backed by fun sing-along choruses and catchy melodies.
Perhaps the most stunning of the album, ending track “Big Brother” is an intimate look into Stein’s grief over the loss of his brother. He has mentioned this tragedy before, but in a much more flippant context in “Mama’s Mad ‘Cos I Fried My Brains” (Echo Kid). Many artists dole out emotional and vulnerable songs with ease, but the feeling that Stein really struggled to record this (blatantly admitting “It’s hard to talk about you” and begging “Take my pain away”) and his direct address to his brother’s spirit make it all the more special.
No Control is an impressive record–one that proves the Fruits don’t have to be causing trouble to captivate their listeners.
I will continue to wear my Turbo Fruits shirts with pride.