Nashville Garage: Turbo Fruits

When American Songwriter gets a hold of the Turbo Fruits, they’re hauling ass on the way to El Paso, trying to put as much distance between themselves and the Mexican border as possible. Border guards and customs check points aren’t exactly things that make a band of Turbo Fruits’ ilk – shaggy looking stoners with a penchant for fuzzed-up rock and roll played at intense volumes – feel comfortable and the sooner they can get to the club and unload their gear the better they’ll feel.

They’re in the midst of eight weeks on the road with Deer Tick – a band legendary for its ability to keep partying when everyone else passes out – and you can tell that the Fruits have been keeping up with their more established party rockin’ friends. But for now, they just want to get to the club and unload their gear.

The Fruits are on the road prepping the world for their forthcoming Serpents and Snakes release Butter, a raucous and rowdy jangle-punk record that tows the line between full-on rawk intensity and pop accessibility. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, Butter is as raw and unpretentious of a guitar record as one could hope for, a record that switches between scuzzy glam and pristine surf guitars at the drop of a hat.

Powered by lead singer Jonas Stein’s Gibson SG, lead guitarist Kingsley Brock’s Aria – an early ‘70s Japanese Les Paul imitator – and the low-end from bassist Dave Tits’ Epiphone Thunderbird or prototype, Ibanez short-scale hollow body, Butter tows the line between classic and obscure, familiar and exotic, to create a sound that’s clearly modern but built on retro tones.

But albums are only part of the equation, and Turbo Fruits have built their reputations not as a studio band but as an intense live experience, as an explosion of amplification that’s as undeniable as it is unavoidable. What we’re trying to say is that these dudes can get loud, loud in that way most bands could only dream of. It’s a sound that comes from a combination of custom and classic gear, mass-market and micro-boutique tools, tweaked and twisted for maximum effect.

Stein uses a Fender Bassman to power a custom built cabinet with purple tolex covering, a 12″ Eminence Swamp Thang driver and footswitch-controlled strobe lights behind the grill cloth created by fellow Nashvillian James Rhew. (“I call him Rhew-ster. He’s in our motorcycle gang,” says Stein.)

Brock extolls the benefits of visiting the good Dr. Z, who’s Prescription ES amp – co-designed with country superstar Brad Paisley – has become an integral part of the Turbo Fruits sound. Brock runs the super clean Prescription ES – “It’s a class-A, point-to-point hand-wired boutique amp,” he says – with an attenuator as his master volume control to get the perfect amount of overdriven crunch at any volume.

But bands can’t live on amp-tone alone, and occasionally you need a little extra oomf to send the whole affair into the stratosphere. While Stein’s set up is simple – a single Fulltone OCD overdrive pedal – Brock is packing an Xotic Effects EP Booster – essentially “a preamp section of an old Echoplex amp” – a  wah pedal from Real McCoy Custom in Portland Oregon, a late ‘70s Ibanez analog delay and a rare CSM fuzz pedal from Germany.

But for now that’s all inconsequential – the only thing that really matters now is getting to the club and getting the hell out of the van.