Every Night Is Friday Night: An Interview With Turbo Fruit’s Kingsley Brock

Turbo Fruits

Say it with me now: “Turbo Mutha Fuckin Fruits.” Emblazoned in large, butter-colored text across the top of their website, this declaration says everything you need to know about Nashville’s deviant rock ‘n’ rollers. The sweaty love child of singer/guitarist Jonas Stein, the band began while Stein was still kickin’ around with garage rockers Be Your Own Pet back in 2006. Yet the call of the Turbo Fruit seemed to be too much for the artist, it’s citrusy cry like rocket fuel for the brain. When BYOP folded in 2008, Stein bit into that tempting fruit for good.

Six years later, Turbo Fruits has recorded three blistering, in-your-face rock albums and gone through God knows how many lineup changes. Yet Turbo Fruit’s latest roster seems to be made for the life of excess that comes with the band’s M.O. First joining Stein for touring, drummer Matt Hearn and bassist Dave McCowen were followed by Stein’s longtime high school friend Kingsley Brock on guitar, making the band a four-piece unit for the first time.

Taking their full roster into the studio, the result is their latest effort Butter, which could be described as a sonic guide to bad behavior. Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno in just over a week, the album captures the raw experience of the band on the road–it’s bottomless bong hits, countless nights sleeping on stranger’s floors and the occasional barroom brawl.

Before performing at the High Noon Saloon on November 25 (tickets here), guitarist Kingsley Brock gave me the juice about joining the band, rock ‘n’ roll mixtapes, the “Lords of Party” (Deer Tick) and a detailed account of a night he (and the reader) won’t soon forget.

True Endeavors: How difficult was it joining a band that was already established and trying to find your own role?

Kingsley Brock: It’s funny, at first it was just a happy time. It’s still fun, obviously, but it took about six months before I really wanted to have any input in the band. Being best friends with [singer] Jonas [Stein] was kind of a perk, because I knew Jonas a lot better than the other guys in the band, and at that point I was not worrying about repercussions or anything like that. So we’ve definitely had some tense moments creatively. At first, it was just me trying to find out what my role needed to be in the band; not only in terms of the rest of the guys but also for myself as a musician and making sure I was doing something that made me feel good about playing. I obviously found that, and Jonas and the other guys were happy with the role I started playing. It keeps evolving, because now we’re a complete four member group. We split everything 25% and all work really hard. So I think me joining the band also made it easier for Dave [McCowen] and Matt [Hearn] to find their niche as individuals as well, because we can now work as a four-piece instead of a four-piece backing up a lead singer, which is how it started out.

Butter was the first album you recorded with Turbo Fruits, and by that point you’d played with the band for a while. Did things go smoothly in the studio? I also read that you had some label troubles at that time.

Butter was such an arduous process of us trying to figure out how to make a record with each other. That was the first record we did, and we did it with Jim Eno of Spoon about a year and a half ago. We’ve actually had to sit on that record until this last September because we were in between labels. When we got the record done, we weren’t really happy with the way things were going with Fat Possum Records, so we got out of our contract with them. We didn’t know if anyone was going to pick us up, so we had initially planned on putting [Butter] out ourselves last spring. But around that time, [General Manager] Seth Riddle from Serpents and Snakes–which is the record label that Kings of Leon owns–is a good friend of ours and expressed interest in wanting to sign us. We were really excited about that, but that ended up pushing the record release back, just because [the label] wanted to do a lot of press and publicity stuff. We’re glad that Butter finally came out, but we’ve been a little antsy. To a certain extent, we’ve been playing songs from Butter live for about a year and a half now. We’re proud of the record, but we’re all extremely excited for the next record. We think we’re going to take our time a little more, and are thinking that we want to record it in spurts over a three month period instead of going into the studio and just knocking it out in ten days.

I guess sitting on the record for a while is the price you pay for getting more exposure during release time.

That’s exactly right. A lot of bands have had success putting out albums by themselves, and some bands crank out two or three records a year because they’re recording in home studios or with their friends and whatnot. But when the band was just Jonas and the past lineups, that’s stuff the Turbo Fruits would do only to a certain extent. More with singles than full-length records. But there’s a benefit to both, I think. If you’re doing really well and a lot of people are checking out your music without label support, it makes sense you’d continue doing it that way. Ty Segall, for instance…

You read my mind.

He’s unbelievable. He cranks out two or three records a year. He’ll record an album in a week or two in his house or his buddy’s house. It’s amazing. But in the situation we’re in, it makes more sense to go the other route and let the label do their work and really put the word out about us.

You could always go the mixtape route like Weezy. Do rock bands put out mixtapes?

You know, I don’t know man. I guess the only thing I would say is somewhat comparable to what rappers do with mixtapes is a rock and roll band putting out 7” singles or B-sides. Jonas and our drummer Matt have a label called Turbo Time Records, and they put out a lot of Turbo Fruits B-sides. Songs that maybe didn’t make previous records or that we didn’t have an outlet for. Those are little teasers in between records. That’s the closest we’ve gotten. It might be a good idea to do stuff like mixtapes, but I don’t know how that would work. [Laughs] You’d have to have a hell of a lot of material.

Turbo Fruits could be the pioneers of rock and roll mixtapes. A drug-induced jam session, perhaps, straight to tape. 

That’s actually not a bad idea. Get blitzed for a couple days and see what you could capture in those moments and just release that.

On your website, Butter is described as “…the product of 200 days a year in the van, sleeping on floors, accumulating the kind of stories you would never, ever tell your grandkids.” None of you are my grandparents, so spill the juice: how close are you guys to self-destruction?

That synopsis is pretty broad, but Butter in particular was made when we were in the shit. We were touring like crazy, and with Butter…there’s a song about gambling on it, and there’s a song about getting into it with other guys over a group of girls. All that stuff is true. [Laughs] I mean, besides the [Turbo Fruits] songs written before I joined the band, the songs on Butter were the product of all of us kind of taking in our surroundings and the situations we’d never been in before. For instance, being in a casino and really not having enough money to be gambling in the first place, and then losing it all. [Laughs] Or losing our minds in places like Vegas or down south in New Orleans. Just a lot of drinking and a lot of smoking pot, a lot of partying and being in this whirlwind of what the road is. I’d never experienced anything like that when I joined the band. I didn’t realize that we were going to be sleeping on floors, which is exactly what we did. But those were the situations that shaped  . Some people might consider Butter pretty immature, but that’s literally what the situation was. [Laughs] We weren’t putting a spin on what was going on. It was a literal representation of what was happening in our lives at that point. And to a certain extent what’s happening now. We just went on tour for two months or so with Deer Tick, who are great friends of ours, and that was by far the craziest fucking tour we’ve ever been on.

In what way?

Well, those guys are just so professional and amazing live. We didn’t know what to expect. I met [Deer Tick’s] John McCauley one night at a bar in Nashville. A buddy of mine said, “Hey man, John McCauley wants to say hi.” And I was like, “What?” [Laughs] I turned around and started talking to John, and it was like 9 or 10 o’clock, and the next thing I knew we’re at my place and it’s 4:45 in the morning. Jonas was there as well, and John kind of looked at us and said, ”We should go on tour.” And I think I said, “Oh yeah, yeah, that’d be great.” But so many things happen when you’re in a band and people say: “Oh, we’re gonna do this or we’re gonna do that.” You get really psyched about it and then it doesn’t happen, so eventually you kind of learn to assume that everything is bullshit until it happens. So [John] said that, and in the back of our heads we thought, “Yeah right. That’s never going to happen.” And then about two weeks later the band was in the practice space, and we got an email that said Deer Tick wanted to take us on the road for two months, and we all kind of flipped out.

That was a really crazy tour, because for us, it was the best exposure we could ask for, being able to play in front of [Deer Tick’s] crowds of 400 to 1200 people every night for sixty-five days straight. We ended up becoming really close with those guys, and they are honestly the best group of guys we could have gone out with. But there was a lot of partying. [Laughs] We thought we liked to party a lot, but they pushed our limits. They set out to teach us what real partying was, and I’d say they accomplished that. They definitely made us more serious road warriors than we were before.

How do you survive that kind of self abuse?

Dude, I don’t know man. I have no idea. I’ve asked myself that question sometimes. “How are we all doing this?” You just kind of have to forget…

That you’re a human being?

You can’t complain. You can’t get four hours of sleep a night and then wake up and be all bitchy and pissed off, because that’s not only going to happen that night, it’s going to happen for the next forty nights. At some point you just kind of let it go and roll with it. I can say for sure it’s not the healthiest lifestyle. [Laughs] But it’s a hell of a lot of fun.

You just have to hit a balance. It’s like, okay, I didn’t get a lot of sleep last night, so this morning I’m not going to eat McDonalds and instead have a bagel and banana and drink some fucking water, you know? You need to take care of yourself individually for all the stuff you’re going to be in the middle of, and then just enjoy it in the moment. Because the alternative to everything we’re talking about is what, working at Starbucks? Being a landscaper or whatever the hell else we’re qualified to do outside of playing our instruments, which is not very much? But it is hard. There are nights (and mornings, especially) where you wake up and go: “What the hell are we doing? How are we alive?” [Laughs]

Or the more alarming: “How did all these dead strippers get in my room?”

Pretty much. [Laughs] It really comes down to all of us in the band really looking out for each other. We are like brothers. We keep each other in check as much as possible, and if anyone ever needs anything, whether it’s someone to make sure they don’t puke all over the place or emotional support because they feel like they are just kind of losing it, driving around for sixty days in a conversion van. [Laughs]

Is it more or less a party wherever you go?

What’s really funny is that with every city we go to, when people come out to a show, especially a rock and roll show, I feel like every night that we play is somebody’s Friday night. You know what I mean? Someone doesn’t have to go to work the next day, whether it’s a Tuesday or Wednesday or Sunday, and I don’t know that they realize we do it every night. [Laughs] People want to get crazy and sometimes it’s like, Dude, I just want to get off stage and go to a fucking hotel or wherever we’re staying and just go to sleep. But that never happens. People don’t realize that every night is our Friday night, and like, the one that is theirs where they really want to go all out is probably the night we just want to sleep. We’ll get invited back to someone’s house, and they’ll be all hammered and say, “You can sleep in as late as you want! I don’t have anything to do tomorrow!” And then we’ll party until 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the morning and then go to sleep, and two hours later we’re being woken up by the same guy saying, “You need to get the hell out of here. I’ve got to work!” Or: “My girl won’t be happy if she finds you here!” [Laughs] So that happens quite a bit…

Maybe this has changed now since Butter’s release, but was depending on the kindness of strangers a big reality for the band when you first began touring with them?

Without a doubt we had to depend on the kindness of strangers. Especially right when I joined the band. At that point, we’d stay in a hotel maybe once every three of four weeks. If we were dead tired and could scrape up enough money, we’d do it just to recoup for a night. But 8 out of 10 times it was a complete stranger offering up floor space for us to sleep on. At this point, we’ve actually made a lot of friends all around the states. So typically, we know someone in every place we’re playing that usually offers us a place to stay, which is great.

Have you ever run into a situation where midway through the night you just wanted to escape?

Uh, yeah. Most definitely. Most definitely.

What’s the weirdest David Lynch-style situation you’ve ever been in?

It’s funny that you ask that question, because this story is very David Lynch, actually. I’m a little hesitant to say it, but I don’t think this person will read it. If he does, he’ll know I’m talking about him…but fuck it… [Laughs]

This would probably be a lot of the guy’s story [in the band] if you asked them this, but the first tour that I was on we played this show in…I don’t remember what it was called, but it was one of the only places in North Dakota to play. We were in Fargo, and it was maybe my third or fourth show with the band on the road. And after the show, this guy offered us a place to stay, and we were like, “Great! Thanks!” And, you know…naturally we’re all a little stoned. [Laughs] We were all a little on edge. And we get to this guy’s place, and it’s like, a little apartment complex, but not your typical kind of apartment complex. Imagine a huge mansion or something with just rooms or whatever, little studio apartments scattered about, which is what this guy’s place was. And I just remember walking down these little hallways, and how all of the apartment doors were literally two and a half feet wide. So it was really an awkward place. You were squeezing through these hallways on your back.

So we get into this dude’s place, and we start smoking a lot more and drinking or whatever. At this point it was only four days into the tour, so I was definitely pretty soft. I wasn’t tour-ready yet. I hadn’t built up my tolerance for this shit. So I’m sitting there, and somehow I get into this conversation with this guy…

And you’ve got to just imagine, I’m super super stoned, and this kid has this really eerie music on. I don’t even know what it was; this kid was into the most eclectic, weird shit I’d ever heard. There was somebody on the fucking vocals just murmuring “Kill people” and all this shit. So the hair is starting to stand on the back of my neck a little bit, and I’m asking myself, you know, “Where the fuck are we? What are we listening to?” Then me and Matt start talking to this guy, and Jonas and Dave are doing whatever the hell they’re doing two feet from us, not paying attention at all. So I ask this kid what he does for a living. He said he actually worked at the venue we played at earlier in a restaurant attached to it, but that it was his second job and he only did it a couple nights a week. So I’m trying to be nice and make small talk, and I ask, “So what do you do outside of the restaurant?”

And he just looks me dead in the eye and says, “Well actually, I clean up dead bodies for a living.”

And I was just kind of like, “What?” [Laughs] I was like, “You mean, like, a funeral home type of deal? You pick up old people when they die or something?” And he goes, “No no no no. I pick up the nasty shit.” Like suicides and victims of train hittings and all this gruesome shit. And he’s going into detail, and I’m starting to kind of flip out. What is funniest to me thinking back is that the other guys weren’t even paying attention. Here’s this guy saying some crazy shit, and I’m sitting there locked into this conversation. And I started to think, Jesus, I never thought someone would do that, but I guess somebody’s got to do it. Finally, the clincher for me was when I asked, “So man, how much do they pay you? Does it pay well?” And he was like, “Oh yeah, it pays really well.” And I said, “Cool man. Then you must make something like two hundred or three hundred bucks an hour?” And he said, “I make $25 an hour.” I almost puked, dude. I was like, “WHAT?!?” I wouldn’t pick up dog shit for $25 an hour! [Laughs] And he starts going into stories about these horrible instances of like, kids and people…And he’s just unabashed, telling me the most no holds barred crazy shit. And you’ve got to remember, I’m just lit. I’m just starting to go into a tailspin of anxiety. Just like, who the fuck are we staying with?

And it’s at that point that you start to notice all the dead body cleaning products scattered around the apartment…

Exactly, dude. I’m starting to go to all kinds of places in my mind with these stories, and at some point the conversation ends and we all lay down in this small apartment. We lay all our sleeping pads down, and the other guys just pass right out, and this guy is sitting in his chair, and he asks me, “You mind if I watch some TV?” And I said, “Of course not man, this is your place.” So he sat in the chair watching TV until the sun came up, and I could just not go to sleep. I pretended like I was asleep, but I figured that the minute I did fall asleep this guy was going to grab a mallet and just smash us all to bits or something. So I just stayed up until it was time to leave in the morning and then told the guys the story later, and they were just crying laughing. They realized I’d never been on tour or dealt with any weird situations like that. They’d probably tell that story better because they could tell you just how freaked out I was. But it was definitely fucking weird, man. One of the weirdest situations I’ve ever been in.

–interview by Austin Duerst

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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