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Nashville trio Turbo Fruits' unbridled energy and juicy hooks are no longer a side project



Turbo Fruits with Mondo Drag and the Boom Bang
8 p.m. Sunday
the Conservatory
8911 N. Western

If Sunny D made garage rock, it might sound like the Turbo Fruits: crackling with barely restrained energy, thick-as-corn-syrup hooks and the joyful, childlike abandon of a recess with electric instruments.

The Nashville, Tenn., trio recalls its late Memphis neighbor Jay Reatard in combining ragged rumble and hair-singeing pop warmth, its spirited clamor rolling downhill in a brake-less semitrailer, torsos out the window screaming, waving impetuously at oncoming traffic.

Turbo Fruits' songs are infused with the insouciance of youth, whether complaining about the callow indolence ("No Drugs to Use"), circling the local ladies with a Chuck Berry duckwalk ("The Run Around"), or just indulging directionless wanton excess ("Want Some Mo'"). It's infectious, convulsive fun infused with rock strut and wall-shaking attitude.

The band is supporting its second album, 2009's "Echo Kid," but the first since the breakup of singer/guitarist Jonas Stein's old band, Be Your Own Pet, which thrust him into the rock 'n' roll spotlight, and gave his current project a sort of running start.

"It's like we got handed the world on a silver platter with all that Be Your Own Pet shit, and it doesn't happen like that, so now it's like I'm paying my dues," Stein said.

Formed in 2003 while its members were still in high school, BYOP quickly gained momentum and admirers. Chief among them: BBC Radio One DJ Zane Lowe, who took a shine to the pulsing, punky, Yeah Yeah Yeahsish "Damn Damn Leash," turning the act into a United Kingdom sensation.

Initially released on drummer Jamie Orrall's bedroom label, Infinity Cat, the group soon was snapped up by XL Recordings in the UK and eventually signed with Sonic Youth leader Thurston Moore's American label, Ecstatic Peace, whose deal with Universal gave BYOP major-label distribution.

Soon, the young men were on the road and living large, like the kids from "The Rocker" come to life, right down to the parental chaperones. The hotel rooms and outsized attention eventually took its toll on the teenagers, who simply didn't know how to deal with expectations or life on the road. After two albums and five EPs, BYOP split in 2008, with lead singer Jemina Pearl releasing her solo debut, "Break It Up," last year, and Stein following up 2006's self-titled Turbo Fruits debut by making the one-time side project his main focus.

"We just had a hard time functioning as a band. Everything was put in front of us, and all we had to do was jump through the hoop," Stein said. "Now that I'm out here doing it much more rough and DIY, it puts things in perspective. It kind of makes me appreciate everything that came about when it did. It's a lot more work now, but I'm honestly having a lot more fun."

The Fruits' second disc is much more consistent than its predecessor. Indeed, the self-titled record was less an album and more of a rough collection of demos Steinhad been working on that somehow saw release. It's much less focused and polished than "Echo Kid," although polish is hardly something you'd associate with the Turbo Fruits.

"We were just messing around with these little art jams," Stein said of that debut. "I didn't really have my sense of structure down quite yet."

He's only a little more satisfied with "Echo Kid," which he feels was still rushed.

"I would've liked to spend more time on it, but at the same time, I felt this urgency to get something out before my status was completely gone," he said.

After trouble with the release and promotion of the new album, Stein's already anticipating the next one, saying he's gotten better at editing and critiquing himself. After a few lineup changes over the last couple years, the Fruits seem to have settled on a solid foundation.

"I'm just looking forward to future songs. I'm having more and more fun coming up with new songs, and they're evolving and the style's evolving," he said. "I've just got a better idea now than ever what I want to do, and hopefully it will work out better than it has." "Chris Parker

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