Despite strong market awareness, the local rockers aren't afraid to get political
For a brief moment on an early afternoon in mid-May, Turbos bandmates Alex D. and Lucas Esterline were both seated in front of laptops in a Downtown coffee shop, catching up on band business — something that has become a common occurrence these days. “We got yelled at for sending out emails too fast,” Esterline said, and laughed. “Our agent was like, ‘You guys are getting into robot territory. You need to chill out.’”
When it comes to the business of being in a band, the members of the Turbos adhere pretty firmly to the executive track, weighing things like market trends and audience reaction while doing anything from plotting tours to woodshedding new material. “The clear thing coming into [the band] was that we wanted to make music that we liked but that was also very marketable, sellable, because we … also wanted to take our brand, our small business, and be able to sustain a living off of it,” Esterline said.
Part of this drive, according to the dual singer/guitarists, is in service to their fans, assuring listeners also get what they want from the group. “It’s giving appreciation to the people that want to hear us,” said Alex D., who will join Esterline, bassist Cam Reck, and singer/drummer Jahrie on the ComFest Bozo Stage on Friday, June 28 (the band will also perform during a ComFest after-party that kicks off at 10 p.m. the same evening at Skully’s). “It’s not just saying, ‘Screw you. We’re doing what we want to do.’”
Since receiving positive feedback on songs where Alex D. and Esterline both sang, for instance, the pair has attempted to craft more tunes on which they split lead vocals. It helps that the group often writes as a collective, auditioning parts until everyone is on agreement on a song — a democratic approach that means all ideas are communal, in a sense.
“’Murica,” for example, came about when Alex D. passed through the room as Esterline toyed with a guitar melody and framework that had long eluded taking finished form. Angered by the 2013 release of the taped 911 call George Zimmerman made to police prior to killing Trayvon Martin, Alex D. retreated to his room for 15 or 20 minutes, returning with a completed song that captured his seething rage at the injustice — one of many he’d witnessed in recent years in which young black men were shot and killed, whether by police or others. “America, it’s the land of the free,” Alex D. sings. “Most have rights, but they don’t extend to me.”
It’s not exactly the kind of sentiment one expects to hear from a band that places such a high premium on marketability, but it’s one the musicians felt compelled to make.
“We’re not a political band, but we are in a political atmosphere,” Alex D. said. “There are things happening in the world, and things happening here in the United States that we see every day. We have social media thumb, and we’re scrolling through, and we’re touring and seeing things with our own eyes. It’s a real and tangible thing. It’s not subtle, at least not to us.”
“We got warned about being too political, especially early in your career, but this stuff hits close to your home and close to your heart, and you have to write about it,” Esterline said. “There’s more to say and more to do than just writing about partying and good times. We do have a platform, and it’s getting bigger every day.”