Band Name: The Turbosonics
Genre: Instrumental Surf Rock
Geographical Area: Pittsburgh PA and surrounding areas
Interview with: Jason Truckenbrod, Keith Caldwell and Timmy Klatte by email on 2/28/2014
1. What is the current line-up of your band?
Professor, Keith Caldwell – bass
Freight Train of Pain, Timmy Klatte - drums
Modena Maestro, Jason Truckenbrod – lead guitar
2. How and when did you get started with your band?
In 2008 the band formed when Timmy Klatte, determined to fulfill his long-term dream of starting an instrumental surf band, placed an ad on Craigslist for a lead guitarist interested in playing surf and rockabilly. Jason Truckenbrod, originally from Buffalo, NY, answered the ad and invited bassist Jake Ortego to complete the power trio and form The Surf Zombies. Two years later, Jake moved out of the local Pittsburgh area, so the guys brought in bassist, Keith Caldwell, another transplant from the northern state of Maine. Discovering another surf band in Iowa calling themselves The Surf Zombies, the trio redefined themselves as The Turbosonics.
3. What bands or music have influenced you most?
Their influences include Dick Dale, The Surfaris, Link Wray, Huevos Rancheros, Los Straitjackets, Reverend Horton Heat, The Ventures, Hank Marvin, and several others. Individually, their influences include Dave Brubeck, The Yardbirds, The Rolling Stones, The Clash, The Who, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Miles Davis, and so many other artists of a variety of genres.
4. What is the breakdown of cover vs. original material in your live shows and/or recordings?
About 1/3 originals and 2/3 covers. The band continues to explore different styles to incorporate into their surf sound, developing and perfecting new originals. It won’t be long before the shows consist of a 50/50 ratio.
5. What recording have you done?
The Turbosonics released their debut self-titled CD in January 2013. “The Turbosonics” is available for purchase for $8 through the Turbosonics page on http://turbosonics.bandcamp.com/, or come out to see a show where the CD’s are always just $5.
In 2012, Jason co-wrote the song, Man’s Woman, with Pittsburgh’s singin’ cowboy, Slim Forsythe. The song appeared on the CD, Down on My Knees at Nied’s Hotel Again, by Slim Forsythe and Friends, with Slim performing the song with the Turbosonics. The instrumental version appears on our debut CD.
6. What kind of gear do you use?
Timmy uses a variety of Pearl, 5-piece drum kits (he currently has 4) and one Ludwig 5-piece. Jason uses an Italia Modena guitar through a Fender Twin Reverb amp, plus an external Fender Showman cabinet with two 12-inch speakers. Jason uses a variety of pedals including a Boss FRV-1 “Fender ‘63 Reverb,” and a Voodoo Lab Tremolo. Keith’s bass rig utilizes a Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar bass with active circuitry, a Digitech pedal, a Big Muff pedal, and a Hartke Hy Drive 210c bass amp.
7. What is your band’s favorite food/beverage?
Jason prefers Labatt’s Blue.
Timmy prefers any beer that isn’t light beer. And Jack Daniels.
Keith prefers Yeungling Lager and the occasional ice cold Duquesne Pilsner.
8. How do you get gigs?
The Turbo Goddess, Harriet Gibbs, (Booking & Promotions Coordinator) networks with club owners, media personalities, local musicians, and others. Harriet’s efforts have connected the band with opportunities that have gradually introduced the Pittsburgh audience to authentic surf music while increasing The Turbosonics’ fan base. Jason manages the website, Twitter, Bandcamp and Reverbnation pages. Together they manage the Facebook page. However, Keith and Timmy do their share of networking as well, which have landed the band gigs performing at local car shows, fundraising events, and provided nice reviews of the band on blogs and in publications. Usually, every show brings an invitation to play for another upcoming event.
9. What are the difficulties you find playing your kind of music in your area?
Pittsburgh is a HUGE rhythm & blues and classic rock town. Most of the clubs are looking for bands that play these genres and are not very open to bringing in bands that break away from this norm. However, there are some club/bar owners that are open and welcome bands that are trying to do something different.
Other challenges, with any band in this area, are the clubs that make it difficult for the band to collect a cover charge. For example, some clubs have two rooms. To get to the room where the band plays, patrons have to walk through the bar. There’s no cover charge to stay in the bar, but if the band provides their own door person to collect a cover, they can do so at the entrance to the room where the band is performing. Well, who wants to pay a $5 cover to see the band when they can stay in the bar for free and watch the band on the TV screens above the bar?
There are also concert promoters who will open opportunities for local bands to open for national touring bands. However, the local bands are required to sell tickets and only make $2 from every presold ticket. If the majority of a band’s fan base buys their tickets at the door, the band doesn’t make any money from this, and the promoter isn’t interested in having the band back. Even if the band sells 50 $15 tickets, they’re only making $100. Bands make more just playing in the clubs.
10. What positive attributes does your band have that sets you apart from other bands (of any genre)?
The Turbosonics is Pittsburgh’s premier instrumental surf band. There are less than a handful of bands that call themselves surf in the area, but none of them capture the high energy, intensity and authenticity of a Turbosonics performance. The Turbosonics’ original compositions capture authentic, instrumental surf sounds, some rockabilly vibes, and a raw edge defining their tag line…. “Playin’ surf at maximum impact!”
The Turbosonics’ shows are fun! The guys enjoy playing together and it shows on stage with their banter and antics with each other and their audience. It doesn’t matter if they’re playing to an audience of thirty at Club Cafe, or thousands at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, they’ll always deliver a rockin’ performance. Most first-timers walk away from their shows not knowing what hit them, and remarking, “All that sound from just three guys!” There is a club in Pittsburgh (Moondogs) where The Turbosonics hold the official record for the highest volume during a show……
11. What have you found to be the single most effective promotional tool you’ve used to further your band’s musical path?
Word of mouth from people witnessing our shows, and Facebook is pretty effective as well. A good old fashioned email list gets the word out to the press effectively.
12. What’s the most interesting performance experience you’ve had?
Definitely playing at local radio station, WDVE studios in Pittsburgh for the “Local Coffeehouse” segment during the morning show was a pinnacle moment. We reached about 2.7 million potential listeners with a live rendition of the lead track, Clambake, off of our debut CD.
There was also the Pittsburgh Blues Festival this past year at Hartwood Acres Amphitheater. Most of the blues fans there really welcomed the classic surf sound. It brought back some nostalgic moments from some of the older members in the crowd.
And finally, we loved playing at local tavern, Nied’s Hotel, this past Christmas for our annual Surfing Christmas show with our friend Slim Forsythe. This year it was a packed house and everyone had a blast.
13. What do you hope to get out of being a NESMA member?
Increased recognition of the band, more shows in and outside of Pittsburgh, recognition for being three awesome musicians, and invitations to perform with national, and high-end local, acts. We want to be known worldwide.
Also we invite other surf bands to joins us for shows in Pittsburgh. We’d love to trade some shows with bands in neighboring cities.
14. Anything else?
When you’re in Pittsburgh, there’s only one true surf instrumental band that delivers the goods-and they are known as The Turbosonics!