“I have a motorcycle tattooed on my arm,” Turbo Fruits vocalist-guitarist Jonas Stein says. “It’s just about in my blood.”
It’s fitting then that “Harley Dollar Bill$,” the first single off the garage-rock group’s forthcoming album Butter, is all about this favorite subject of his. From the first word of the four-minute jam (“motorcycle,” of course) to its infectious “I’m going to ride away” chorus, it continues the lineage of two-wheeler odes like “Born to Be Wild” and Billy Joel’s, uh, “Motorcycle Song.” It’s a topic that pervades Stein’s thinking so much so that as soon as he’s done telling Hive about the song, which we’re premiering here, he retreats to the garage to weld new axel plates to a 1970s-looking chopper he expects to be completed by next spring. “It’s gonna be a bar-hopping bike,” he says. “It’s real flashy.”
How old were you when you started riding?
I think I first started dirt-biking when I was 8. I grew up on a small farm outside of Nashville, so I was always riding around that. I got my motorcycle license when I turned 14. It’s funny how you can get your motorcycle license when you’re 14, but can’t drive a car ’til you’re 16. It’s pretty fucked up: A 14-year-old kid can be riding legally down the street.
Did being a 14-year-old biker ever have its downsides?
No, I’ve always been pretty good on the road. When I was younger, I used to race around on the farm a lot and that was a little bit more treacherous because it was getting muddy and stuff. One time I took my bike up the hill and back, and there was a wet patch on the grass, and I wasn’t wearing a helmet. I tapped the front break and it just fucked me over. The front tire slid out from under me and next thing I know I woke up and my bike’s laying next to me with the throttle stuck in the grass going full rev. And I got so fucked up from my head getting hit that I was just rolling in the grass trying to get over to the bike to shut it off. My mom made me go to the hospital. I got a concussion from that. But I’ve been pretty confident yet safe on the road.
How many bikes do you own?
I grew up around motorcycles. When I started making some money, I kind of pumped most of it into other bikes. My dad would go half-and-half on some bikes here and there. We’ve probably got nine or 10 bikes in our garage, but not like $10,000 Harleys. A lot of them are vintage ’60s bikes, like old Hondas that I found for 1,200 bucks here and there. I’m actually not a huge Harley fanatic. I like British and Japanese bikes a little bit more. But the reason “Harley Dollar Bill$” became the title of the recording is because our friend Jeremy recorded a certain version of it. And he usually types in goofy titles for songs, so he typed in “Harley Dollar Bill$.” I was like, “Holy shit, that’s a good name. That’s the name of the song right there.”
Was it hard to write a song about something you love?
The hard thing is it’s hard to rhyme something with the word “motorcycle.” I was like, “maybe I don’t have to have “motorcycle” in the chorus, maybe I can throw it in the verse somewhere, so it starts with that word.” There aren’t too many songs out there with “motorcycle” in it because you can’t rhyme too much with it. So the chorus just has “ride away” in it. I’ve always wanted to figure it out, so one night I took a couple hits off my joint and stepped away from the table and played my song and it came to me.
Do you have any favorite motorcycle songs?
There’s a Billy Joel song, but maybe he said “motorsickle” so he can rhyme it with something. I don’t know any motorcycle songs really.
Finally, the track leads off with someone shouting, “I need perfection here.” Where did that come from?
[Laughs.] When you’re in a studio and you’re trying to track something, a lot of times you don’t get it the first time. I think we had fucked up three or four times in a row. So our drummer yelled that. We got it right that time though.Turbo Fruits - Harley Dollar Bill$