Some guys start bands to attract girls or fulfill starry visions of fame. But drummer Timmy Klatte is too mature for that -- he founded surf-rock trio The Turbosonics due to an epiphany. "After 20 years of classic rock in clubs, I wanted to try something different," he recalls.
Then he saw Dick Dale at the Rex Theater in 2005. "I had two of his CDs, and as a kid I liked secret agent music and twangy Western guitars, but I didn't appreciate him until he played at full volume. He's credited with inventing surf guitar, but nobody around here was doing this stuff."
Info box 9/7/2012
So Mr. Klatte mined his friends for the ingredients of a surf trio -- no dice. Next step: Craigslist. He found bassist and ex-Maine resident Keith Caldwell, and completed the trifecta with guitarist Jason Truckenbrod, who moved to Pittsburgh in 1995.
"In Buffalo, my skate-punk band played Husker Dü and Iggy Pop covers," remembers Mr. Truckenbrod, "and D. Boon [of The Minutemen] was my guitar hero along with Billy Gibbons, who's my mother's cousin. So I was used to power trios."
In 2008, the Turbosonics initially sprang to life as the Surf Zombies, playing faithful versions of Dale, Ventures, Surfaris and Link Wray. But original instrumentals leapt from Mr. Truckenbrod's fertile mind, and four years on, they've assembled eight tracks for their self-titled debut. "The Dick Dale influence makes it more aggressive, and my roots in blues and punk [mean] there's that flavor in there, too."
The album was recorded at the McMurray studio of singer-songwriter Tom Breiding, who'd heard the Turbosonics' full force at Moondog's. Hammered out in one day with only two words for lyrics ("Tom and his son Jack helped us yell 'Lights Out!,' " adds Mr. Caldwell), the collection boasts a universal flair. "Surf music is so accessible, you can pair it with punk, garage, rockabilly or blues," explains Mr. Truckenbrod. "We've got three generations -- Keith's in his 30s, I'm in my 40s, Tim's in his 50s -- so it's music that doesn't lose appeal, and we're trying to bring it to today's crowd to keep it relevant."
The band hopes to beguile thousands of World of Wheels attendees at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown, on Saturday afternoon before their 31st Street Pub gig. Among the muscle-car enthusiasts might be members of The Jason Martinko Revue, which began with its eponymous frontman and drummer Jordan McMillen in 1999. "Before that, I was working acoustic on street corners and at parties," recalls Mr. Martinko. "I was a walking jukebox, learning Springsteen and Elvis, but The Misfits were a huge influence."
According to bassist Nick Scuglia, the Revue's current and fourth album, "Lovin' Dangerously," shows the band actually playing faster as they age.
"[The CD] has more of a punk and rockabilly feel, whereas the older songs were more soulful."
"We keep adding younger members," adds saxophonist Steve Jacobs. "Many of the songs share titles with exploitation movies -- mostly '50s and '60s B-movie horror flicks."
" 'Hell's Highway' is about the old drivers-ed movie which showed real dead bodies killed on the highway. I was inspired to write a song about that," explains Mr. Martinko. "And 'Invasion of the Love Drones' [references] a '70s porn movie starring Ron Jeremy."
Just like their 2006 CD "Damaged Goods," the newest Martinko product is accompanied by the release of their homemade slasher sequel, "Gone the Way of Flesh II: Fresh Bloody Flesh," being wrapped soon. Mr. Jeremy appears in it, as does Lloyd Kaufman of Troma's "Toxic Avenger," and recently deceased adult-film hall-of-famer Jamie Gillis. "This might be his last-ever appearance -- he was in 800 films and was considered the Marlon Brando of adult porn."
Next concept for the Revue? Geeked-out martial arts madness. "We started on a kung fu movie called 'Soul First,' " concludes Mr. Martinko. "I'm doing a comic book of it, too."
Manny Theiner is a Pittsburgh-based freelance writer.