Eclectic Milwaukee party pop outfit Rio Turbo is a hard project to put your finger on. Even if you manage to, you’ll probably want to wash your hand – only to look around to see if you’re alone and gleefully touch it again. Somewhat sexy and sleek, but lo-fi and befitting of dive bars and house parties, too, Rio Turbo combines off-kilter beats, fearless vocals and choreographed dance to form something all its own.
Music Notes picked the brain of Rio Turbo mastermind Joseph Peterson about the group’s origin, “the Turbettes” and playing a show in front of a room of naked people.
When and why did Rio Turbo start?
Rio Turbo started about two years ago. I had met DJ Nike Mane in a club somewhere Downtown, and I told him about these songs that I had in my head. He had a similar vision. He could see things like I see things. We started bringing some of the tracks to parties and that's when we met the Turbettes, they were so beautiful. I knew I had to have them dance. I just knew it.
What do the Turbettes lend to Rio's live show? Have you seen anyone with dancers elsewhere in Milwaukee music?
The Turbettes are huge part of the live show. Most of the energy I'm feeling on stage comes from those young ladies. I would say from an audience perspective, they help get the party mood going. What can go wrong when you have people that are beautiful, talented and captivating giving everything they have right in front of you? And to answer your other question, I guess I haven’t seen other groups around Milwaukee with dancers, but I'm sure after this interview, they will start popping up.
Describe the band to those who haven't heard it. What's a description of your style? Influences? Other bands it's been likened to?
I would say Rio Turbo is the ultimate experience and that you must see it to believe it. I want to make you and everyone else feel sexy and to make bodies move strangely and sweat. I have so many wonderful producers, like Willy D and Sound Rippers, working on the tracks that the feeling is always shifting. I would have to say my main influences are Gary Glitter, Roxy Music, Disco Godfather and my life.
It seems as if Rio Turbo plays out more often than many other local bands. Does that have to do with a conscious effort on your part to do so?
I don't feel like we play that often. We generally try to play about a show a month, and I am very picky as to what shows I will agree to play. There has to be a really good party, and someone with intelligence behind the design of the show.
Maybe it's the variety of places you play that gives me that impression. I've seen sponsored shindigs, club shows and private parties. Do you think there's an environment that's most conducive to Rio Turbo's style or does that hinge more on the vibe of those in attendance?
Yeah, I really enjoy playing various spots around town. I’ve had great shows in small basements and great shows in some large clubs. Most of it depends on what the general mood is. I go heavy on general mood. I was once playing a private party where everyone was naked. That was my favorite show.
What are both the short and long-term plans for Rio Turbo?
We are currently going through some changes, so my short-term goal is to enjoy the time I am able to spend with the amazing people in this group. One of the Turbettes is moving out to California at the end of this month, and at that time we will be considering adding more people to the group. As far as long term I am looking to put out a new album in October followed by a short tour in November.
Also, Oct. 26th I am throwing a free costume-slash-birthday party at Quarter’s [Rock ‘n Roll Palace] and I would love to see all the real party people out there.
Stream or download Rio Turbo’s latest song, “Party Trash,” (among others) on the band’s Bandcamp site. You can also see Rio Turbo tonight, opening for Nashville blues rock outfit Natural Child and (Sugar Stems side project) Rumble at Frank’s Power Plant. $6 cover. Turbo kicks things off at 9:30 p.m.