s.o.t.r.:You guys blend so many styles, can you name some of your influences?
Duncan Thum:Graham Gouldman, Glenn Gould, Sean Lennon, Oscar Peterson, Pytor Ilyich, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Theme Song. One of the challenges of making music today is the canon that exists already. It can be really frustrating when you’re feeling all hot n’ fresh with your new lick, then you realize you’re just copping the keyboard from that Spanish-language version of ABBA’s “Take a Chance on Me”. I think there is a balance between nodding towards an influence and nodding into slumber.
Geoff Geis: We pride ourselves in taking in as many diverse influences as possible. We’re fortunate to be of the file-sharing era, so hearing “out-there” stuff is pretty easy now. When I was first becoming friends with Duncan, he had just made it his goal to collect all of the worthwhile music in the world on his hard drive; one of the first things I did as his friend was bring over my collection of CDs for him to rip. We’ve been passing that collection back-and-forth for the past five years now, building it like a giant rubberband ball.One of the reasons that we “blend styles” is because we actually have very divergent tastes. I really love R.E.M., for example, but the rest of the band makes barfing sounds whenever I say that. We’re pretty good at bridging gaps, though, and we get a lot of good stuff as a result of compromising with each other.
Tyler Sabbag: The Ahmad Jamal Trio, Elvin Jones, countless Urban Artists (Wayne, T.I., Tupac and Biggie, Death Row,Soulja Boy, David Banner, T-pain, etc), Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Pete Fountain, the Dukes of Dixieland, Tammy Wynette, Debussy, Mahler, Ravel, Rachmaninov, countless other composers, interaction with animals (that is not a musical but something that has had a hand in shaping me as a person), and the preparation of delicious food (again, not a musical act but a life-influence).
Alex Myrvold: Prince; he’s pretty high on my list and I didn’t see him on anybody else’s list.
Rand Voorhies: I’ll always have a real soft spot for New Orleans drummers like Stanton Moore, Johnny Vidacovich, Vernel Fournier etc. My favorite songwriters have to be Sparks and the Homosexuals though.
s.o.t.r.: Any funny, or weird stories while on tour?
Geoff: We’re actually just now planning our first tour, to South by Southwest! We have played some out of town shows though. Onetime in Vegas we “ghost rode the whip.”
Duncan: We played a show at an enemy’s house in Long Beach. Afterward, we hid some beef in the bookcase and an egg or two out of sight in the rafters. We were channeling that scene from Step Up 2: The Streets, where the good crew hides a fish in the bad crew’s heating vent, even though we hadn’t seen it yet… it harkens back to that influence thing I didn’t talk about until now. Some messages are worth spreading twice.
Rand: I put the eggs in the rafters.
s.o.t.r.: I see you guys are busy playing music in multiple groups. Tell us about the other projects featuring Pizza! members. I like the the Avant-garde Volkpenis. The song “Iron Fart” reminds me of the group DNA.
Geoff: Volkpenis is only sort of a side project. It has the same members of Pizza!, although it has often included contributions from our buddy Rob Chandler.The difference between the two groups is that the songs we make for Pizza! are really deliberate, and the stuff that has come out of Volkpenis is basically improvised. “Iron Fart,” for example, started with me hitting drums randomly for about a minute. Then Duncan compiled the hits into a pattern that was pretty weird, and we composed all of the music on top of that in the span of a couple of hours. It was like a sonic collage. We like working that way and will hopefully make some new Volkpenis stuff when we’re done with the new Pizza! record.
Alex: I’ve been playing bass, guitar, and occasionally keyboard with a group called Fol Chen for a couple of years now. I’m also the touring bassist for Liars. Both bands are about to go on the road to support Liars’ new album Sisterworld.
Duncan: I play keys with Evan Voytas.
Geoff: Rand and I are both in a band called Big Whup. That band is different than Pizza! in a lot of respects, most obviously in the fact that it has girls as well as boys so it’s not as “bro-tastic” as Pizza! I do the same thing in both bands (sing and play guitar), but the songs are different in tone and subject matter. I’m also trying to get my nose into some collaborations with other musicians who I think are fly- I’m really excited to have been able to play a song recently with Nicole Kidman, and last year I was in a metal supergoup called Hot Topic for about two seconds. I’m also a horrible egotist so I’m releasing a solo record this summer on Obeast Tapes.
Rand: Big Whup is a totally different dynamic than Pizza! Also, it’s really fun to play sit-down-normal-drums.
Tyler: I work as a freelance audio engineer from time to time, which is sort of like having another project. In general, though, I feel as though my efforts are best spent on one musical beast. At this point I don’t want to deal with rehearsing for shows with multiple groups, or trying to promote shows for multiple groups, or trying to schedule around multiple groups. So I like to keep it to just Pizza! Also, the music we make in Pizza! makes me really happy, and I think that our potential knows no bounds. Pizza! is very “composed” music, so if I WERE in another group it would have to be a much more improvisational thing. I think that my background in jazz would make that fun. Maybe I should do that….
s.o.t.r.: Who are some of your favorite bands as of recent?
Tyler: The whole Young Money crew (most of the time, sometimes Drake just drops simile after simile and it gets old), Rhianna, Hecuba, Rainbow Arabia, and Kid Infinity. Also, T-Pain, Gucci Mane, songwriter Josh Alexander, Eugene Toale and Fernanda Ulibarri, Vampire Weekend, and Nicole Kidman (the musical performing artist, not the ghost).
Alex: I’d say Animal Collective. Duncan- is Beach House good? I haven’t heard it.
Duncan: I really like Beach House. The 2000s were very good at bringing atmosphere in pop music, albeit often with an auspicious lack of tried-and-true song form. Bob Ross and I find a happy little mixture of both in Beach House’s record Teen Dream. Certainly something is afoot in that Legrand blood.
Geoff: I’m absolutely crazy about the new Vampire Weekend record, and I’ve also been riding the Animal Collective wave. But most of what I see and hear is the local stuff going on in LA. I’m really stoked on Nicole Kidman right now. Abe Vigoda has hit a new level of awesomeness now that they’ve added keyboards. Just in the past month I’ve been impressed by Signals, Kid Infinity, Whitman, and Emily Lacy.
s.o.t.r.: Can you tell us about your process when It comes to writing new material?
Tyler: It’s extraordinarily collaborative.
Duncan: We all contribute to the procession somewhere along the way. And for what its worth there are many of us with many instruments and many feelings and about how music should be made. That’s what makes our music so full of epic and weird.
Geoff: We just write together, starting with a keyboard or guitar riff that someone brings to the band and then fleshing things out from there. Sometimes there’s a skeletal instrumental that has multiple parts and we write on top of it. When Duncan brought in what became “Get Excited!,” for example, it was a gorgeous classical-sounding solo piano piece with a lot of different sections, and then we converted it into a rock opera song. Other songs come together differently. “Riding Thru the Jungle,” for instance, started when Alex and I crammed two totally different sounding riffs together- then, as a band we had to figure out a context in which those riffs could sensibly co-exist.
s.o.t.r.: Were you guys stoned when you came up with your band names? I see you used to be The New Motherfuckers. That is an awesome name- why did you ditch that one?
Geoff: I don’t think that we were stoned when we came up with the name Pizza! because we came up with it at Duncan’s parents’ house. There was a lot of debate and anxiety when we changed our name, but in the end we felt like the New Motherfuckers was going to hamstring us as a “punk” or “garage” band when that’s really not what we do. I personally like Pizza! as a name because it doesn’t imply a sound. Another name that’s like that is R.E.M. Most people don’t know that they used to be called Cans of Piss.
Duncan: Honk! I disagree with Geoff on one detail- we do in fact make music in a garage. Therefore, we make garage music. So the old name is still apt when we are in a garage making music. Music for garages! From now on we actually change our name back to the New Motherfuckers for those non-insulated insular moments. HA ha haha! Get it!?!!?