6 Things We Learned from Pizza Planet, the Toy Story Punk Band
Pizza Planet is a "pizzacore" band from College Station, Texas. The duo consists of Josh Willis on drums and Nic Shields on guitar and vocals. Here's the twist: all their songs are based on the movie Toy Story. Indeed, even their name refers to the pizza/arcade in the movie.
In their first EP released on Bandcamp, Escape From Pizza Planet, the band's opening tune is "Snake In My Boot," referring to Woody's famous line when his string is pulled. Other songs include "Double Bypass Brain Surgery" (Sid's disassembly/torture of toys), "The Claw," "To Infinity," "And Beyond." (The last two songs are a little light on lyrics, with Shields simply hollering the song titles over grinding riffs.)
Here's a quick phone video of the band performing "Snake In My Boot":
It's not every day that you encounter a band so singly dedicated to its premise, and having such fun doing it. In order to understand more about Pizza Planet, mental_floss conducted an email interview last week. Here are some keepers, lightly edited for clarity.
1. THEY ARE TRUE FANS OF TOY STORY
mental_floss: How old were you guys when Toy Story came out?
Nic Shields: I was almost 2.
Josh Willis: I was 3? Maybe a late 2. It's definitely one of the first movies I remember watching.
mental_floss: When was the most recent time you saw Toy Story?
Shields: Probably 4 or 5 months ago.
2. THEY INVENTED "PIZZACORE"
mental_floss: ... Your Bandcamp page says [your band is] "pizzacore." Where does Pizza Planet fit in the world of musical genres?
Shields: ...We are definitely pizzacore. Which I believe is a genre we invented.
3. NEITHER BAND MEMBER IS A "BUZZ" OR A "WOODY"
mental_floss: Would you describe yourselves as more like Buzz or Woody? (And why?) Alternately, is there some other character is the Toy Story universe you really identify with?
Shields: I want to feel like I am Mr. Shark because I just make fun of everybody all the time and enjoy mockery in general. And that's exactly what this band is, mockery.
Willis: I really identify with Slinky, he's super sarcastic but also I have the ability to stretch my body to absurd lengths.
4. THEY PUT ZERO EFFORT INTO THIS BAND, AND THAT'S OKAY
mental_floss: The message of the Toy Story movies (especially Toy Story 2) seems to boil down to, effectively, "Accept your situation and enjoy it while you can." Does that message resonate with you?
Shields: (laughing) That's exactly how I feel about this band because we put zero effort into it. We play in serious bands that we put time and effort into, but everybody just cares about our joke Toy Story band. So I've just learned to take whatever comes and stop trying.
Willis: Yeah, I'm in the same spaceship as Nic [Shields] on this one. I have a lot of disdain toward this band because of how little effort I've put into it and how little I care compared to my serious band that I drop a lot of time and care into and write about stuff that is important to me. But I'm learning recently to just accept it and enjoy it while it lasts.
mental_floss: How long does it take to write a typical Pizza Planet song?
Shields: About twice as long as it takes to play it.
Willis: None of our songs are longer than 2 minutes I don't think. We usually practice maybe an hour a month. We weren't kidding when we said pretty much zero effort is put into this band.
5. AUDIENCES HAVE MOSHED TO PIZZA PLANET
mental_floss: What's the biggest audience you've ever played to, as Pizza Planet? How about the smallest?
Shields: Probably a little over 100, and smallest would probably be like 10.
Willis: Yeah, we played in a taco shop in Denton Texas called "Killers Tacos," there was probably 100+ people there. They were moshing and going crazy enough that we had to tell them to calm down because I could feel the floor moving underneath us.
mental_floss: Does the audience understand the whole Toy Story thing? Like, do you explain it to them first?
Shields: Absolutely, we treat them like children and walk them through every song we play.
Willis: Yeah, we usually will describe what each song is about from the movies and between almost every song say "All our songs are about Toy Story" so hopefully nobody has misunderstood.
6. MORE SONGS ARE COMING
mental_floss: Any plans to record more Pizza Planet songs?
Willis: Yeah, we just booked studio time with a friend of ours, we're going to re-record the original songs on our [EP Escape From Pizza Planet] plus some more songs. I think it'll be like 10-11 songs total.
mental_floss: Have you learned anything doing this project?
Shields: That hard work doesn't pay off and to not take anything too seriously.
Willis: Yeah definitely that I need to stop taking stuff as seriously with music. I'm just having a blast and doing stupid stuff with one of my best friends and if people are into it, whatever, and if they're not, who cares? I'm in a band that plays music about Toy Story and you're not. So yeah.
HOW TO FOLLOW THE BAND AND FIND THEIR MUSIC
We salute you, Pizza Planet—The Claw has chosen wisely.
(All images courtesy of Josh Willis, used with permission.)