Local garage punk quartet Secret Pizza is keeping it real. The group of friends is taking a DIY approach to its music, and it's keeping complete control over its own destiny. It's all about having a good time — and leaving all the baggage of unrealistic expectations behind.
Secret Pizza was established in summer 2013 by Phil Shaw (guitar, vocals), Giana Caliolo (drums, vocals), Tim Avery (guitar), and Kamara Robideau (bass), and put out its self-titled five song EP in 2014. When Robideau departed amicably, Matt DeWaters joined the ranks.
Secret Pizza has now released its debut full length album, "Nothing Needs to Happen" (including a press on vinyl), and recently completed a pretty ambitious tour with a string of East Coast dates that also dipped into Ohio and western Pennsylvania. The band is a likeable bunch, and its tunes cover you in blankets of guitar roar, or will charm you with a slow, churning burn.
All four members of Secret Pizza were as loose as pinballs when we shot the breeze at a coffee joint — maybe it should have been a pizza parlor — on Park Avenue. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.
City: You're coming off a tour. Describe one of your most memorable gigs.
Phil Shaw: It was in Providence. We followed a band called Hott Boyz that was playing in this pretty quiet space. It had these beautiful harmonies, and one girl was playing an electric auto-harp, and we felt that if we played too loud it was going to suck. So we all turned down to half; my amp was on half. It was one of our better shows. It was super intimate; people were standing one foot way from where we were playing.
Tim Avery: The venue had this glowing cloud ...
Matt DeWaters: That didn't catch on fire somehow.
What are some lessons that you've learned in this band?
Giana Caliolo: Everyone communicates differently, and you have to learn how to interpret communication styles. Getting to know each other so we can understand each other is important.
Shaw: In terms of music, this is the first time I've actively thought about the voice of three other people when writing songs.
Is song writing something you can turn off, or is it always running in the back of your mind?
Shaw: It took us three years to write eight songs. So it's something we turn off. If we couldn't turn it off, we'd be more prolific.
Avery: For me, I'm always writing songs. I'm always thinking of melodies and progressions, they're always out there. It's not like a crazy thing.
Shaw: That's true. For the song "Not About a Lover" we came to practice and Tim was like, "Look, I wrote this melody." I said, "Oh, that's really pretty. I'll take that part, write another one."
Your song "Oh My My" has a Pixies-like vibe, describe the creation of that.
Shaw: That's the nicest thing anyone has ever said but saying that song feels like the Pixies is like saying a toy shark feels like a real shark. Those were lyrics that even when we were recording the demo, they weren't finalized. I made up the whole second verse looking at a bookshelf while I sang. I think of that song as a child-like song; it's sort of the love mythologies of somebody who is not well read.
Is Secret Pizza a democracy or a benevolent dictatorship?
Shaw: Not benevolent.
Avery: We're an oligarchy.
DeWaters: It's too democratic.
Shaw: Too democratic? Well, I can take that away if you want me to. We definitely make important decisions together, day to day stuff. It's like a republic and not a democracy because we are our own government but we all have different roles. We're all part of the cabinet.
How do you think Secret Pizza fits into the Rochester scene?
DeWaters: I think we're a bit of the black sheep. I don't think we sound like a lot of other bands that are around right now.
Shaw: Some of my favorite bands are my friends here in Rochester. You can point to any band and ask who do they sound like, and they would say, "I don't know," but you still love those guys. We're not genre defined any more.
What was it like recording "Nothing Needs to Happen"?
Avery: It was amazing. But we realized very early on that we didn't know how to play our songs individually, which was a scary thing, so we recorded everything live and did the vocals later. It was a grand total of 10 hours for the entire recording.
Shaw: That's how Steve (Roessner of Calibrated Recording) wanted to do it: he was like, "Come in, play your songs, and the only thing I'm going to tell you is whether or not it sounded OK."
He got me psyched by letting me hear David Lee Roth singing without any instrumentation behind him. I was feeling super awkward because four of my best friends are sitting in the other room listening to me go [makes loud singing noises] which was really ridiculous. He was like, "Listen to David Lee Roth, this is how he did it," and that was more ridiculous than me.