The Pizza Underground-the Sauciest Band at Chicago’s Riot Fest

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On November 11th, 2013, rock n’ roll and pizza collided when Phoebe Kreutz, Matt Colbourn, and Deenah Vollmer, members of the East Village anti-folk scene, and Macaulay Culkin recorded the Pizza Underground‘s first demo. The pizza-themed Velvet Underground cover band quickly crawled through our WiFi connections, going viral with songs like “Take a Bite on the Wild Side” and “Pizza Gal.”

After being featured on BuzzFeed‘s front page, Gwynne Watkins from Vulture sat down with the band’s glockenspiel player and vocalist Phoebe Kreutz. They discussed the origin of the Pizza Underground and the band’s (then) recent success. Kruetz described the group as, “…more of an art project than a band-band.”

Since their coveted spot on BuzzFeed, the Pizza Underground has become The Beatles of current pizza culture. Just take a quick scroll through the plethora of high-quality fan art on the group’s Tumblr page. Or, after grabbing a slice of pizza inspired by the band at New York’s Two Boots Pizzeria, check out their documentary. The band recently announced a three month US tour with stops in nearly every city from Boston to Billings, MT. Art project or “band-band,” one thing’s for certain, the Pizza Underground shows no sign of closing the oven door anytime soon.

On Saturday, September 13th the band will be performing at Chicago’s Riot Fest. Don’t have tickets to Riot Fest? Hold on to your pepperonis and relax! Do312 and Red Bull are sponsoring a FREE Pizza Underground party with DJ Sets by the Macaulay Culkin, Miss Alex White and Francis White of White Mystery and Greg Corner from Kill Hannah. The Riot Fest after party is being held at East Room on Friday, September 12th. The party includes FREE pizza, FREE Goose Island Beer, and FREE Tito’s Vodka and Red Bull cocktails. The pizza party is on a first-come basis and attendees must RSVP here first.

Fans crave the Pizza Underground’s upbeat vocals, campy lyrics, and polished sound. That’s why our  pizza dreams at Encyclopizzeria came true when we became fortunate enough to chat via email with the band about their music and, of course, pizza.

Out of all the foods you could have chosen to create songs about, why did you decide on pizza?

Well our drummer Deenah Vollmer was on tour in Catalonia with Matt Colbourn, Phoebe Kreutz, and Toby Goodshank on a Deenah-Matt-Phoebe-Toby “LA Boobs” tour. They were playing a secret show in a cafe that was, in fact, so secret that no one came. The cafe was playing the Velvet Underground and Nico album. All of the sudden it hit them, “what if these songs were about pizza?” Just like that. Most of us are friends from the New York Antifolk community where there’s a real anything goes DIY attitude. Deenah has been hanging around that scene since 2005. Macaulay Culkin’s friendship and artistic collaborations with both the aforementioned Toby and Adam Green brought him into the community as well. All of our friendships were thus strengthened by pizza. Cheese is a real glue, you know?

We love the Pizza Underground’s music video! Do you have plans to release a new one? Can we expect more pizza masks?

We are always looking to make different and original content so we would not repeat the previously unique pizza pie faces. We want to continue to expand our creativity and as such, another video is not out of the question. Nothing solid in the works right now though. We are getting ready to tour again, preparations are keeping us busy.

Has anyone in the band ever been hooked on pizza? We know it can be highly addictive.

Well we only have pizza for breakfast, lunch and dinner plus brunch on Sundays. And during our shows. So no, we’re not addicted right?

What are some of your favorite New York City pizzerias? What type of pizza do you usually order?

Joe’s on Carmine is our New York favorite. A good plain slice of pie is always best. While we believe that a plain cheese slice is an indicator of the quality of the pie, we understand that not everyone has the political or gastrointestinal capabilities to consume cheese. And since we believe that pizza is for the people and by the people, we do not discriminate against dairy-free pizzas. We are very fair.

Lou Reed said “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” How many toppings does the Pizza Underground favor? Are you into jazzy pizza, as Lou Reed might have described it?

Well again, we love a good plain slice. But recently we had the good fortune to create a special Pizza Underground Pie with Two Boots Pizzeria that has Kale Pesto, Garlic, Onions, Plum Tomatoes and Ricotta Cheese. The Two Boots scientists put all these ingredients together in a brilliant way and we are more than pleased how this combination turned out. Couldn’t pass that up!

What are your thoughts on Chicago pizza? 

At heart we are purists, and we prefer a traditional New York thin crust.

Any plans to try some pizza while you’re in town for Riot Fest?

While we prefer a traditional New York thin crust, we always try the pies at the local pizzerias. Whenever possible, we like to give away pizzas from the stage from the nearby places because a local pizza shop is the representation of the city we are performing in and it’s great to help support local business. We are definitely open to suggestion as to where to find the best Chicago pizza.

What’s next for the Pizza Underground?

It would be really fun to record something, for sure. We’ve also been working on a few original songs, which hopefully will see the light of day sometime. We’ve also been talking about branching out into other media. It’s possible, just possible that the pizza band thing won’t carry forever. I know that’s a controversial view of things, but we have to plan for all possibilities. So is the world ready for a Pizza Underground variety television show? We shall see.

Watch The Pizza Underground’s music video below and make sure to check out their shows at East Room on Friday, September 12th and at Riot Fest on Saturday, 13th. 

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About Author

Erin Nederbo grew up in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood. Her writing has appeared on UpChicago.com and in New City. Her favorite pizza topping is sausage.

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