Big Mammoth Skull / Pizza! // Music Video Premiere

In Internet-land, where music, art and literature are produced and shared at the click of a button, it is refreshing to talk to people who are making art the good old fashioned way – as an unhurried and meditative effort with physical communities of artists and friends. The video that we are premiering today is a perfect example of just that. “Big Mammoth Skull” is a track by a Los Angeles band, one that pretty much has the best band name ever… Pizza! And no, we did not add an exclamation point to show our enthusiasm (although we of course have a lot of enthusiasm for this band) the exclamation belongs to their band name. Pizza! met in LA during college and all moved in together soon after graduation. Frontman Geoff Geis explains, “for about two years, we lived on Alvarado Street in the Echo Park neighborhood of LA and jived pretty heavily on each other’s creativity while creating our own sound-world based on little jokes and big abstractions.”

Pizza!’s music is hard to pin down, though it’s not so hard to talk about because there is just so much there. The antithesis of a one-note band, Pizza! constantly explores different styles and modes of writing. “Stylistic elusiveness has always been among Pizza!’s main objectives, for better or for worse,” says Geis. “We’ve always strived to create music to both challenge us and surprise our audience.”

To understand how Pizza! operates, Geis explains that the song “Big Mammoth Skull,” is a good example of the band’s collaborative nature. It began as a song that Duncan [the keyboardist] made on his own, called ‘Mammoth Skull’… we expanded [it] into a group effort that trades lead vocals and progresses in a linear nature without repeating itself.” The song takes listeners through “rich harmonies, small soaring high notes, very spacious zones, hardcore disco sections, drum circle jam outs, motivational speaker nonsense, and a thousand different other things. In a way,” Geis reasons, “it’s an encapsulation of the band itself.” Another driving force for Pizza! is undoubtedly Los Angeles. “Los Angeles gets a bad rap from the outside world, and I understand that  – there certainly is a lot of vapidness and general soullessness here.” But defending his city Geis explains, “that’s not all LA has to offer! Actually, it’s only a fraction of Los Angeles, which is certainly one of the most dynamic and interesting cities in America.”

Pizza!’s new video, directed by Caitlin Craggs, is just another example of the band’s collaborative nature. “Caitlin has been a friend of the band for a long time, and she’s also been a collaborator.” Craggs has written and recorded on past Pizza! tracks, on both organ and vocals. So “when she decided that she wanted to make a video for this song, we trusted her completely,” stresses Geis. “We couldn’t be happier with the results!”

Luckily for us, we also got some behind-the-scenes info on the video from Miss Craggs herself. “I hail from the Pacific Northwest,” Craggs says, introducing herself. “I’m an older sister. I have never had a bloody nose, but someday I hope to.” We cannot explain Caitlin Craggs as simply an animator, as she is quite the multi-disciplinary artist. “I’ve studied piano since I was literate,” she explains, so it is only natural that music plays a large part in her life as an animator. “The fundamental concepts of rhythm and dynamic movement translate directly into animation,” confirms Craggs. “Both are time-based art-forms—one aural, one visual.”

For the video, Craggs tells us that she was “aiming for a pre-historic dream ballet, complete with Venus Hottentot dancers and a giant mammoth skull idol. I pinned up some green sheets in my bedroom and started flapping around and shooting.” Craggs also fabricated a literal “big mammoth skull” herself—look closely and you’ll spot her dancing inside of it in the video. Looking back at what was obviously a heartfelt collaboration, Craggs seems fully satiated. “They are all dear friends,” reflects Craggs, “and I was delighted to have the chance to contribute a slice to Pizza!”


- Annick Mayer