By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Oh, with some ducks. Before they were Father Stone, Kenyattasaurus Rex, and Taryndactyl, they were Jason Stone, Kenyatta Turner (formerly Shircliff), and Taryn Moore, and they were neighbors, living across the street from Encanto Park in the spring of 2005. And one day, they lugged bongos and a banjo across the street and just started jamming down by the water.
"And while we were playing, out of the corner of my eye, I saw these ducks," Jason says. "And I turned to look, and there were all these ducks around us, just looking at us really intently. And we stopped playing, and they all waddled off. So we thought, 'That was weird,' and we started playing again, and they came back. And every time we stopped, they'd leave, and they'd come back when we started playing again and just sit there and listen to us. And I thought, 'Hey, if we can entertain these ducks. . .' "
"And then the sprinklers came on and drenched us and we had to run away," Kenyatta says.
But the seed had been planted. They had to play in a band together. It wasn't that the thought had never occurred to them before Kenyatta and Taryn had both met Jason at shows around Phoenix in the mid-'90s, and Kenyatta's known Sister T-Raptor (nee Tana Youmans) since 1990. But like many other musicians in Phoenix's incestuous punk rock scene, they were busy with multiple band projects. Jason's drummed for Beelze Bullies and The Mongoloids for years, Tana's the bass player for Asses of Evil, and Kenyatta and Taryn are both in The Dropouts.
Their extemporaneous sprinkler symphony for the ducks at Encanto helped them realize the musical chemistry they had, and there were more practice sessions in the park. "It would always be too late, and we weren't supposed to be there," Kenyatta says. "So we'd be looking out for the cops, and we had beer, ready to run back across the street."
"Our Encanto Park sessions were fantastic," Tana says.
"Finally, we were like, 'We could move [practices] into our house if we wanted," Taryn says with a laugh. "Like, 'Okay, let's plug in!'"
The "Nunzilla" toy, a 3-inch-tall wind-up doll manufactured by Archie McPhee Toys, has light-up, Kryptonite-green eyes and spits sparks when she waddles. She is to thank for Phoenix's NunZilla. When the band was still in its infancy, the members found themselves at Hidden House off Osborn Road, playing with this wind-up nun to everyone's amusement. Somebody suggested they call themselves NunZilla, they found nun's habits at Easley's Costume Shop, launched the NunZilla MySpace page in August '05, and that was it.
Well, okay, that wasn't really it blow-up Godzillas, nun collage films, "levitating nun" stunts, and fog machines followed.
"Everything we do, we do for our own amusement," Kenyatta says. "If other people are amused, great."
And if some people are offended?
"We do not expect anybody to take us seriously," Kenyatta says. "If somebody's offended, then please, listen to something else. Watch something else."
Besides, as Tana points out, how much reverence should you offer the Catholic Church when "We live in a city where a bishop [Bishop O'Brien] ran over a man, killed him, and tried to get away with it?" (O'Brien was convicted in 2004 and resigned from his position but never served jail time, being sentenced to probation and community service instead.)
And it's not as if NunZilla is inventing a new, irreverent "pop culture nun" trend anyway. Just last year, UC Davis professor Frances Dolan toured universities delivering a lecture titled "Why Are Nuns Funny?" which focused on the image of nuns as humorous, absurd figures as far back as the 16th and 17th centuries. And ever since Sister Luc Gabriel (a real nun) cut a record as The Singing Nun in 1963, pseudo-sisters have been everywhere, from TV (The Flying Nun, Brides of Christ) to the stage (Nunsense, Late Night Catechism) to the big screen (everything from European "nunsploitation" films of the '70s like Killer Nunto modern musicals like Sister Act) to a 2005 Kabbalah party to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Purim, where the ever-controversial Madonna dressed as a nun.
The whole NunZilla thing started as a joke, and it still is. Of course, not everyone finds it funny. "You wouldn't believe what I had to go through to get this shirt," Jason says, pulling on his priest's frock. "I went to an actual Catholic church supply store, and the guy working there was real quiet and speaking in that hushed Catholic voice, asking me all these questions, like 'What church are you with?' And I told him I wasn't with any church, I just wanted a shirt. And so I got the shirt, and I swear to God, when I went to pay for it, he wouldn't take the money from me. So I set the money down on the counter, and he picked up each bill slowly, and he'd punch a button on the register, and take this really long pause before punching the next button, like he was wrestling with his conscience.
Give me a break! I know punk and this isn't punk. Total Chaos would crash on my living room floor when they still lived in their mama's houses. This has no edge, ergo is not punk. Got an idea for a new name (and gimmick) for you guys. Paul Shaeffer and the Housewives. Better fit. Y'all ain't even half sexy enough to pull off Nunzilla. And Taryn, Digital Underground called. Humpty Hump wants his nose back.
Love The Article, Love Nunzilla. They are just great down to earth peeps. The School Yard Scrappers LOVE Nunzilla ;)
Please Nuns and Father Stone Come to my town and show these people how to have some fun. I must say however the scene is very tight and holy. These guys just need a little loosening up a bit. I remember hanging out with Father Stone back in the day of jumping fences to skate empty pools. The kids here need to worship NunZilla.