Naked Pizza was the brainchild of eccentric Phoenix-based saxophone player "The Artist Formerly Known as Austin Rickert," as he requested he be called, and just like Rickert ... it was really weird. They were a ska band that would play in crazy costumes looking more like theme camp at Burning Man than a band. For their live events, they routinely picked up new players at shows and parties, worked with them for the night, and then never again. They did wind up with a pretty solid eight-piece lineup toward the end of their run. But according to Rickert, no two shows in their one-and-a-half-year existence had exactly the same lineup.
"The definition of the band is that anyone can be in it, but I wrote the songs. So since I was the catalyst if I wasn't there the band didn't exist. But other than me anyone else could be in the band. We would just meet people at parties and they would pop up and play. It was extremely fluid and I loved it; it made it different at every show," says Rickert.
Rickert, who is the band's lead singer and lone member who has played at all of their engagements says that it was the pressure to play as a static eight-piece, mixed with personal conflicts within the group, that eventually lead to its demise in October 2013.
"In the beginning, we could play with anyone, and then a solid lineup started forming and there started to be conflicts about whether or not we could play without certain people if they were not able to be at a show," Rickert says. "I thought the entire point of the band was to be fluid. So when we started catering to the idea that like the eight-piece lineup is good and if we don't deliver that people would be upset, I got pretty frustrated. Naked Pizza was always supposed to be fluid. Anybody could be in Naked Pizza."
Even with a constantly changing lineup, Naked Pizza was able to build a fairly dedicated following. They drew more than 150 people to Crescent Ballroom at a 21-and-over show, even though the large majority of their fans were below the drinking age. But the shows that Rickert says really stood out were the shows promoted by Arizona State University student club The Underground Foundation. At places like Cellar Door Vintage and private residences that drew upwards of 200 every time.
Through the year and a half of packed shows and guerrilla gigs, like their foray into a downtown Phoenix laundromat, they came up with only one recording -- a six-song Rubber Brother cassette tape called This is not an album.
They compared their singular recording -- which took six months to record -- to The Postal Service's Give Up.
"I know it was so lame, but we made a comparison to The Postal Service. They had that one finite thing defines them," says Rickert
It was actually those TUF shows that are what made this reunion possible. The reason Rickert was willing to bring Naked Pizza out of retirement was because it was former TUF officers Clipper Arnold and Khayree Billingslea who asked him to do it.
"We had already said everything we wanted to say with Naked Pizza, and while people wanted more, I didn't have a severe interest in giving them more," says Rickert. "But then a really old friend of mine, Clipper Arnold, hit me up and asked about this show; that was the only reason it got my attention. Then it turned out Khayree Billingslea was also a part of setting up the show, and he does a great job with everything he does, and I haven't seen him in awhile so I liked the idea of working with him again. I worked with [Billingslea] a lot when I was at ASU, and there was chemistry there and I wanted to have that again."
The show will not feature the ill-fated eight-piece lineup, and according to Rickert there is no chance of that lineup every playing together again. Original members guitarist Jameson McQueen, bass player Arnold, trombone player Daniel Suber, and bass player Benny will be playing along with Rickert, while Ariel Monet of Sister Lip fills in on drums.
Rickert says that anything but a whole different lineup wouldn't feel right, that it would really go against the idea of the band. They will even be playing the songs a bit differently. Rickert said they are reworking all the songs to sound more singer T Pain's NPR Tiny Desk Concert.
"T Pain, NPR, they know what's up. It's just a solo keyboardist and him singing, and it's the most elegant baby-making music you have ever heard in your life," says Rickert. "Three songs about strippers -- the most beautiful songs I've ever heard in my life. Google it. You'll cry. We had a practice today and rearranged all the songs and they sounded not quite like Richard Cheese but like complete remakes of our songs. We did it so that they are all ass-shaking, baby-making songs. They are all way jazzier, way chiller, and more bass."
While the original lineup playing again is out of the question new Naked Pizza music and more shows are not completely out of the question. Rickert says he may be willing to play more shows as long as they are "uncommon," "weirder," and if they "up the ante." While new music could become possible in the form of some sort of concept album, one idea Rickert talked about was a ska blaxploitation concept album, though a T Pain cover album wasn't out of the question either.
For now Rickert is focused on making new music with McQueen in Bacchus and the Demon Sluts, touring with Jerusafunk, and rocking with Boss Frog.
"If everyone wants Naked Pizza so bad, then put the word out; they should just take that energy and start more ska bands. I would like nothing more than to hear more ska bands in this scene," says Rickert.
Naked Pizza will be playing with Red Tank!, Instructions, and Injury Reserve at a undisclosed location within the Tempe downtown historic district. Cover is $5, show starts at 7 p.m. New Times doesn't know where the show is, but if you call this number from Naked Pizza's Facebook page, you might find out: 602-527-0977.
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