It began with a book: Girls to the Front, by Sara Marcus. After a fellow musician gave David Castillo the book, which chronicles the rise and influence of the riot grrrl movement, he was inspired to make a zine. The zine never happened, but the idea became a band called Pizza Time. Castillo wrote a series of jangly garage-pop songs, and although he initially played live shows with a band, there were never any other permanent members. In homage to the punk tradition of bearing a made-up last name, he took on the moniker David Pizza, and his rotating bandmates followed suit; the final incarnation of Pizza Time included Cutie Pizza, CJ Pizza, Pizza Mon and Nancy Pizza. But from the beginning, the project didn’t have any real plan for the future. “Pizza Time was just the music I was playing at the time,” says Castillo. “I was writing and recording the music and would have whoever play with me.”
Nonetheless, the casual endeavor eventually led to a tour and then a relationship with Burger Records, the cassette-centric California label synonymous with bedroom-recorded garage rock. Burger released the Pizza Time cassette tape Quiero Mas in 2013; like all of Pizza Time’s music, it was sung in Spanish. Castillo is one of only a few Spanish-speaking acts to play the white-kids-in-jean-jackets circuit, but he prefers to write and sing in his first language.
“I’ve always hated lyrics; lyrics were never my thing,” he says. “When I hear music, I don’t hear lyrics; I hear the rhythm and the overall feel of a song before I go back and listen to lyrics.
“When I write music, that’s always the part that I find the hardest,” he continues. “When I started singing in Spanish, it really opened up an easy way to not get hung up on lyrics. It’s like, dude, I can sing in Spanish, and most people aren’t going to know what I’m saying anyway.”
In addition, writing lyrics in Spanish brings the bonus of potentially attracting a wider audience with a second language. Castillo notes that, like his friends and fellow Spanish-speaking garage punks in Davila 666, Pizza Time was able to reach fans in other countries. But he was surprised to learn that most bands that play the kind of music he plays in Spanish-speaking countries sing in English.
“I can be frank with these bands and say, ‘Why in the fuck do you sing in English?’ And it’s because no one likes bands that sing in Spanish because they just sound like bad imitations of American bands,” says Castillo. “But to me, if you listen to, like, Joy Division, [then] make a song that sounds like Joy Division, but sing in Spanish.”
He pauses for a minute to ruminate on that. “But they probably feel the same way about me — like, ‘Why is this fake Mexican dude singing in Spanish?’ Maybe I don’t seem authentic enough, like I’m a poser. Maybe that’s why I haven’t broken into that market yet.”
Even if he does break into the Spanish-speaking market at some point, it won’t be as Pizza Time. Although the project will celebrate its third release, Todo, on Burger Records later this month, it will be done posthumously, because Pizza Time is over.
When Castillo started Pizza Time, he became David Pizza, but people eventually just started calling him Pizza Time. The line between his performing persona and his real-life one was blurred, and it got old, fast.
“It was bound to happen — I mean, I was eventually going to hate pizza,” says Castillo with a laugh. “I was talking with AJ Davila [of Davila 666], and he was like, ‘Baby-cito, why did you end Pizza Time?’ And I was just like, ‘Dude, I’m fucking sick of pizza; I don’t want to be so closely linked to it. I don’t want to be thirty in a few years and be like, oh, I have to go play a Pizza Time show.’
“Pizza Time just seemed to be centered on me,” he adds. “People started calling me ‘pizza’ — it was kind of gross. I wanted it to be more human as opposed to this mythical pizza slice.”
With the pizza persona came the party, too, and Castillo’s personal life was starting to be affected by his decisions involving alcohol. He was ready to shed the party-dude image and move on, ready to burn Pizza Time to the ground. But with an album on the way, an impending tour, and a slot on Burger Record’s third annual Burgerama music festival this past March, he knew he had to give the monster he’d created a proper send-off. He assembled a group of musicians — friends who he knew would help him keep it together on the road — and headed to the West Coast for the Adios Pizza Time tour.
“I was on the brink of canceling it because I was initially overreacting to my feelings about ending Pizza Time,” says Castillo. “But also, it was a lot of personal stuff. I wasn’t sure if I was going to be a reliable dude on tour, as a bandmate or as someone to be in the car with. I wasn’t sure if it was worth not feeling totally positive about it. I didn’t want to do it just for the sake of not letting a bunch of people down. I was thinking about that more than I was thinking about myself, and that’s why I needed to end it.”
For all the finality in that statement, Castillo is not done with music. In fact, he’s already got a new, multimedia project. Called Panaderia, its musical output is very similar to the Spanish-language pop punk that Pizza Time delivered, but Castillo’s approach to it is decidedly different. Songs are released sporadically online as “episodes,” and each track is part of a five-minute animated short featuring a cast of cartoon pan dulces (pastries) created by Castillo. The loose story lines follow main character Orejas and his friends Las Conchas, Los Encontraditos, Ita and Ojo de Buey as they hang out and make music. As a former resident of local DIY venue Rhinoceropolis, Castillo says that watching his fellow artist/residents working tirelessly on music and visual-arts projects inspired him to do more — like exploring animation to go along with his sound. Friends take part in the episodes, voicing characters and creating the backdrops that the Panaderia gang cruises past in each green-screened episode.
Artist Frankie Brack created all of Pizza Time’s art; his image of a debaucherous slice of pizza with droopy eyes has become synonymous with the project. But these days, Castillo finds a certain freedom in doing it all himself; with Panaderia, he can work at his own pace, and being able to write and record the music and create the art on his own has been freeing.
For its part, Burger Records is on board with Panaderia: “I told the Burger guys that I was going to be making the same kind of music, and they were like, ‘Cool — when you have an album, let us know and we’ll put it out.’ That was instantly one of my worries — like, I’m going to end Pizza Time and they’re not going to want to put out my stuff,” says Castillo.
Whether it’s pizza or pan dulces, one thing is for sure: The creative world of David Castillo is never-ending. Over the past winter, Castillo curated Bummeroo, an online music festival. It was a sequence of filmed performances sent to him by bands and artist friends from across the country that he strung together into hours and hours of sets to make one giant music fest that anyone could experience for free from the comfort of his or her couch. Like Pizza Time and Panaderia, Bummeroo is the product of Castillo’s creative M.O. — doing it himself, tapping his friends for inspiration, and pumping out art for everyone to enjoy.
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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.