HomeInterviewsInterview: Chris Rockwell & The Stickball Social Club

Interview: Chris Rockwell & The Stickball Social Club

Written by Erin Mathis


Photo Credit: Stan Stolowski
Photo Credit: Stan Stolowski

Chris Rockwell & the Stickball Social Club is quickly becoming the “it” band of the Asbury scene with their fresh, fun, high-energy and anthemic instrument-based alternative/hip-hop sound. Listen to them once, just once, and you’ll be grooving to their songs the rest of the night. But, most importantly — they’re different. This isn’t a typical band that you’d hear on the radio. These guys have something all their own and it’s definitely worth supporting.

Pop-Break’s had the wonderful opportunity to sit down for a Skype chat with band members Chris Rockwell (lead vocalist) and Jason (Jay) Portizo (multi-instrumentalist), to talk about their new album and upcoming release party at The Stone Pony on Sunday, October 11th.

So has writing and music always been your “thing?”

Chris Rockwell: No. Visual art was first and foremost actually. I was initially really into drawing, and then drawing got me into graffiti, and then graffiti got me into hip hop.

So you released your own first full-length album last May. How did it feel to have something in your hands that you made, that you could give to people?

CR: Well I did two EPs before Buildings Will Collapse, but Buildings Will Collapse really made everything more legit. Jay (Portizo) actually worked on that record with me, pretty much start to finish. I brought him songs that were I already had written, and then we just recorded them together.

Because the songs on the album have a lot of different instruments, did you (Jay) make the music for it?


Jay Portizo: Yeah, all the live instruments on that album, I do play. Like the bass, guitar, and ukelele, the piano, some base tracks, there are a couple of guitar tracks, anything that was not in the beats that he (Chris) already had recorded.

Okay, cool. So you make the album, you get Jason to put music on the album, but when did you decide that you wanted an actual backing band?

CR: Well that was one of the things that Jay (Portizo) and I were struggling with for a long time. When we started out doing stuff together it was pretty much only in cafes, so me bringing beats wasn’t really suitable. He would play acoustic guitar, and I would do spoken word over it, and we were doing that since around 2004. But it was definitely meant to evolve. We had players come and go, and in 2012, after we played a gig that didn’t go really well, Jay and I had a conversation, and we basically said, that we can’t keep doing this shit. We can’t just keep getting people to play every time we have a show, we need a band.

So the question I’ve been wanting to know forever. The name of the band. Just, why? How? What?

CR: Yeah we don’t really know either.

JP: I didn’t care enough to tell Chris no. Chris said, “This is the name.” And I’m like alright, I’m gonna look it up, and nobody took it, cool. That’s all it is.

CR: There’s never going to be an explanation, really.

Okay, then I won’t keep asking. So you’ve been playing a lot of really cool venues. So far, which one was the most fun to play?

CR: The Trocadero. It was a really fun experience from soup to nuts. We filled up a bus, and drove everybody out to Philly, and played the show.

JP: I think The Saint. It’s a local place that we always know is going to be a good time.

Photo Credit: Jeff Crespi/JeffCrespiROCKS.com
Photo Credit: Jeff Crespi/JeffCrespiROCKS.com

CR: LiveStock wall cool too though. Just a big barn full of people – that was the goal, and it was awesome. I also love Espresso Joe’s, and Stay Gold in Belmar (Barry we love you). Stay Gold actually named a sandwich ‘The Rockwell.’

That’s so awesome. So after a show, I’m sure people come up to you and want to talk. What’s it like having fans? How does it feel to sign autographs?

JP: Exhilarating actually. All three autographs that we’ve signed have been great experiences.

CR: We’ve signed more than three! No, but here’s a story I’ll tell you. We played Ballyhoo Music Festival in Ohio last year, and a woman named Susan came up and she loved us, and we took a picture with her, and gave her a bunch of free shwag, and she was really, really happy. Then this past August, we went back to Ballyhoo, and she was there, and she had brought people out, and they bought all of our merch, and Andrew (Oliva) was signing drumsticks and giving them away. It was awesome.

I admire how hard you work. I always see you blasting up social media, or running around with your merch, or just promoting, you’re always working. How do you stay motivated?

JP: If he doesn’t, then we yell at him.

CR: (Laughs) That’s not how it happens at all! No, I stay motivated because of my family. My parents were self-employed pretty much my whole life, like, if you don’t go out and make that pay check, that pay check is not getting made. That’s just how I was raised. And on top of that, my parents struggle sometimes, and I don’t like that. So not only do I not ever want to have to do that myself, but I don’t want them to have to do that anymore. So I do this for my family. I want to take care of them.

You just released your music video for “Beach House” (and it’s awesome), talk about what that song means to you.

CR: When we first decided that we wanted to write a group record, I looked at all of them, and asked them what they wanted me to write about, because I’m better when I have a prompt or a focal point. And Zach (Bednarek) was like, ‘Well I don’t really have any topics, but I like the song “Pumped Up Kicks” because it sounds really happy and catchy, but it’s really a sad, serious song. I like songs that sound differently than what they mean.’ Then when we were coming up with the lyrics to “Beach House”, I was just basically yelling out lyrics from my book and Jay really liked the one line: “Who’s got a beach house we can borrow, everybody call out of work tomorrow.” And then I wanted to use Zach’s approach, so I thought about what experiences I had with beach houses. And the song is actually about the summer of 2003, and a friend of mine that was really having a rough time at home, where it was unsafe for him to be there. So whenever I had the chance, I’d go get him out of there, and one of the things we did was go party. So it sounds like a party song, but it really about domestic violence and people overcoming the tribulations that they face.

And can you tell me anything about the music video filming process?

CR: Well, you should know that the music video was shot by Jamie Lynn Mullins, who never shot a music video before. She was awesome that night. We were working with limited resources, but really, we got nearly everything we wanted to get into that video. We’re really psyched with how it came out.

So what can we expect to hear for the rest of the album?


CR: I think pretty much every song varies in tempo by ten beats per minute.

JP: We went out of our way to make it as diverse as possible. We’ve got the spoken word song, the head-knocker, the party song, the one that’s going to make you cry. We’ll take influence from pop rock, classic rock, funk, death metal, kind of everything really.

CR: We’ve touched on a lot of different styles, and that’s because everyone in this band has such different musical tastes. So here’s my answer: you’re not going to know what to expect.

Good to know. So last question! Talk about your upcoming record release party.

JP: Epic.

CR: We have Paris Under Fire playing, who is awesome. We have Deff-Ray, who is also awesome. And The Hive Mind is coming, and they’re just a straight instrumental band, and they’re going to play after us, because after we’re done, we just want to party with everyone, so they’re taking one for the team and just playing an hour of music for us. The first 25 people that show up get a free foam finger. Also, everyone is getting a free copy of the record. We really have to shout out to Christine Feola and Dark City Entertainment, cause they’re the ones who really helped make this happen. But it’s really gonna be a high-energy night. We’re going to play the record from start to finish and then play some more. Once again, you won’t know what to expect, but it’s gonna be a lot of fun.

Here’s everything you need to know about the show…

Sunday, October 12th: The Stone Pony – Doors at 6PM – $10 adv, $12 at door, ALL AGES, 21 to drink

Opening Acts Include: Deff-Ray, Paris Under FireThe Hive-Mind, plus special guest J. Sales of Moon Motel. Featuring a live painting by  Kara Nieves.





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