10 Questions for Roxy Freefall, the creator of Awesome: The Podcast. Punch & Pie, and Joe Eckenrode, co-host of FizzButtonNJ.
By Matt Chrystal (WNJ correspondent)
Summer is almost over and that means there’s only a couple installments of DIYNJ left. So I figured I’d try to cram in as much as I can in these last few interviews.
I am flying high over Tupelo, Mississippi with America’s hottest band… and we are all about to die. I’m sorry. That is not what I am doing. I am drunk again. My friend and I are having another beer and cracking ourselves up. We are recapping some of our ridiculous adventures, making fun of our closest friends and getting into another argument over who really is the cooler bounty hunter: Boba Fett or IG-88 ? (Note: I’m Team IG-88, Fett is way overrated). Every time we find ourselves like this, which is fairly often, we say, “We should have our own show!” Then we have another drink and the cycle repeats.
While my buddy and I have not gotten our idea off the barstool (yet)… there are people out there who decided they wanted to go a step further then just talking about having their own show… they went ahead and created their own shows for people to hear them talk.
Roxy Freefall of Middlesex started Awesome: The Podcast. Punch & Pie. The show gives a monthly forum for her select panel of rotating guests to discuss all the things that she playfully categorizes as “geekery” and “nerdery.” The podcast also puts a spotlight on local bands that she has taken an interest in.
Joe Eckenrode of Linden, co-hosts the podcast FizzButtonNJ. For each weekly episode, he provides a roundtable discussion (he also provides the actual table) for his friends to play their favorite and least favorite songs, discuss anything they want as well as engage in “on air” hijinks.
I have had the privilege of being a guest on both podcasts. My appearance on Punch & Pie started out with me talking about men with tiny nipples and ended with me eating broken glass. Good times!
And my guest spot on FizzbuttonNJ saw me getting intoxicated, talking about my guilty pleasure of listening to the Bangles and included my impromptu acapella version of “Ice Ice Baby.” Good times! Oh and speaking of good times, I was able to get these NJ podcasters to answer ten questions for DIYNJ.
Everyone loves an origin story… Soooo…
1. What’s the story behind the names of your respective podcasts?
ROXY: The first part, Awesome: The PodCast, was kind of generic. Thought of it while sitting on the toilet. Honestly there really isn’t a backstory other than we’re awesome so let’s just call ourselves that. The second part, Punch & Pie, part is a throwback to South Park. I am a South Park Super Fan. It’s kind of a sad addiction honestly. In the movie when the boys were getting the kids together for “La Resistance” Cartman told Kyle to put “…punch & pie” on the flyer. “More people will come if we have punch & pie!” And lo… Awesome: The PodCast. Punch & Pie was born.
JOE: Fizz Button New Jersey is only one of many podcasts under the Fizz Button brand. Fizz Button was started by our good buddy, Danny Pinn from Sydney, Australia. Danny’s vision was to get groups of people from around the world to come together and put on podcasts. Los Angeles, New Hampshire, London, Sydney, and Wisconsin are only a few places where Fizz Button has shows broadcasting from. But listen to New Jersey… because we’re the best!
2. How/Why/When did you get started?
ROXY: The short version: I was a radio DJ in college and really missed being “on air.” The longer version: The original thought came about 3 months before our first taping in March of 2013. An old DJ friend of mine asked me to listen to his radio show where he was doing a live interview. The interview was so terrible that I thought, “I could do this better… Why don’t I?” Knowing nothing about podcasting, I put a call out on Facebook for some tips and within an hour, I had a sound engineer, help with building the website and my first 2 music artists to feature. I’m still amazed at how quickly it came together.
JOE: Around April 2015, one of my best friends Joe Kenyon was approached by Danny from Fizz Button and asked if he’d be interested in starting up a NJ chapter of Fizz. I will openly admit, we had a few rough episodes. Technical issues, service issues, flow issues, you name it! Once everything got sorted out, we hit our stride and have been getting better ever since. We invited a few other buds to come hang out. The regulars on the show other than Joe and me are Paul, Drew, and Steve. One of my favorite things about our show is that you never know who’s going to drop by. It can and will change the dynamic of the show. Some shows we have a full boat. Some there may only be two or three of us. No two shows are ever the same!
3. What does your process look like (selecting themes, topics, guests, venue, editing, whatevs)?
ROXY: What process? Just kidding. As far as topics and such, I take a look at what’s happening in the world of science, geekery, nerdery and just the plain weird and go from there. I try to choose topics that the panel (which is made up of regular rotating friends and folks in the community) could have a discussion about and maybe even try to be funny. I also take a look at what’s new and what projects are out there that I could promote that others might find interesting. Because of our 2 year residency at Roxy & Dukes, I was able to feature and interview many amazing local bands. I also go to a lot of conventions and festivals so I use those opportunities to try to talk to people as well. I guess you can say that I’ll talk to whoever wants to talk to me.
JOE: Think of us as a group of buds, sitting around a table, having some beers, and shooting the shit. Because that’s literally what we do! We broadcast from my dining room table. It’s a nice table. We talk about any and everything we want. Current events, movies, video games, whatever we Wikipedia, whatever! We spin some music that we like and some we don’t. We operate off the cuff. Nothing is off limits. We invite listeners to get involved. When streaming our show live, you can chat with us either through Skype or a chat board. We tried using themes (women singers, guilty pleasures, Queen tribute) but it started to become more work than what we wanted. Not to say we are lazy about it but it almost felt forced. So after about five shows of keeping a theme, we nixed it. We are always looking for guests to come on. We’ve had two musicians come on and play in our “Fizz Button NJ Studios.” If anyone wants to come on and play, feel free to reach out to me.
4. How big a role does the area/community of NJ that you operate out of play into your brand (i.e. inspiration? motivation? support? resources?)
ROXY: Jersey plays a huge role. If it wasn’t for the local bands, Roxy & Dukes Roadhouse and our current taping location, Demented Brewery, I wouldn’t be able to have a show really. I try my best to feature some of Jersey’s finest as much as I can.
JOE: All of us are very active in the NJ community. It fuels us on topics. We go out to concerts, breweries, and other random events and report our experience every Wednesday on air. The NJ community plays a huge role in our show.
Speaking of community, in marketing and networking these days, online communities usually have a big role in the success and expansion of DIY businesses. And as with any relationship, there seems to be periods of love and hate as opinions and reviews flow freely on open forums and message boards. So with that in mind…
5. Does being part of an online community make it difficult to “please the people” and still “stay true” to your vision?
ROXY: My whole world is online so it’s an important part of the show and I try not to forget that. That being said, I think we are very much aware of what folks might want to hear and try to feature those things as much as possible. At the same time, though, we have a very distinctive raw style that we will never divert from. It makes us who we are and is really the core of the show. The show is 100% self-funded. I don’t have advertisers or sponsors so I don’t have pressure regarding content. (That’s not to say that I am not open to sponsors though, ‘cause I am). I do make sure I am taking care of those who take care of me by giving them airtime and such, but we don’t alter our personalities for the sake of “pleasing the people.”
JOE: Absolutely not. The online community has been really good to us. Through social media we have gained many listeners. We’ve had reports of people in about five different countries check in. So far we haven’t had a negative experience with the online community. Even if we had problems “pleasing the people”, we’d still go on doing what we do because it’s what we want. I know that may sound pretentious and I really don’t mean it in a nasty way. We all have our day jobs and issues we have to deal with day in and day out. We make no money from doing this. This show is a way to escape for a few hours a week and wind down with friends.
6. What phase of the love/hate relationship would describe your current state of mind when dealing with the online community? We are all friends here, so c’mon and be honest!
ROXY: I’m very much a “do unto others” type of gal. If you’re cool, I’m cool. I don’t have time for bullshit or ego. I am very fortunate in that I don’t see a lot of the trolling other women do, however it’s something that you have to deal with. I’m open to spirited debate but when people stop listening or start to get violent with their word, that’s when I try my best to just move on. You can’t get sucked into the negativity that’s out there. It causes more stress then necessary.
JOE: Honestly, I can’t say we have a hate relationship with the online community. So far, it’s been really good to us.
7a. What is one of your favorite adventures or experiences related to your podcast?
ROXY: The Flogging Molly Cruise this past spring is going to be hard to top. Not just because of the people I got to talk to and connect with, but that they were willing to talk to ME. They were willing to take the time out of their schedules to speak to me––a nobody with a podcast out of New Jersey. There was a moment where Skinny Lister played acoustically for me and, at the time, I was in awe that it was even happening. When I listened to the playback, I cried. I couldn’t believe that a band like them was performing for my little show. It was an amazing feeling.
JOE: We have a few segments that pop up every once in a while (ie. “Lil Wayne Poetry” and “Shat Block”) but my favorite has to be our “What’s Spinnin’” segments. We go out to record stores and look in the dollar bins and pick up random vinyl to play on air. The bad records get scratched and we kick back and enjoy the gems. We’re still trying to figure out what to do with the duds. Any suggestions? There’s too much music out there that we’d never get a chance to listen to if it weren’t for doing this show.
7B. Any least favorite experiences?
ROXY: My least favorite: Editing… hahaha!!! Dear Bea Arthur, if I could get out of editing I would be so happy. But as far as a least favorite experience with the show, it’s hard to say. I’ve really been blessed in the past few years that I haven’t had a “bad” experience… well at least one that’s worth my time here.
JOE: My least favorite is probably my co-host’s most favorite moment. A while back we had our listeners vote for who they would like to get “Sploshed.” Don’t know what that is? Sploshing is a fetish where food is thrown on you. Still confused? Youtube it, you may even see me… Anyways, after some questionable shenanigans, I just so happen to be the one who got the most votes. I believe there were about 30 different food items thrown on me. Mayo, sardines, milk… and finished off with Malta India. The Malta reacted with all the other shit on me and it felt like my skin was on fire. I hated everyone for a little bit after that.
Let’s talk about what is on the horizon for your respective podcasts…
8. What should we know about what you got going on?
ROXY: The show is in a constant state of transition. Since moving on from Roxy & Dukes, we have lost a place to feature full bands so I am trying my best to think of an alternative to bring the music back so we can feature live music again on a regular basis. Demented Brewing Company has been an amazing partner and has provided an awesome home for us to tape the show… and drink some amazing brew.
JOE: Tune in every week! We don’t even know what’s going on! One thing we are looking to do is have a show on location somewhere. We don’t know where but that’s an idea we have thrown around for quite some time now. Stay tuned because we have a million ideas running through our heads.
9. What can we look forward to in the future?
ROXY: We are currently in talks with Demented Brewery about a special podcast brew. If we can pull that off it will be really exciting since we love their style so much. Other than that, just more conversations with interesting folk. I am in a great position where I can tape virtually anywhere. I use a Xoom mp3 recorder and it has allowed me to tape on the floor at Comic Con, on the deck of a boat, in the middle of a café… It was probably the best thing I invested in because of the versatility it affords me. So really, sky is the limit!
JOE: Expect more guests, interviews, and more of the same.
10. Where can folks find you to keep up with you?
ROXY: All of our shows are featured on www.awesomethepodcast.com. There is also a link to where you can subscribe to us on iTunes on the page. If anyone has a suggestion or wants to be featured they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOE: You can catch us live every Wednesday at 8pm at FizzButton.net New Jersey feed. Subscribe to us on iTunes. Joe E. (Me) – Insta: BanJoE, Joe K. – Insta & Twitter: KenyonIV, Paul – Insta: BeardAsAllHell, Drew – Insta: Snake_Pliskin, Steve – Insta: RockstarrxMentality.
P.S. – We are actively searching for a contact (ie. sponsorship) from Franzia Box Wine.
Thanks for the info and your time, Ms. Freefall and Mr. Eckenrode! Stay Up, Stay Tuned and Tuned as WEIRD NJ “Breaks Bad” for one final summer interview segment with DIY superstars that are making noise in the Garden State.