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Album Showcase: The Prizefighters – “Punch Up”


Minnesota’s heavy hitters, The Prizefighters, navigate deep waters of ska, rocksteady and reggae, drifting through eras reminiscent of 60’s Jamaica and UK punk-ska. This band comes from the heartland of the U.S.A. with so much style, it’s incredible.

Their latest album, Punch Up, contrives a subtle rage against the hypocrisies of the ruling hierarchy. The lyrics are potent, carried by melancholic, angst-ridden ska music.  With every song, there is a new story they tell, and I find myself wanting more. As a lyric fiend, my favorite part of listening to music is following the journey created by the message of the words.

Punch Up speaks about the corruption of government and organized religion and the divisions they cause amongst the populace. I admire the band’s courage to approach these issues, despite knowing their views may offend some listeners. This crew chooses not to be wallflowers nor mimic every other copycat out there, but instead speaks their mind with an original and recognizable sound.

Off the top, “Kick the Can” sets the tone with a fast pace and strong lyrics. “Fires rages and oceans rise, happening right before our eyes” speaks to global warming, warning that the hammer will soon fall.

Continuing the upbeat tempo, “Think and Pray,” takes listeners back to the 60s with a soulful ska revival blended with daring content that could easily provoke the Christian community. The hypocrisies called out by The Prizefighters can certainly be justified with the evidence we have all seen throughout history and especially in our current time. Why not ask the questions and present the facts? The track strikes the verse, “Thoughts and prayers don’t make a change, it’s what you do, not what you say,” sticking it to religious charlatans who offer only empty statements of sympathy rather than taking action to foster change.

“Company Time” speaks loudly of the rebellion against the men in control making the money and keeping us down.

One of my favorites is, “What Have I Got of My Own,” a bluesy rocksteady track originally performed  by American folk singer, Trini Lopez in 1964. This beautifully remastered version  pays respect to one of our greats in music.

Through a steady ska beat with an R&B shuffle,“The Ruse” pulls no punches expressing dissatisfaction with the empty promises from liberal politicians that seem to always fall short.

“What are you Going to Do” is a catchier, more uplifting track, old school ska with soulful vocals about following one’s own beat in life.

Not to be overlooked, the instrumental tracks, “Delfino” and “Jumping Spider,” keep the momentum going while letting the music do the talking.

We were able to catch up with Aaron Porter (guitar, lead vocalist) and Courtney Klos (saxophone, backing vocals) of the band and discuss the latest album, including their views on the world conveyed through their art as well as their respect for classic Jamaican music.

RF: Can you tell us about your musical journey from then to now?

Aaron: We are from the Twin Cities. We live relatively close to each other. The original core of the band began in the spring of 2006. We are all friends, and we love to play the same music together, so we centralized my vision of learning how to play 60’s Jamaican music.

Courtney: I knew Aaron from being in the same music scene in the Twin Cities. They needed a horn section and I play sax. At this point, I have been a member of the band since 2011.

RF: Staying strong since 2006, this is a long time to remain together. What is it that has solidified your band for this long?

Aaron: That’s a good question! I think the fact that we are all friends. We like to hang out with each other. The bass player is my brother, Jordan, and we already had our musical kinship from being a band together prior to The Prizefighters. Interestingly, Jordan has played up to three different instruments in the band. This shows his devotion to playing in the band.

Courtney: This band is not our main gig. I never feel like we are burned out. We always come to the music fresh. It becomes more like a time to hang. We really fell in love with the music.

RF;The name The Prizefighters is tough and translates into your music perfectly! How did you come up with this name?

Aaron: It has the connotation. I pulled this from Alton Ellis’ “Dance Crasher.” It’s a song about rudeboys going into dance halls causing violence and ruining everyone’s time. There is a line, “Be a prizefighter not a dance crasher.” It’s essentially not condoning violence, but you can be good with your fists and be a prizefighter. Channel your fighting into productive and non-destructive means, rather than being a hooligan! You don’t have to be an asshole to be tough. Be someone who fights for justice, for good.

RF:Your music has old school ska and punk roots. Your loyalty to that movement and preserving the sounds of 1960s Jamaica is quite inspiring. How do you create that throwback sound?  Is it challenging at times to continue this underground movement?

Courtney: Over the years, listening to 60’s Jamaican music has found its way into how we play our music and how we perform.

Aaron: We listen to the music. We are steeped in it. Digging deep into the history and the culture. Trying to learn more about Jamaica in the 60’s. Not seeing from the lens that a lot of people see Jamaican music.  No offense to the way people observe things. A lot of this stuff is pre-Marley international stardom. We all love early Wailers – that stuff is so incredible. Music in Jamaica, to see how it was – the people in the music faced so many odds, what an incredible story that is. Globally, the 60’s were such an incredible time for music. In the recording industry, federal records opened. Producers and sound system operators were able to get bands recorded on records so they could play their own music out in sound systems and import a lot of that into England. It grew really big over there. Loving the music so much and being steeped in the music is core to what we do as people trying to continue that sound.

RF:I’ve listened to your album many times now. The lyrics are quite profound, bravely poking the bear of those with power and the realm of the church –for example, in “Think and Pray.” What ignited this direction of the album?

Aaron:I can’t speak for Jordan, my brother, who wrote a few of the songs. But speaking for myself, a lot of us have come from the punk rock scene.  I was inspired by a lot of bands and artists speaking about social issues and those who abuse their power. When I’m writing lyrics, I probably think too deeply about it. The goal is to write what you feel, but try not to come out halfcocked. As a band, we all talk about this stuff. I feel that we are pretty aligned with our beliefs.

RF: What did the recording process look like for this album? Any challenges in recording?

Courtney: Whenever Jordan or Aaron bring something to the band, we get together. We’ll play the song, and once it’s really jelled in a good state, they are ready to sing the song. It’s awesome to hear our thoughts and beliefs coming out of their mouths in their words brilliantly.

RF: You guys are saying what we are thinking.

Aaron:  Synthesized conversation in a song form.

RF:  “Close to Your Chest” speaks about keeping rumors to yourself. Was this a personal experience that inspired this track?

Aaron:I wrote this one. Lyrically,I was really trying not to make a song about social media. I know those songs are becoming more common – to write about their experiences online. But I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t inspired by spending time on the internet and seeing how easy it is for conversations to get muddied and things to get sidetracked. People are sharing things without contemplating it or checking the source.

RF:Your sound has such a UK ska-punk vibe, especially in the track, “The Hand at the Door,” a darker, melancholy, reggae/ska banger.  Where did you come up with the idea to only have two lines and stick them in the middle of a four-minute song? Was this song modeled after a particular artist’s style or an existing song?

Aaron: So this was one of Jordan’s songs that he wrote. I know, musically, he wrote it to be like the rocksteady style like Tommy McCook and the Supersonics sort of thing with having the sax and flute double up on a line, taking musical cues from that. There is a lot of Jamaican music we listen to that is kind of cryptic. It has a haunting vibe to it. I think trying to capture a similar aesthetic to some of the old reggae songs in rocksteady.

RF:  I think the listeners can completely resonate with your perspectives. You are saying what we are thinking. And you’re laying it on the line; the brutal honesty of it is beautiful. What do you hope your music conveys to the fans?

Aaron: There is that great mixture that Jamaican music does so well of joy and pain within the same song. You can have a song that is very upbeat, and the lyrics are about very serious issues or melancholy things. I think that can be an interesting way to engage with people. You can dance and have a good time but still acknowledge there’s a lot of trouble in our own lives or in the world. There is a community and a connection so we can all commiserate on the ills or struggles of the world. To come together and enjoy the music and feeling human together.

Courtney: The music, at its core, is important, but also our messages to come through, our real brutal honesty. I see this is a winning combination. This has drawn me to ska music itself.

RF: Plans for the future of the band?

Aaron: For better or for worse, music speaks to my soul as an art. But it is a hindrance too because we are very DIY as a band. We do this as a passion.  No tour plans now, but I’m sure we will in the future! Thankfully, Courtney did an awesome job being our PR for the band. We are not a professional band in the technical sense of it. We don’t have a PR person, agent, or a manager. We do it on our own terms and the label allows us to go in this direction. There is a lot of freedom in that, but we are also not playing the same game that a lot of other bands are, trying to get on the bigger tours and recognition. I think this is all awesome, but we settled into the band that we know we are. None of us are sitting around wondering if we are going to really make it big someday. We are not waiting for that call to do a global tour. Staying in our own lane may seem limiting, but it allows us to do it on our own terms. But we plan to keep this subculture alive, and we hope it’s always there. Unless people are exposed to different cultures, subcultures, and different things, they might never know what they are missing in their lives.

RF: I just started listening to your music the other day and I was blown away!  Like where have these guys been –  they are unreal!

Aaron: Exactly what I’m talking about!  Makes us happy to hear you say that. I am touched by that. That is the experience we hope for.


Taking inspiration from old school Jamaican ska and U.K. ska/punk, The Prizefighters preserve the traditional vibes by combining heavy, driving music with rebellious themes.  Fearless, they stand firm and wave their flag with no apologies. It’s refreshing to see that there are still unique-sounding bands in the scene, but I also appreciate that musicians like The Prizefighters aim to preserve the traditional values of ska and punk; injecting their respect for the culture into the veins of the modern music scene is gutsy and, to me, most inspiring. I am now a huge fan of the crew. 

Band members and their roles:

Aaron Porter – guitar, lead vocals

Jordan Porter – bass, backing vocals

Matthew Morse – lead guitar

Eric Whalen – drums

Tony Beaderstadt – trombone

Courtney Klos – saxophone, backing vocals

 On the Punch Up album, we had Charlie Smith play piano and organ. We also had Scott Wilcock on flute. They are not full time members of the band, but friends we had play on the album.


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Suzanne Sanchez is a twin, surfer, and animal lover. She graduated UCF with a Master in Criminology and a Master in Informatics. Most of her career delved into the Criminal Justice and forensics field. Suzanne spent over ten years in music management, and touring also.

Her love for writing and music started as a child. Suzanne’s passion for reggae and music from all genres has been a part of her healing as a cancer survivor which started in 2020. Now in remission, Cancer will not define her but be the fuel for her ambition. drive, and most importantly passion. Music does heal.

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