Matthew Geroni vividly remembers his last day at his nine-to-five job at a smoke shop.
“After a while, I thought it was pretty silly to keep doing this,” explains Geroni. “There was one day where I did my first merch drop, where I had hoodies and T-shirts. After that I realized that I should focus on content more.’’
The owners of the smoke shop, along with Geroni, kind of saw it coming all along, but the owners were happy with the experience. After all, the reason why he left was to focus on his TikTok account, Gravmasterhash, which currently has over 111,000 followers on the app, where he focuses on punk, ska, dancing over conservative politicians’ mishaps, and the Jersey Shore. The owners were happy with the publicity.
“They were like, ‘We get it man,’’’ says Geroni about quitting. “They were like, ‘People keep on coming in and buying shit because you work here.’ They thought it was free publicity because I worked there. I was always treated well by the owners there.”
Geroni’s journey into TikTok stardom was rooted in the Jersey Shore, and in particular Asbury Park.
“I consider myself a bit of a townie,” says Geroni. “I live in the Asbury area and I’m always here and I don’t like leaving my bubble because there’s so much here. A lot of people who live here enjoy where we come from and have a lot of love for it, but there’s a defensive mechanism to that because it’s such a tourist area.
“Living down the shore is like living in an amusement park because most of the year it’s closed and depressing like an empty theme park. Then the park is open for three to four months out of the year. The park is open and everyone is having a great time, but all the tourists and people who come by treat you like you’re a park employee and you should pick up their trash.”
Instead of the Top-40 music and dance anthems that blare from the sound systems of your average amusement parks, the Asbury Park section of the theme park that is the Jersey Shore is a unique one. You have your classic rock, punk, indie, hardcore and ska. Geroni fell in love with punk, hardcore and ska very early growing up in nearby Brick Township.
“There’s a big scene in Brick, and my high school had a hardcore band, a ska band and a punk band,” says Geroni. “The first time I ever got into punk was when I watched a VH1 countdown show of the 100 hardest rock bands. The whole time they talked about Black Flag, and I had never heard of Black Flag, but I thought it was a really cool name for a band. I went to our local record store, and I bought a bunch of Black Flag albums. It was the rawest, realest thing I ever heard. They didn’t know how to play instruments, but I loved how they figured it out. I was impressed with that. You didn’t have to be a professional or some amazing Jimmy Page-like guitarist to play music.”
Geroni is more of a fan of music and art instead of playing it, but still loves what the Jersey Shore music community represents.
“Growing up here it felt like they were big camps,” says Geroni. “It felt like sports teams almost; I didn’t have a rivalry with any camp, I was just rooting for my camp. When it comes to punk/hardcore/ska it’s almost all the same thing. We all know each other, support each other and play shows together. It’s very diverse here; if you like hip-hop, there’s something there for you; if you’re into singer-songwriter, there’s room for you. We all collaborate with each other and that’s what I enjoy about. I’m in love with the community more than I am anything.”
Geroni played in a few bands back in the day and now considers himself the “hype man” for the band Awful Waffle. Geroni notices the difference in how bands and musicians have to market themselves today compared to when he was getting into music. He sees the positives, but also can understand the fatigue that some musicians have with social media. Just recently, pop singer Halsey, a native of Warren County, posted a TikTok about the pressures she feels from record labels to post on social media.
“When I was growing up, there were a few channels to get your music in, and it felt very limited,” Geroni explains. “There were agents and people involved with record labels and we would try to impress them. We would try to get music on the radio or MTV. There were little avenues to get shit out there. Now there’s thousands of avenues, but now you have to learn how to market and sell yourself, and keep yourself relevant on social media. It’s a lot to ask people, especially artists who aren’t extroverts like I am.”
After spending time listening to various podcasts about music and history, Geroni asked himself why he wasn’t making his own podcast. He took matters into his own hands by starting one.
“I would listen to all these podcasts, and wonder why I wasn’t doing it,” says Geroni. “We started this podcast called Only Posers Don’t Listen to Podcasts, where we would interview local bands and artists. I tried to focus also on the history of Asbury Park as well. I did an episode on the old Asbury Park casino/skatepark because I went to some shows there growing up. I would do a mix of comedic/informative content talking about different music and art. It worked and I kind of do it for a living now.”
The podcast featured people like Ed the Punk and Matt Daniels, a City Council candidate in Asbury Park. From that podcast, Geroni grew more into visual content like memes and videos, and found his spot in TikTok. He notices the differences between planning for a podcast versus a video.
“If I think of a funny idea, I map it out in my head how it should be visually shot,” explains Geroni. “I’ll shoot it a few times, and I try to use stuff in the app since you get rewards for it, but sometimes I have to do it outside the app. A lot of the videos are spontaneous and I’m making a funny joke, but the informative stuff is more planned out. Originally, I was doing things more ad-lib. I would read a book about something and ad-lib a long video about the information I just read. The wonderful thing about making content with video is the fact you can shoot it again.”
The self-described “CEO of Punk Rock TikTok” always dabbled with TikTok, but took it more seriously two years ago, and it blew up pretty fast.
“One day I made a video where I was making a joke about punk, and it got a lot of likes and followers,” explains Geroni. “Then people would send me questions about punk and I just started answering them. It got to the point where a month later I had 20,000 followers. I was like, ‘Woah, this is something.’ I was having fun, and by October I had 30,000. Now I am getting paid and they are giving me money, I decided to keep going and go hard as fuck. By January, I had over 100,000 followers and by that summer I was paying my rent with money I made online.”
Geroni still has plans to keep going with TikTok, but also wants to expand on YouTube as well by doing longer-form videos of the things he does on TikTok.
“I’m looking forward to going into more informative videos on YouTube about the history of punk,” says Geroni. “Like the history of the hardstyle handshake or where the word mosh pit comes from. It comes from HR from Bad Brains talking in an interview about these kids mashing together, but he has a thick Jamaican accent so he said mosh. Everyone kept making fun of him and said mosh, and that’s where we got the word mosh pit from.”