Punk is a loaded word with more definitions than Black Flag has had lineup changes. My own experience with punk was born out of the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on Playstation. Granted a mass marketed video game is about as far from punk as you can get, but the significance of being 14-years-old and hearing The Dead Kennedys, Goldfinger and The Vandals for the first time can’t be understated. A good friend had a similar experience with Crazy Taxi and it’s never-ending cycle of the same two Bad Religion and The Offspring cuts, and together we followed those punk breadcrumbs on our Toy Machine decks to a handful of Warped Tours and through more Jackass-inspired home videos than either of us would care to admit. All that said, I’m well aware that for many, my punk rock story isn’t very.
Keep in mind this was 2000. Britney Spears and boy bands were everywhere and Nu Metal was casting a PR-driven shadow over rock radio. Stringing insane trick combos together while The Suicide Machine’s “New Girl” played was like a security blanket. For Chuck Staton, frontman for Providence’s Senior Discount, solace came in the form of the pop punk angst and raunchy humor of Blink-182.
“For different people [punk] means something completely different,” says Chuck. “I love The Suicide Machines and Leftover Crack, but I [also] love pop music and I love pop punk like Green Day and Blink-182.”
This year Senior Discount celebrated 11 years, complete with an anniversary show at The Met where they played a set of Blink-182 covers, with other local punk acts like Premier and Sound Off appearing as Yellowcard and Green Day.
“They inspired us to start a band,” he said of Blink’s influence on him as a kid while we as 30-year-old men spoke fondly of our early exposure to punk over our not-so-punk lattes at Dave’s Coffee. “We grew up with Enema of the State, Take Off Your Pants and Jacket. All those huge singles, like ‘What’s My Age Again,’ those all came out when I was in high school and I was the perfect age for that.”
Blink-182’s sense of humor was as important as their music, and Chuck and his friends incorporated that into Senior Discount’s persona. Add in that inescapable need to do terrible things to your friends that we all got from Johnny Knoxville and what you get is a Senior Discount that isn’t just a band, but a DIY multimedia machine producing short comedy videos and a weekly podcast.
“It’s always been tied together for me,” he says. “Blink-182, Reel Big Fish, all these bands had stage banter that I thought was so great. I like to joke around, I like to be self-deprecating and those bands tied that in. The comedy is equally important to me.”
But what does punk mean to Chuck? Punk is defined by a certain degree of anti-something, and Chuck is no stranger to the wrath of those who don’t think he’s punk enough. He’s been accused of being a corporate sellout simply for the fact that he’s put effort into planning, booking and practicing for shows.
“To a lot of people, being punk rock means not putting any work in, and to me it never meant that.” he says, adding, “some musicians feel like you should scratch and scrimp to get on any stage at any time, that you don’t need money. What are you talking about? How do you record an album if you earn no money as a band? How do you move forward? Anything! How do you have a practice space, or live somewhere, if you want to dedicate so much time to this and expect not to get anything in return? I’ve never walked away from a show with a dollar in my pocket. For me it all goes back to making more music.”
Chuck and Senior Discount are far from being a bunch of money grubbing, corporate pigs. They’re four dudes doing what they love and trying their best to be successful enough to keep doing it. DIY and punk have always gone hand in hand, and Senior Discount is certain.ly doing it themselves. Or, as Chuck so succinctly put it, “fun is better when you put work into your fun.”
So how punk are the members of Senior Discount? They’re punk enough to not care how punk you think they are.