While bands typically play a retrospective set of their own songs to celebrate an anniversary, Senior Discount, of Rhode Island, will play a set filled with tunes from Blink-182 at their 11th anniversary concert at The Met in Pawtucket, R.I. on July 31st. Founding member Chuck Staton said Senior Discount wants to “shake it up as often as possible,” and this was the best way he knew how for their anniversary show. We recently caught up with Staton who reflected on his past 11 years with the band and what the future may hold.
Limelight Magazine (LM): Senior Discount is going to be celebrating its 11th anniversary with a special show at The Met in Pawtuck, R.I., on July 31st. You’re going to be performing the music of Blink-182. How did the idea for this show come about? Chuck Staton (CS): The reason we came up with this idea is two-fold. One is that we’ve always wanted to celebrate big occasions with something different. We respect different bands, and we respect the different ways that bands decide to handle shows. For us, playing our set – some old songs, some new songs, a couple covers – is great in the normal show setting. But when we can reach outside that and do something special, we want to do that. We know people can get used to seeing bands playing the same songs, and we want to shake it up as often as possible. So we’ve done things before that were special – we opened one of our sets at Lupo’s with a big marching band drum, doing “We Will Rock You”, with our lead guitarist coming out on the balcony dressed as Abe Lincoln to do the solo. We did an outdoor show in Providence where our guitarist disappeared from the stage and played his solo in one of our songs on top of a U-Haul way above the stage – we like to do memorable things, and something different, to set our shows apart. So we thought playing a set of Blink-182 songs would be cool because there are a lot of people who have seen us play our set tons of times – but to hear us play songs by a similar (and much much more famous) artist, for the first time, for a whole night, is something super different. The second reason is because we really think there’s a huge decline in live local rock shows. We started long time ago, when Facebook (and MySpace at the time) weren’t the way you reached out to people to promote. We would burn demos, print flyers, etc., and go out and physically promote. We got to those 18-year-old kids and said “Hey, we’re fun guys, we’re playing fun music, please come check out our show” and it turned a LOT of people on to the local scene in Providence, who maybe never knew about the great musicians playing locally and the scene around them. Since then, a lot of bands rely solely on social media, and you’re really not going to reach NEW people that way. You can spread the word to the people you know, the people within the community – but if you want NEW people to come out, you have to let them know about the scene and get them to come experience it. Playing music by some of the biggest bands of the past two decades, and mercilessly promoting that, is something I really hope will achieve that. I hope it will be a bridge for people to say, “Hey I love Blink-182, I’ll go check this out with some friends,” and I want those people to be impressed with Senior Discount, and at that point their foot will be in the door to the local scene. That can open them up to a whole new, very accessible, local music community.
LM: Will the band’s set list be entirely composed of Blink-182 material or will you throw in some of your own songs as well? CS: It will be a set of Blink-182 songs, but I wouldn’t rule out a Senior Discount song appearance.
LM: Other artists performing are SoundOff (performing the music of Green Day) and Rob of The Pogs and John of Bad Larry (performing the music of Goldfinger). What can you say collectively about these acts and what they add to this show? CS: SoundOff is a younger band who has been following in our footsteps for a long time. The lead singer Eric Macksoud was added to our band, so he’s going to be pulling double-duty for this show. SoundOff is a bunch of young guys and I’m really hoping they step it up, promote really hard, practice really hard and pull off an awesome set and show. When we played our CD release at Lupo’s with Badfish, I also talked to the bookers on that show to get SoundOff on the bill for that, and they really pulled their weight, so I’m hoping they do it again. There’s nothing more important on a show then to have bands care about playing a good show, and doing the work to get people there to see it. I trust SoundOff to be that band. “The Goldfinger Tribute Band” (as I’m calling it because they refuse to come up with a name) is made up of guys from The Pogs, Bad Larry, Pickle Spill: Aisle 6 and Riley so they are band veterans who know what to do. I’m super psyched to see their Goldfinger tribute set and the less I know about it, the better! I want to be surprised. However – later this month, I will be interviewing Rob from the Goldfinger tribute band on my podcast. So I’m excited to learn more about his history and relationship with being a musician.
LM: When you founded Senior Discount, did you ever expect to be around 11 years? CS: I think I did expect to be around for this long. We started the band for fun but as soon as we started playing good shows, I think I realized that I loved writing and playing music, and that Senior Discount is a part of me that I had been waiting to express. I think that some bands represent a certain type of sound, or a genre – and Senior Discount is the opposite of that. People think of Senior Discount as a punk band or a pop-punk band but it’s bullshit to. It’s easy to pigeon-hole us that way because some of our songs and our live show, and we love that music so we’re fine with it. But our influences are actually all over the place. Senior Discount represents the music that the people in the band want to create. Period. So to me, there’s no limitation on how long we could be around. As long as we love music, I think Senior Discount exists. We dealt with a lot of hardships in 2011/2012 and the band didn’t play for a while, but the band still existed. At one point, we were down to just two members – Christian and I – and we came out with an EP together as Senior Discount. To me, I’m never going to be out of Senior Discount. It’s too close to my heart.
LM: Reflecting back on the past 11 years, do you have any specific moment or special memory that stands out above the rest for you personally? CS: Oh man. A moment that stands out for me personally….I think when we played the House of Blues in Boston and it was sold-out, while also we were selling out Club Hell in Providence in the same month. The reason it was so great was because it was two completely opposite situations. Club Hell held 350 people, we were headlining, and we sold it out on our merit, which I was extremely proud of. House of Blues was us opening for Girl Talk, it was 3,500 people, and it was sold out before we even got on the show – so not one ticket was sold to someone whose intent was to see us. Both shows went so well (even though we were super nervous about the House of Blues show) and the situations were so wildly different, that I really felt a pride in the idea that we could do anything. It was an insane time and I was incredibly proud of the band.
LM: You’ve had a few different members in the line-up over the years. Do you still keep in touch with any former members? CS: For the most part, we still keep in touch. Some more than others.
LM: What do you like most about the current line-up which features yourself, Christian Staton, Abe Correia, and Eric Macksoud? CS: What I like most about the current line-up is that there’s a new dynamic onstage. A huge part of Discount is our personality, and I think Christian, Abe, Macksoud and myself all have a new set of personalities to deal with onstage and to be exaggerated in the videos. I really honestly believe that not everyone belongs in the art collective that is the band, the videos and the podcast – and Abe and Macksoud (as the newest members) absolutely 100 percent have the comedic personalities for it.
LM: Senior Discount released their last studio album in 2013. Are there plans to release any new material in the future? CS: We’ve been in the process of writing a new full-length called The Great American Single since around 2008. We never had enough money to do it, so we did an EP in 2009. We had a member leave and we wanted to re-establish ourselves as a more serious band, and put out material with the line-up at the time. Then we did an EP in 2012 when two members left and we wanted to show that we were going to make it through that time – and then we added seven songs to that in 2013 to make it a full-length of songs from the new line-up, but we never had enough money at once to record a full-length so it didn’t happen (also partly because we kept having statements to make with what was going on in the band). So there is a ton of thought put behind The Great American Single, but I don’t think we’re going to sit down to write it until we know we can. If we finish a new song, we’re going to be so psyched on it that we won’t be able to help ourselves from playing it live – which isn’t great if we have no means to record it, because by the time we do record it, it’s an old song. So I want to do that yet, but we need to put a plan in place to do it.
LM: Other than music, what are some of the things you like to do in your spare time? CS: Senior Discount is interesting because it spawned a lot of things. My bachelor’s degree is in film, and I’ve been making short films since before I played guitar. When we had our first big show responsibility, we were trying to think of a way to promote the show, and we came up with the idea of making a very short, viral video – except this was before YouTube was popular. Our show was June 25, 2004. We came up with a video under five minutes and it was our first video. In the past 11 years, we expanded them to be from five minutes to 28 minutes (in sitcom episode-esque fashion) and we’ve done about 45-ish more since then, plus a feature-length documentary about the band, and recently a pilot episode for a TV show about the band. So writing/directing/acting in comedy is a huge thing that I do, and we’ve incorporated that largely into the band – to the point we’ve done multiple live events that revolve around our scripted comedy videos, including a sold-out screening at the largest movie theatre in the Providence Place Mall for our full-length documentary. On top of that, I do a weekly podcast called “Agreeing to Disagree: The Chuck and Brad Podcast” that also started because we wanted more content for the band. We were making a new website and wanted a reason to create weekly content, so my friend Brad Rohrer (co-writer/star of the Senior Discount videos) sat down to record a podcast about our life in the arts (me with the band, he with the Providence Improv Guild). It’s now a weekly show about our lives in the arts, our personal lives, our love of mainstream movies/music/games/books, and interviews with local artists of all kinds (musicians/stand-up comedians/visual artists, etc.). This has also led to Senior Discount-related live events – we’ve done a few live podcasts so far, all of them including all the members of the band in new live segments and videos, and it’s an excellent addition to the world of Senior Discount. Our website is balanced between the three entities (Senior Discount music, Senior Discount videos, and the podcast) and those three things are very different creative endeavors I love to dedicate my time to. I also really seriously dedicate time to devouring new live art (stand-up and music mostly), which is fuel for the podcast – and I take my relationships very seriously so I’m consistently getting together events and trips for my close friends and I to partake in, as odd as that sounds. It’s very time-consuming but worth it. People tend to grow up and leave their friendships behind, and I think it’s a heart-breaking and sort of pathetic.
LM: Is there anything else you’d like to add? CS: I guess I’d just like to say I think that there’s this kind of elitist, judgmental part of being inside any local music community. Maybe some portion of the scene thinks that certain genres are cooler or “better” than other, maybe a portion looks at “mainstream music” fans as being outsiders – and I f*cking hate it. It’s bullshit. I think it hurts the scene, I think it hurts the community aspect of the scene, and I think it’s just plain ugly. It makes the idea of getting into local music unattractive. You don’t want to deal with those people who are going to knock you down for doing something you love – and to be honest, I’m kind of ashamed to share the community with them. I’ve been in a band for 11 years. I’ve played all up and down the East Coast, I’ve worked my ass on practicing, on writing, on promotion, etc. – and I have never have said that I didn’t respect a band based on genre or my personal likes/dislikes, or give a cold shoulder to people who aren’t part of the local music scene. I really want to discourage that behavior, and this show represents that. I love Blink-182 and Green Day – I don’t care if they’re two of the biggest bands in the world. I’m proud of them for achieving that, and I’m super proud that I’m so into this music that so many other people connect to on a deep level – but I feel like a lot of the people in the scene kind of shit on bands like that because of a combination of genre and popularity. Senior Discount is DIY, 100 percent independent, artists making art, no money, no leg-up, just work – we’ve proven it a hundred times over – and I still can’t wait to bust out some of the biggest pop hits of the past two decades. I want new people to feel welcome. I want new kids to feel invited into the scene. No negativity, no elitism, no genre-hating or pop-hating. If you love serious, super successful, widely loved pop-punk music that had often ruled the summertime radio playlist – come out to this show, express that, and learn about some more bands you might love!