Senior Discount Releases The Best Revenge — An Interview with Chuck Staton

 

For 14 years Senior Discount has been providing punchy, catchy punk rock in RI clubs and bars, and their new album, The Best Revenge, is being released on July 13 through Paper + Plastick records, owned by Vinnie Fiorello from Less Than Jake. To celebrate this mighty step forth, Senior Discount will be rocking the Rhode Island shores. Guitarist and vocalist Chuck Staton excitedly explains the momentous plans. “We’re doing a big outdoor waterfront block party album release show for (The Best Revenge) with Badfish at the Whiskey Republic in Providence on July 13. Kevin Lyman also put us on the Warped Tour, and we’re performing on July 15.”

Senior Discount is composed of four New Englanders: Chuck Staton on rhythm guitar and vocals, Catfood Kelley on lead guitar and back-up vocals, Abe Correia on bass and back-up vocals and Christian Staton on drums. They put together nine tracks for their big label debut, and the songs were produced by George Dussault at Galilee Productions. Staton states, “He was awesome. He really worked with us. He helped us make our ideas as clear as possible.”

For any independent band, recording is a great way to spread your sonic imprint. But it also presents a significant financial obstacle. That reality constricted Staton and the boys; but also became a strength for their playing. “One of the difficult things about being in a band is that you’re always up against the wall when it comes to money, and recording studios can cost a lot of it! So, our method has always been to book the recording time months out, and just practice like crazy until we’re as tight as possible before going in to the studio.

“That way, you go in, you get your sound all set, and then you hope to do everything as well as possible, as quickly as possible. There are so many music documentaries out there with bands just hanging out in the studio, and we don’t really do that. We work every second we’re there and don’t waste any time.”

But before the studio sessions or the label asked them to sign, Senior Discount had to write their brand of infectious poppy rock. Staton explains Senior Discount’s process, “I usually write the bones of the songs. That would be the loose music (chord structures, loose melodies) in different parts. So, I will bring that to the band and say ‘Hey, I have a bunch of different pieces of music for this new song. I think this part might be a good chorus, this part could be a breakdown, etc.’ We’ll all work on that and start practicing. Catfood Kelley (our guitarist) is an excellent lead guitarist and he’ll always kill it when we’re looking for guitar leads and additional layers of guitar melodies. Abe Correia (our bassist) and I will usually write bass parts together, and I think the songs I bring in will change the most, when Christian Staton (our drummer) starts figuring out his drums for it. A lot of time, he’ll come up with a drum part that’s really fun, and that will change the way I had originally planned the music. So we’ll jam on that, bring all our stuff in, and slowly hone the song in practice where it will change a lot.”

As The Best Revenge lands on July 13, it may be heard by a larger audience due to Paper + Plastick, and these new fans might be inspired to dig in to Senior Discount’s past. Staton reflects on how Senior Discount’s sound is defined by fans. Staton admits, “I think that one thing that was kind of a problem (for lack of a better term) with us is that our albums have always been super varied. That’s not a problem to us, but sometimes people don’t like it when you stray too far outside what they expect from your genre.”

While most musicians strive for that accolade, seeing variety as a comment on their vast influences and abilities as players, the punk crowd can often be single-minded in their demands of bands. Staton continues, “We actually got a shitty review of one of our albums, and the review started with ‘Let us put this briefly: in track two, there is a harmonica. You can stop reading now if that’s enough information for you to make up your mind.’ To me, as a musician (and a journalist), it’s astounding that any writer can be that closed-minded and keep their job.” But as Staton derides that myopic reviewer, he sympathizes with a fan’s ardent expectations. “It is difficult if you’re hearing a band for the first time and their album is all over the place.”

Staton discusses the place of The Best Revenge in Senior Discount’s canon. “I’d say that this album is the album where we present the clearest picture of what we are. We focus on the heart of Senior Discount: the songs are fast, fun, and energetic. It’s the only album so far where we really stay in that place consistently for the whole album. Our other albums have a lot more peaks and valleys in terms of pace and atmosphere. This one is about having fun, hopefully in a thoughtful way.”

As far as lyrical content, Staton avoids tropes of rebellion or political dissent and aggression. Despite the fertile ground of topical political turmoil for a punk, The Best Revenge finds Staton much more introspective with his lyrics. “I don’t really think that music genre needs to dictate subject matter. For us it never has. Our music is usually personal, and I kind of think that the best music is open to interpretation as opposed to very specific. So, I’d say the subjects we’re addressing overall are: feeling ostracized, dealing with serious emotional loss, acknowledging apathy toward normal social constructs and trying to manage that, navigating feelings of worthlessness and getting past depression.

“I think we take a lot of very personal, specific situations, and we write about them in ways that are generalized enough that other people can relate to them. We have a song called ‘Afterlife,’ and I think the lyrics are general enough that people could take it as a break-up song, but the song is specifically about the loss of two friends I had.”

As Senior Discount are perched to impress their stories and experiences onto a soundtrack of fun and fast tunes, Staton is pleased to being doing so on a label of which he was already a fan. Staton says, “It’s pretty much a dream come true to be signed to Paper + Plastick Records. We’re now on a label that has put out releases by Anti-Flag, Frank Turner, Fun, The Ataris, Rehasher and Red City Radio. Plus, this whole thing is happening because of Vinnie Fiorello from Less Than Jake, who have always been at the very top of the list of bands that inspired us. So this transition is just nuts. We’ve essentially been a band for 14 years, we’ve accomplished 100% of what we’ve done independently up to this point, and it’s crazy that this is happening for us now. I can’t wait to see where it goes.”

Senior Discount’s album release party takes place at the Whiskey Republic in PVD on Jul 13.

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