This was so ridiculously difficult to narrow down, I will have to do a top 100 next time, but here goes. To make it easier, I tried to keep this as straight-up punk rock as possible, which cut out a lot of my obvious folk, country, and folk punk influences.
If you’re interested, I also wrote a song about this 5 or so years ago! https://daveydynamite.bandcamp.com/track/punx-roxxx-aka-the-name-drop-song
In order of appearance in my life:
1. The Ramones
I very distinctly remember the first moments I heard The Ramones. My neighbor friends, Corey and Ryan, who got me into punk, put this on. I want to say it was “Beat On the Brat,” weirdly enough, that first hooked my brain in. The Ramones are a perfect example of early punk rock’s insistence on showing the ugly face of the “American Dream.” They’re drawing from the sound of oldies rock and roll and bubblegum pop, but it’s fucked up and dirty and even more fun. Punk rock both ruined and saved my life, and the sound and energy of this band is a big reason why. How was I going to be satisfied with a normal life after hearing The Ramones???
2. The Clash
Another obvious one, but The Clash is and forever will be the number one band to change my life. The Ramones deconstructed the walls and social norms built around me in a messy, clumsy, quick blast of energy. The Clash is the band to tell you that, yes this is all shit and it’s all phony and a bore, but we can direct our passion and anger to alert the world and maybe even make a change for the better. The Clash also used their countless covers and genre-bending songs to bring the idea forward that this world is big and full of people of all different types that feel the same way. This is the beginning of me forming a political conscious and recognizing that world issues are everyone’s issues. They are also the band that taught me how much passion went along with style, and how much it means to put everything you have into every performance you do.
3. Stiff Little Fingers
In terms of musical influence, Stiff Little Fingers may have had just as much, if not more, than the above two. For me, their music also holds up over time. Their political commentary is just as passionate and relevant and their music is just as catchy and meaningful. I try to blend the personal and poltical in my lyrics, and I’m sure I subconsciously lift a bunch from SLF. Additionally, it is inspiring to know that they lived through the danger that they sang about in so many of their songs, all while still also being bored teenagers.
4. The Hives
Never get me drunk and ask me about The Hives, because I won’t shut up. Actually, sober too. I truly believe The Hives are rock and roll robots created in a lab and released onto the world. The energy that they have in their recordings and live sound is unreal to me. It doesn’t sound that difficult until you see how fast and choppy and tight it all is, and then while showing off and being goofy and entertaining giant crowds. In terms of influence, I would say The Hives taught me to see the ways talent can manifest and how much I love music that is masterfully dynamic and explosive and shit.
5. The Replacements
It took me years. I liked their early stuff well enough and agreed when I saw the articles that said “Unsatisfied” was a masterpiece in rock and roll history, but The Replacements never really clicked with me that hard. Towards the end of my freshman year in college, I popped up the youtube video of “Bastard of Young” and nothing has been the same since. I know I had heard the song before, but something was different now. The Replacements will forever be one of the most important bands in my life, and I honestly could make up a bunch of shit on why, but at the end of the day, who knows. From beginning to end, their sound always changed and always remained meaningful and ridiculous. One of my latest philosophies has been to take the art seriously, but not the artist. The Replacements sure didn’t take themselves too seriously, but then went on to make music that evokes emotions and a nostalgia I will never be able to explain.
6. The Gaslight Anthem
Brian Fallon was the person I wanted to be when I grew up before I even knew he existed. I was honestly kind of pissed, at eighteen, when this random dude played the music I wanted to play and had the tattoos I wanted to have. What a prick. But for real, The Gaslight Anthem was one of the first contemporary punk bands I got hooked into and they won me over by talking and singing about how much they liked so many of the bands that I did (and are on this list!). They had interesting music and sang interesting and passionate words, all while wearing their history on their sleeve. They changed the way I thought about writing and got me through some hard times.
7. Dillinger 4
The explosiveness and speed of The Hives, with political and witty and funny in-your-face lyrics. I was slowly drifting from punk rock in a few ways when my partner Rigby showed me this band. They grabbed me by the face and threw me right back in again. From there, I got into some of my other current favorite bands as well. Dillinger 4 encompasses so much of what got me into punk rock in the first place. They’re also hilarious. I don’t know if you can really hear their influence in the music I make, but it’s definitely there in some way.
8. Bomb the Music Industry!
If the Ramones, to me, were the postmodern deconstruction of the rock and roll and the oldies tunes I loved, then BTMI were the same thing for punk itself. This band blew my mind, and I continue to be stoked with everything Jeff Rosenstock does. It’s hard to describe this band without nerding out too much, but I feel like there is something that everyone can like in them. They were based in doing things 110% despite not having the usual resources or people to make it happen, and they covered every genre within punk rock like a self-aware Wikipedia page. Their music is fun, exciting, full of collaboration, and constantly full of DIY spirit. It was also real when it needed to be and never shied away from singing about the depression and pitfalls that come with the transition into adulthood while holding onto your art and what you believe in.
I have so many wonderful memories of riding my bike around campus with this band running through my head. RVIVR were another band to refresh punk rock for me and open up new possibilities to melody, rad guitar shit, and political/social commentary. They’re also so ridiculously catchy. I definitely find their influence in my writing, especially when I think about vocal melodies and such.
GLOSS blew everyone away these past couple years, and for good reason. I am putting them on my list for a few reasons. First, because they influenced me to let punk rock mean what you need it to mean to stick to your ideals and who you are. GLOSS got so much traction so fast, it was ridiculous. They knew to turn down a record contract when they did not feel cool with everything that it meant and then they called it quits when they felt it was time. I can only hope to have that much grace and clarity in my art.
Additionally, GLOSS and RVIVR make me realize that my list up until now was basically entirely made up of white dudes. That’s fucked up. I can’t pretend I didn’t have the influences I did, and the fact that they’re all white dudes doesn’t take away from what they mean to me. That being said, we need to promote and pay attention to other voices in the punk scene. We’re all guilty of it, but we have a great opportunity with so many rad bands stepping up and making space for themselves.
Thanks for reading and giving a damn!
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