By James Olson
VANCOUVER – It’s a challenge to think of a Canadian band that has worked harder than PUP while achieving such widespread critical acclaim in such a short span of time. Within 4 years, the Toronto punk quartet has dropped two incredibly well received albums, toured multiple continents extensively, and have been nominated for numerous industry awards including the Juno’s and the Polaris Music Prize. For vocalist/guitarist the secret to PUP’s success is simple: having an inexhaustible work ethic. “For the first two years of being a band we didn’t say no to any show opportunities no matter what it was, if we could somehow scrape enough money together to make it work we would do it. Now we’re a little more selective but we still tour really hard” Babcock explains “When we’re not touring we’re at home in the jam space 5-6 days a week. I probably spend 10-14 hours each day of my waking life thinking about this band, writing music, rehearsing with the guys, playing shows, touring. We’ve worked really hard and it’s nice to see that in some small ways that it’s paid off.”
Babcock draws a direct through line from the scene that birthed the scrappy band of childhood friends to the acclaimed and beloved group that PUP has become in less than 5 years together. Coming up in a thriving environment of equally driven musical acts in Toronto, Babcock reflects that PUP knew that they had to step up their game in order to make a name for themselves. “We felt like if we wanted to keep up with our peers and the people around us we just had to work so hard. And that’s good. Bands in the community have pushed each other to be better and better” says Babcock “I think [the Toronto scene] is just a small microcosm of what the culture of rock music is like today. You gotta work super hard and it’s good when bands can push each other to be the best that they can be.”
PUP’s second record The Dream Is Over builds on emotionally charged yet deliriously fun maelstrom that was their self-titled debut. Cuts like the chaotic and self-destructive “DVP” and the anthemically nihilistic “Can’t Win” match if not exceed the high points of the previous album while making up a markedly darker collection of songs. For Babcock, the tonal shift represents genuine growth as a lyricist and as a songwriter. “On the first record, I was really learning to be comfortable in my own skin and be comfortable with presenting myself to strangers in a certain light. Then on the second record I just kind of gained that confidence and felt like I had found my voice. I felt a little more comfortable in tapping into the darkness” he explains. PUP is already in the midst of writing their third album and while Babcock concedes that they won’t be “going off the deep end” in terms of radical experimentation, he can promise that the band will continue to push their own boundaries and to keep refining their craft.
With more touring lined up for the rest of 2017 and a recently released music video for “Old Wounds” that Babcock calls “the best video we have made to date,” PUP are coming to your town to kick down some doors and kick some ass.
PUP play the Vogue Theatre (Vancouver) September 15 as part of Westward FestJunos, old wounds, Polaris Music Prize, punk rock, Pup, Royal Mountain Records, sideonedummy records, stefan babcock, Toronto