Toronto punk band, PUP, rocked the righteousness out of the rafters at Impose’s Church on York show in LA. They play an energetic mix of pop hooks and purposefully erratic hardcore, shouting about reservoirs and inciting melodic yell-harmonies. PUP sound like the bands you used to listen to in middle school, but all growed up. Their latest single, “Dark Days” details the sadness of a snowed-in suburb in all its bleak, apocalyptic misery. With their debut record, Self-Titled, due out in a fortnight, lead singer/guitarist Stefan Babcock answered a few questions about PUP’s dark days, bromantic nights, and their former Boy Meets World wet dream-inspired band name.
At the recent Impose show, you said this song is about your hometown. Where did you grow up, and what made the place inspire such dark days?
We all grew up in or around Toronto. Actually, what I meant by that was that “Dark Days” reminds me of our hometown right now, because it's cold as fuck, and still dark and dreary and wintery. It's almost April and it's still like 14 degrees F and snowy. Honestly, it's a great place to live, but the winters are long and cold and get tiresome. They're awesome at the beginning—we get drunk and go sledding and play hockey and it's great, but after four months of that, you get kinda sick of having to wear a parka just to step outside your house.
What's the punk scene like in Canada?
It's hard to say. Each town is so different. Toronto has a killer punk scene right now. There are a ton of awesome, heavy bands, lots of cool DIY spaces, lots of people putting on shows. We're really lucky to come from that scene. There are a bunch of pockets of awesome scenes scattered throughout the country, too. Ottawa has a killer DIY, punk and metal scene. There's this place we play often, called House of Targ, which is pretty much a DIY, BYOB pinball arcade that throws shows. Some of our craziest shows have been there. Kids throw down. And there are a lot of all-ages shows in church basements and community centers in the suburbs all over the country.
What do you think of the term “pop punk” or being compared to a band like Green Day or Sum 41?
I'm gonna come out and say it. I love Sum 41. In a weird, nostalgic kinda way. They blew up when I was like 13, 14, and they came from a small town like 30 minutes from mine, so that was always inspiring. And everyone loved Green Day at some point. BUT, I wouldn't like to be compared to either of those bands. I don't think we sound anything like that kind of pop-punk.
I don't get offended when people call us “pop-punk”. There are elements of pop and elements of punk in our music, just the same as there are elements of hardcore and rock. I just think that pop punk has this horrible connotation to it because it's been co-opted by bands like Good Charlotte and No Use for a Name.
It's too bad, because to me, pop-punk can also mean rad bands like Descendents, Fugazi, and newer stuff like Titus Andronicus or The Bronx. Those are also punk bands with pop hooks, but I guess those bands call themselves straight “punk” or “punk rock” so people don't lump them in with Blink 182 or whatever. Anyway, call us whatever you want. We don't really care as long as you listen to the music.
Is it easy to maintain a friendship while being in a band together? How do you guys stay civil and close?
Once a week we park the van at a Walmart and beat the shit out of one another. It's very therapeutic.
Seriously though, it's challenging. Because unless you're taking a shit or having a shower, you're rarely more than a few feet away from each other for stretches of like two months. But we're best friends, so we make it work. We bicker like siblings, but at the end of the day we all really like each other and are stoked on what we're doing and proud of one another. The fact that we all love touring and playing music every day and being in a band makes it easy. Because we all have pretty positive outlooks and feel really lucky to be doing what we're doing.
Also it helps to do things aside from drive and get drunk and play music. Last week we went to an amusement park and did bumper boats and soaked each other with water guns. And the other day we went hiking up this mountain in Arkansas. Stuff like that really helps to recharge and, for me, reminds me that these guys are not just my bandmates, but my best friends, and that they're a lot of fun to hang out with.
I heard your band was originally called “Topanga”…may I ask why?
Fair enough. What's next for PUP?
After this interview, we are going to go swimming and then eat ice cream and then go to Atlanta and play a punk show.
Our debut record is coming out in two weeks on SideOneDummy. We're pretty stoked to get it out into the world. We're touring in the UK and Europe in May, and doing a pretty extensive North American tour in June/July. It's looking like we'll be on the road pretty much all year. Lots of cool festivals in Europe, dirty punk shows in America, and polite moshpits in Canada. It's gonna be great.
Pup's Self-Titled debut LP will be released on April 8, via SideOneDummy. You can pre-order the album here.