Toronto punk rock band PUP released their first, self-titled album, in 2013, which quickly earned praise for its balance of “balls-out hardcore aggression and earworm pop punk”. Their second album, The Dream is Over released this spring, was written up in the New York Times for its “vivid storytelling and palpable feeling”
PUP will be performing at Zaphod’s on December 9th and 10th.
Apt613 interviewed PUP’s guitarist, Steve Sladkowski. This interview has been edited.
Apt613: Where are you guys right now?
Sladkowski: We’re in Victoria.
How is it over there?
It’s raining, it’s Victoria, but it’s cool: we have a gig tonight and we haven’t been here in 2-3 years.
How do you guys handle that nomadic lifestyle?
It can be tough, it can be hard in terms of our friends, and family and girlfriends… but one of the ways you do it is to allow yourself to bridge the gap between home and tour life.
We try and take care of ourselves, and you have to get a lot of sleep. And not every night is a party. Just sort of enjoy the traveling. We’re kind of boring in that way.
Find good coffee and good places to eat to try and take care of ourselves, try to enjoy the sightseeing if we can and, you know, play the gigs.
When you go to different cities, you basically close your eyes, reopen them and your in a new world, a new place and culture.
Yeah, we’re lucky because when we show up to a new city, we often a get an insiders view. It’s not like traditional holiday and tourism, because often time we’ll find people who have spots, and know the neighborhoods a little bit better. We’re lucky that we get very condensed but unique experiences in that way. So that’s cool.
In the music video “Dark Days”, you guys put House of Targ in there. What’s your relationship with House of Targ?
The real connection is that Yogi [Paul “Yogi” Granger, who owns House of Targ] is the cousin of Nester, our bass player. So we were the first band to play at the new House of Targ.
Do you guys hire like a writer for your music videos? How do you develop them?
It’s actually just a couple of our friends! The person who takes the lead is named Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux. He’s done a lot of directing and editing the videos and he’s often been with a partner, Chandler Levack, for the “Dark Day”s video. They handle a lot of it. Either we pitch them ideas that they like and want to execute, or they turn to us with ideas that sound cool.
You guys headlined across Canada recently, are you guys able now to help out the artist that you really enjoyed along the way now?
Yeah! That’s a really big thing and we learned that from a lot of the people that we toured with early on. It’s to pay that forward, so we’re on tour right now with two bands. One from Chicago called Meat Wave and another from Whitby, Ontario, called Chastity.
Supporting bands whose music we really like and have similar sort of sensibilities that we do is nice! It’s nice to be able to pay forward the treatment that we had when we were first starting out and nobody really knew who we were. So, yeah, it’s cool, I think it’s really important to do that.
Who are the bands that payed it forward to you guys?
A band called The Menzingers for sure. A band from Manotick called Colorado did a lot for us. Man, all kinds of bands, we were lucky to go out on tour for a couple of days with Cancer Bats, we went out with The Flatliners… a lot of bands have been super supportive.
I heard a rumour that the name PUP came from a urinal at Sneaky Dee’s.
I don’t know, I don’t know! I think mostly it’s a rumour but who knows? I like that there’s a lot of different things surrounding the bands name. I like that, I don’t want to confirm or deny.
So you wouldn’t confirm that is stands for ‘Pathetic Use of Potential’
Well that is definitely ONE of them!
And the album name, The Dream Is Over, that was because a doctor told [singer Stefan] Babcock that he was damaging his vocals? Like he actually said “The dream is over”.
Yeah, that was right! That was right, so we thought it be a great way to reclaim. Like a middle finger, sort of ‘fuck you’ to the doctor and everyone who tried to tell us that we should stop. Almost a rallying crying for people who want to follow with their passions and their dreams.
Were you guys even considering giving up at all ? Or was it just like “Fuck you! There’s no way”?
No, not really, we were never really willing to just let that affect us.
I really think, the way I talk about it now, it’s sort of like a flat tire. Some flat tires take longer to fix because there’s a bit more damage, other flat tires are easy to fix. And being on tour, you’re faced with adversity every fucking day!
So whether it was Stefan’s vocal cords or whatever it is! Flat tires… You know? Shitty weather, you just have to be willing to face it head on and deal with it in a way that’s safe and respectful and actually ensures that everybody’s physical and mental well being are the first thing in mind.
You guys really care about each other. With the adversity you face all the time, where does your mental fortitude and willingness to keep going come from?
This is the only thing we ever wanted to do since we were young kids. So to have someone who wouldtry and suggest that we do otherwise is not a feasible option. We’ve gone all in on this, so there’s really nothing else to do! You just kind of take it head on, and deal with it, and keep going.
That’s really incredible. And it’s so cool that you guys made it bigger than Canada…
Yeah, it feels good. It’s nice to get to see the world in that way: to get to play shows, to get to travel and have like 45 minutes to an hour a night of sheer madness, and the fact that we can go to places like Australia and Germany, places I never thought I would visit normally, and have people singing along, and have people really really excited for us to be there, it’s very humbling. That’s why you do these things, and why you face the adversity and why you kind of… keep on keeping on.