Calling from the Halifax Pop Explosion, Stefan Babcock of PUP talks about what’s in a name, shitty bands and touring this great continent.
PUP, formally known as Toronto’s infamous indie punk band Topanga, have successfully reinvented themselves on their new self-titled album. Since abandoning their old name with the second coming of Boy Meets World. a lot has happened for these Toronto boys.
For their debut record, the band shot for the stars and reached them on their first try. Working with the renowned Dave Shiffman (Mars Volta, The Bronx, Red Hot Chili Peppers) the band reached new sonic levels with a killer array of diverse songs. The record opens with two deadly, high-energy tracks, “Guilt Trip” and my personal favourite, “Reservoir.” There are shades of The Get Up Kids, low-fi Weezer and even some Mars Volta. But like any great band, PUP is not a one trick pony. Throughout the record, the band is punk rock but they grab hold of pop sensibility and take her for a few dances around the room. Yet, like any modern gentlemen, they don’t dance all night with the same girl. By “Back Against the Wall” the dance floor has turned into a proverbial circle-pit of genres twirling and swinging with young energy and angst. All in all, this is the kind of record that plays through the entire way. Recorded largely live off the floor, it inspires the listener to get out and see this band live and, as Babcock explains, they are most devotedly a live band.
Before they hit the road as PUP’s first incarnation Topanga, Babcock and the other members played in what they describe as “[a lot] of bands that sucked.” Such promising beginnings saw Babcock writing songs on acoustic guitar and showing them to the friends he’d made through the years in and out of the local Toronto punk scene. The longer the band played together, the more the music became a collaborative effort and the band grew into a brotherhood. The songs took shape with each member’s contribution and eventually found their way to the hearts and ears of Eastern Canada. It was only a matter of time before the band’s sound started crossing this massive continent.
PUP have paid their dues touring locally and nationally, recently receiving accolades from the New York showcase festival, CMJ, as a spotlight band. When asked what garnered their recent praise, Babcock explains the importance of perfecting the live show; believe it or not you don’t need back-flips or pyrotechnics to put on a great show (although they do help). PUP attributes their live show’s success to, you guessed it, playing all the fucking time. The GTA music scene is a great place to foster bands that are hungry for the road. With so many venues and people within a three-hour driving radius, it seems crazy that not all Eastern Canadian bands are tour veterans. Babcock explains, “We would do these tours where we knew we would be playing to like 10 people. The point of the tours was to get better live and experience different crowds.” PUP’s hard work has landed them opening slots for Fucked Up and Hollerado.
When asking Babcock about what he expects for PUP’s Calgary stop with Hollerado on November 9th, he jokingly replies, “We’re looking forward to pissing off their fans.” So, Calgary, prepare to get pissed off that you haven’t seen or heard this band before because mark my words, they are something special.
Catch PUP at the Starlite (Edmonton) on November 8 and at the Republik (Calgary) on November 9.
By Sean Hamilton