Now you can read us on your iPhone and iPad! Check out the BTRtoday app.
If you enter “pup” into Google Image search, pictures of cute puppies are probably going to appear. However, PUP the band plays music that’s far from cute! The Toronto based punk outfit may be comprised of pretty boys who convey that well-known Canadian politeness, but don’t let that fool you—they ooze of punk rock grittiness.
The band is made up of four native Torontonians who all met through the music scene: Stefan Babcock is lead singer and guitarist, Zack Mykula slams down hard on the drums, Steve Sladkowski shreds guitar, and Nestor Chumak lays on punk rock bass chords—with everyone contributing to backing vocals.
“We were all somewhat aware of each other from being in shitty ska bands growing up,” guitarist Sladkowski tells BTRtoday. Starting as a folk rock band, PUP has now transformed into a pop-punk, hardcore ensemble playing grimy shows that never fail to induce oodles of stage diving and moshing.
“We all realized something didn’t feel right and we found that our common ground was actually punk and hardcore,” Sladkowski says about PUP making the switch from folk to punk. “From there on, it just sort of happened.”
PUP is currently working on a new album entitled “The Dream Is Over” that is scheduled to come out May 27th on SideOneDummy Records. So far, the singles released from it, “DVP” and “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” have not disappointed.
“DVP” is a fast song that gives off classic punk rock vibes paired with catchy pop-punk lyrics. “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” has a slow intro that leads into a punch-in-the-face screaming fit and musical break that will make even the gentlest listener discover their pent up aggression. Each single is also paired with their very own badass music videos created and directed by Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux.
When creating music, the group focuses heavily on being collaborative.
“Usually, there’s an idea that’s sparked by one or two people and then we all work together to flesh it out,” Sladkowski says. “That’s very much our creative process in a nut shell.”
Sladkowski confesses that they tend to put a lot of pressure on each other to write the best songs they can, with each of their individual voices playing a huge part in every song.
Their single, “DVP,” was penned in just that way. Sladkowski recalls that the song came out of a jam session between Babcock and Mykula, which Sladkowski and Chumak eventually joined in on. He explains that the DVP is a commuter high way in Toronto that connects the north and south of Canada in which they all had fond memories of.
Album art courtesy of the band.
“We like the imagery of being on the DVP and we’ve had some really interesting drives on it,” Sladkowski recounts. “That imagery and those experiences stuck with us and we decided to write a song about it.”
Their self-titled LP was released in 2013 on the indie label Royal Mountain Records and received loads of positive feedback and was highly praised. However, this threw the members of PUP off, since, Sladkowski admits, their M.O. is to never expect anything to come from their music. “We never expected to get any kind of attention, we just thought it would be cool to go on tour,” he articulates. “It sort of snowballed.”
Fans loved the album and the band was able to tour the U.S. more and more, eventually catching the eye of SideOneDummy Records. This larger label was able to distribute their albums on a worldwide scale, which enabled PUP to further tour both the U.S. and around the U.K., Europe, and Australia. Sladkowski says he has never felt so lucky and that PUP has become a better band because of all the shows they have gotten to play.
Their performances are self-proclaimed as a “sweaty drunken clusterfuck.” Sladkowski articulates that they try to discourage the overly aggressive punks from taking over the mosh-pit.
“It’s always about making sure that stuff can happen in a safe environment and is all inclusive,” he explains. “People should still be able to get out a little pent up energy–we just want them to have a good time and to rock out.”
Though PUP’s latest single conveys distaste for touring, it’s actually not as violent as the song and music video make it out to be. Sladkowski recalls a pleasant instance when they were touring with The Menzingers in the U.S. and ended up with four days off in the small town of Davenport, Iowa. With both bands being huge baseball fans, they contacted the local minor-league team to get tickets. However, the team did more than just that; they provided them with their very own private box, where PUP and The Menzingers were able to enjoy the game and also eat two dollar hotdogs and drink two dollar beers.
“Shout out to the Quad City River Bandit for that wonderful experience,” Sladkowski roars with happiness. “Those are things we really relish to do while we’re on tour to stay sane.”
Currently, PUP is on tour in Europe with the band Modern Baseball, headed towards Brighton in the U.K. They’ll be back in the U.S. by June, starting in Michigan, making their way to New York on June 25th at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn.
To hear the rest of our interview with PUP, tune into BTRtoday’s Discovery Corner podcast.