Band Interview: PUP

Canada’s PUP are opening for The Front Bottoms on their UK headline tour. We caught up with PUP after their Birmingham show and spoke about Toronto’s local scene, their influences and their experiences.

How did you guys start out?

Stefan Babcock (vocals/guitar) – Steve, why don’t you tell this one?
Steve Sladkowski (guitar/vocals) – We’ve all known each other for a while now, we’ve been playing in bands on and off together. Zach, Nester and I grew up and went to high school together, and we all kind of played in bands together and bounced around the same sort of venues in Toronto. This band all kind of came together a few years ago after we’d all be,e in and out of bands, and, yeah, now we’re just getting to play places like Birmingham. It’s crazy, yeah, it’s crazy.
SB – I ask Steve to tell the stories that are the least riveting [laughter].
SS – I have a very soothing and boring voice [laughter].
SB – No not boring, it makes me feel warm. Its good [laughter].

What are your main influences?

SS – Oh boy.
SB – I think we all have different ones, but for me, Built to Spill are kind of my favourite band, Modest Mouse.
SS – Yeah and like Queens of Stone Age.
SB – Yeah, also heavier bands like the Bronx, Mastadon.

You’ve got the punk sound and then also the indie influence, how would you guys describe your sound?

SS – That’s cool, we draw from all kinds of places but I think people tend to put us in with the punk crowd and that works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t work. But yeah, punk rock.

What’s your local scene like back home?

SB – Yeah it’s amazing, there’s a lot of bands in that community. Toronto alone is crazy. There’s like The Flatliners and METZ and Fucked Up. There’s Greys and The Dirty Nil. And then there’s band who are just like starting to come up like PKEW PKEW PKEW (gunshots) who are awesome. No one here has heard of them, but everybody will in like a year, yunno? It’s just a really vibrant punk rock scene and everyone supports each other and goes to shows. 

Very DIY?

SB – Yeah, well pretty DIY. There are a lot of like bigger bands, too. I think that scene started out as DIY like five or ten years ago but it’s gained such popularity in Toronto and a lot of the punk bands who are really popular worldwide now are from Toronto. So it’s just gotten bigger and bigger to the point where now it’s like busted out of that whole DIY world where these bands like Fucked Up and METZ and Cancer Bats are playing like 1,000 – 2,000 capacity rooms. They’re getting bigger and bigger which is great for like the baby bands, yunno?

So what are your favourite places to play across the world?

SS – I really like King Tut’s in Glasgow. There’s like a Ninja Turtles themed bar in Idaho.
SB – Yeah, we’ve played in a lot of weird places. There’s a place in Ottawa which is near where we’re from called House of TARG. It’s like a pinball arcade and punk venue which serves pierogies. What I like most is kinda going to different places and have everywhere be unique in its own way. Like Germany is so different from playing in Idaho or like playing in Saskatchewan in Canada where nobody knows what that is except from Canadians. Playing in Saskatchewan is so different than like playing Belgium or Austin, Texas. There’s a different experience in all of those different places in such a compressed amount of time.

Is there much of a difference in crowds in different countries?

SB – I think so. Not really size, but I think it’s been sort’ve happening uniformly everywhere we go – the size of the crowds. But, people definitely react differently. In the Midwest in the States when we play there, kids like to kick the shit out of each other and it’s really cool. But, like in Germany when we play there, everyone is super stoked but super attentive so they don’t like move around. England’s been a kinda mixed bag of some rowdy shows and some pretty tame shows.
SS – It’s been changing, I think. For the shows now that we’ve played compared to when we here in February I think people are starting to become a lot more into being able to like go crazy. But it still takes some time and a little bit of prodding.

Can you guys feel yourself growing as a band?

SS – Yeah. We grow every day.
SB – I don’t, I stopped growing when I was in my teens. I always thought I’d be taller than five foot six but it didn’t happen [laughter].
SS – All you do is end up hitting your head anyway.
SB – Um, but yeah, we’ve only been a touring band for about a year. So, it does feel like every tour we do, or every time we come back to a town we’ve been to before there’s a lot more people. This is our third time in Birmingham and it’s still really small but I’ll tell you that it was a lot better than our first time here.

Well this is by far the smallest show on this tour [120 capacity]. Like Nottingham’s Rock City Basement which has a much bigger capacity [around 400] is sold out.

SB – Yeah, I think most of them are sold out. It’s really cool. For a long time we’d just played shows the size of this room and we had a great time doing it. In Canada when we’re headlining, things are a bit different and kids tend to kick the shit out of each other. It’s kinda funny when that happens in such a small space cos nobody can actually move and it just makes for really interesting shows where you don’t know where what’s gonna happen. You don’t know if you’re gonna get smacked in the face. It keeps you on your toes.

How was Reading and Leeds?

SS – Crazy.
SB – It was great, yeah. Reading won the competition. Leeds was great too. Reading won the rowdy competition. But they were both really good. It’s kinda crazy to play to that many people so far from home.

So what are your plans for the rest of the year?

SS – Headlining tour across North America with some friends of ours from New York and Washington – two bands who are awesome. One called Chumped and one called Typefighter. And sleep when we can. And just keep writing new songs. We’ve been working on some new songs and we’re just gonna keep at it. 

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Max Qayyum

Max Qayyum

Seeing Your Scene / DIY promoter / Cutting Room / Taco Hell

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