Interview with Stefan Babcock of PUP
“I’ve never been as happy with my life as I am right now. And I think that’s true for the other guys. We’re doing what we love every day, and it’s exciting, and it’s cool. I know it’s not going to last forever, so I’m trying to appreciate every day of my life.”
That was the sentiment that began my conversation with noisy rocking PUP’s guitarist/vocalist, Stefan Babcock. It seems as though the band has completely taken off in the past year. They’ve been to Europe three times and were referred to as one of 2014’s “breakout rock acts” by Rolling Stone. The band has been at home in Toronto for two weeks, which Babcock says is the longest they’ve been home for well over a year.
PUP’s first European tour was interesting, to say the least. The headlining band had to drop out of the beginning of the tour due to illness, and PUP was left headlining alone with only their hit, Reservoir out in the UK. The band remained optimistic, though. Babcock said it was a cool experience, having only thirty people per show so far away from home. He said although the small audiences generally aren’t a great thing, for PUP it was because they knew the people were there for them.Â
“Playing this shitty little town in the UK and having 30 people who know your band before you even have a record out was kind of a cool feeling,” he said.Â
During the tour, they stopped at a small town called Southampton. This town has a very tight-knit music scene and the people who run it are big fans of PUP, and got everyone fired up for their show. Babcock said that in Southampton, when there aren’t many people out for a show but everyone is worked up and wants to show their appreciation for a band, they do not explode into mosh pits. When PUP began their set, everyone formed a huge human pyramid in front of the stage and the girl on top was high-fiving them while they played.
“It was a super cool and interesting way for people to show appreciation in situations where a crazy mosh pit wouldn’t work out. That was a moment where I thought, ‘holy shit. What is my life right now?’” Babcock muses.Â
From there, the bands progress began to escalate. On their most recent European tour, although they were not headlining, they were playing shows to thousands of people.
“We never expected our band to get to a level like that, especially off of one record,” Babcock said.
PUP has had the opportunity to play with a wide variety of bands, including Tokyo Police Club, and Toronto sweethearts, Alvvays. Most memorably, they opened for The Hives this past August, which Babcock still seemed excited about.
“That was pretty insane for us. This is a band we all grew up listening to and still love. PUP has covered Hives songs so many times in the past. To open for them was a mind-blowing experience,” he said.
Looking back at past shows, Babcock reminisced on a sold out San Francisco show where he drank a little too heavily before their set.Â
“Before we went on, the other band ‘iced’ me with a huge bottle of Smirnoff Ice. I was already pretty drunk and there were two minutes before we had to go on, so I figured I had to do it. Two songs into the set, I went behind the amp and threw up. A good fifty people in the front rows saw it and cheered for me,” Babcock laughs. The next time they played San Francisco, everybody who came out told them that was the most memorable show.Â
Talking about where PUP fits nestled into the Canadian music scene, Babcock stated, “We’re loud and aggressive. We try to push boundaries with our music, mostly our own boundaries.”
He went on to tell me that they like to try less traditional stuff, different time signatures and different, unorthodox arrangements. Although it does not always necessarily turn out better, PUP is not a band that wants to fall into a trap of doing the same thing with every song.Â
These guys have always stuck to doing what they love and they are not sure how to feel about being nominated for so many music awards. Babcock stressed that although they are always honoured to be nominated, he thinks it is a difficult idea to compare completely different bands for categories, such as “best album of the year.”Â
“I understand why having awards are necessary for music, because you want to give recognition to artists who created something special. But ranking music that way isn’t necessarily how you build a community, or how you encourage art,” Babcock said.Â
Aside from music, PUP does a bunch of things together, like bowling and laser tag. When on tour in America, they went to a shooting range. Babcock said it is fun for them to hang out and do something unrelated to music because it feels like they are just buddies again, as opposed to doing the same thing they do every day, which is hanging out in a van then playing a show.Â
No one has to worry about this band slowing down anytime soon, though. Babcock mentioned that they are hoping to release new music sometime in the New Year, and are planning an Australian tour. They’re also hoping to land a tour in Japan by the end of 2015.
“I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, so it’s a reason to go with my best friends and play music there,” Babcock said.
By: Brianna Harris