PUP. ‘Pathetic use of Potential’. So the acronym is thought to be. Though having released their second, back-to-the-wall album, ‘The Dream Is Over’, the Toronto rockers are no puppy dogs. They’ve sharpened their bite and roughened their bark.
Metaphors aren’t quite suited to the no shit attitude of these rockers, however. “I don’t think there’s a single metaphor on this record.” frontman, Stefan Babcock, starts, believing “there’s a big lack of honesty and sincerity in song writing these days.” With a knack of keen right hook for punching a gritty, hard hitting track with a trapping melody, PUP’s brutal honesty knocks back. Blood pumping, heartbeat rising, it’s brutal but in a, can’t stop won’t stop, way.
“When I started writing lyrics, I wrote stuff because it sounded cool, or I thought it made me sound smart or deep.” He reflects, “I don’t do that shit anymore, because people aren’t dumb. They can see through you.”
Throughout the duration of the fast moving adrenaline fuelled half hour, we hear pleads, desperation, anger and giddiness. Sing song vocals thrash into rowdy screams of freedom before breathing in a moment of tenderness. Paying tribute to a tragic loss of a pet chameleon, there is love and companionship on ‘Sleep in the Heat’, whilst the jarring ‘Doubts’ asks “What am I supposed to do now?” with vengeance.
“I only write about stuff I know, and I do my best to be completely honest with myself and other people in the songs.” continuing, “At times the people I write about get pissed off when they hear the songs. But ultimately, the songs are real and genuine and totally honest and transparent. For better or for worse, I sleep better at night knowing that I’m not deceiving anyone.”
The Dream Is Over is as blunt as its title. Told just that by a doctor, after straining his vocal chords when recording, the band found satire in the irony. Brusqueness carved the backbone. The quick slurs of throttling singalong ‘DVP’ “She said that I drink too much, that I fucked up, and she hates my guts” stomp like a toddler having a tantrum.
Self-loathing spreads unrestrained and uncaged. Turbulent rhythm chases mockingly cocky vocals ‘You said I’m such a piece of shit’ in ‘My Life is Over and I Couldn’t be Happier’.
Explaining how “every song on this record has a story associated with it” it’s discovered that ‘The Coast’ is based on an old Canadian folk-tale that Stefan’s parents used to read to him. “It’s about a girl who promises her parents she won’t walk across the frozen sea.” Though things turn bleak when she breaks the promise as “monsters reach up through the cracks in the ice, pull her down into the sea and force her to live there with them forever.” Seriously, “Creepy shit.”
Describing his humour as “more of the sarcastic variety” there’s a lot of “tongue in cheek bullshit on this record”. Weaving in pop sensibilities and a punk attitude, there’s a healthy dosing of rebellious swagger and plenty of energy. Trying not to take himself or the band too seriously, “it’s important to remember, we aren’t changing the world, and the reason we do this band thing is to have fun.”
Having faced “massive obstacles” over the past couple of years, in both love and loss, “those personal struggles, whether they be internal or external, definitely shape this band and this album – not only lyrically, but also musically and in the way we approach writing songs and touring.” Cathartic release pumps though the veins of cutting chords and thunderous drums at loud volume. “We never expected this to be an easy road, and we sort of thrive off the chaos and discomfort of pursuing this dream at all costs.”
Having been together since high school, the four have formed a band of brothers, something that has “only pros” in making music. Though together “sleeping on floors for 3 years straight, being totally broke, sabotaging any potential we may have had to have a normal and secure future – this all builds character and helps motivate us even more.
“The more pissed off and anxious we become, the greater the drive is to turn those negative emotions into something productive. That’s how all these songs came to be. So you can start to sort of get a sense of why we called this album ‘The Dream Is Over’. On one hand, it’s us owning up to the reality of our situation. On the other hand, challenges are fuel for the fire, and we’re pretty fucking fired up most of the time.”
Rightly putting it ‘this business ain’t for the faint of heart’ vigorous touring schedules took their toll and fill the belly of perhaps the greatest, but most scornful, album opener. ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ is a great reveal of the complicated and bitter relationship of living in your best mate’s pockets. Sour diary scribblings ‘everything you do makes me want to vomit’ build to a frustrated scrawl, ‘why can’t we all just get along?’
Despite it all, and at their own risk, PUP are making their way across seas for their first UK headline tour. Promising things to get “rowdy”, they’re looking forward to seeing beer strewn and pits opened. “Our shows can be a clusterfuck at times.” Stefan warns, “I hope you like getting sweaty and weird.”
So, if you’re pissed off, at anything from the weather to the state of the world, secure your slot in the crowd and be careful not to rip open your own vocal chords in the carnage.
‘The Dream is Over’ is out now.
Header photo by Vanessa Heins