Local Toronto punk band PUP have been rocking for a few years now and their growth has exploded over the last 12 months, with the 2013 release of their self-titled debut in Canada. Now the re-release of it worldwide earlier this year has made them big across the globe, in places such as the US, Germany and the UK.
The album has an underlying feeling of loss and anger of the break-up of a relationship. Most of the songs have Stefan, the lead singer, singing in the past tense about incidents that caused the couple to split. In the opening song “Guilt Trip”, Stefan confronts his antagonist right off the bat, singing “How many times have you lied to my face, I can’t confront you and it’s better that way. And how many bulbs must I break, ’till all my filaments rust and decay. And I can’t explain anything anymore anyway.”
There are also very upbeat songs about having a good time, such as “Lionheart” and “Mabu”. Stefan sings bout his old car, which he named Mabu, and about how awesome she was to him and the band. The main chorus fully conveys their feelings about her: “Now, that she’s gone (so soon), I need a car like Mabu, and you know, she’ll come around.”
PUP are also very proud of their Canadian and Toronto roots, singing about the Don River in “Factories” and the Yukon Valley and Great Slave Lake in the fittingly titled “Yukon”.
The overall feeling of the album is even more enforced with the unique style of punk found in Southern Ontario, in contemporaries such as July Talk, The Darcys, Arkells and Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs. Serious messages about life, love and heartbreak are delivered with genre-bending instrumentalism; PUP has more of a ska sound to their playing, minus the usual brass section found in the genre.
Here is their video for the song “Lionheart”, where the viewer can see a wild house party which most likely is common with the band:
One of PUP’s biggest gigs this past year was playing the Rebel stage at Riot Fest in September up at Downsview Park in Toronto. I was able to interview the band before their set:
What are the major musical influences for each of you?
Zack: Dillinger, escape plan, Wilco, Bad Religion, Mastadon, those are main ones for me. Mars Volta.
Nestor: Van Halen, Dead Kennedys, and Bad Religion as well
Stefan: Built to Spill, Weezer, Bronx, Queens of the Stone Age and Tom Waits.
You guys just got back from a European tour. How are the crowds there compared to Southern Ontario?
Stefan: They are kinda similar. I would say UK , but UK crowds are really rowdy. A lot of punk rock kids, and stuff like that. What we noticed was when we were playing in Germany or Belgium, definitely in Belgium we are quite well known there, we would be playing for thousands of people, but they are more reserved there. Like the people who go to the shows there generally go to listen to the music, when in places like Southampton, UK, kids go there to get fucked up and punch each other. And that is equally awesome.
Nice. Now you guys used to be Topanga. Why the name change?
Stefan: Because that’s a stupid name. (laughter from all)
Why did you choose it in the first place then?
Stefan: I didn’t think it was stupid when I first heard it. The story is that Disney bought the rights to Boy Meets World, and then relaunched the show as Girl Meets World, so suddenly this name that was this nostalgic cool thing turned into a thing that was “Now we are a Disney character” and that’s not what we are about. The album hadn’t come out yet so we didn’t have that much to lose so we went with it.
Do you guys have new material coming out soon, or still touring the first album?
Stefan: We are still touring for the first album, have a couple more tours. We’re thinking about the next one, still a ways off but still always thinking about it.
Back to the European tour, and other tours: besides crazy crowds, has anything weird happen off-stage?
Z:I don’t know
Steve: We did that Single-A Baseball game in Iowa, that’s weird.
Z: Baseball is pedestrian.
Steve: That’s true.
N: I think one of the weirdest things is that in London, we had a day off, and we went to, they have a college for-
Z: College for Surgeons and Physicians
N: and there was this one surgeon back in the 1800s who had a private collection of like, weird body parts.
Steve: Yeah different anomalies of anatomy.
Z: The thing was he was a dissection nut, so he almost had a fetish for dissection.
N: they had his private collection of body parts in fomaldehyde and on display for the public for free now and just see the weirdest stuff now.
Z: yeah like fetuses in every month of development, there’s severed penises.
N: A foot of someone who had elephantitis.
Stefan: Anything you could possibly want.
Steve: There was a skeleton of a guy who was seven foot seven and they had the whole skeleton on display.
Z: They literally had a piece of a child’s face, just like, they cut off like a quarter of their face and preserved it and put it in the museum. Like why would you do that?
Steve: Then we went out and ate so much poutine.
And, what does Indie mean to you?
Z: Like independent, cuz some people throw it around as a kind of genre, which I think is kind of bolony. It’s just like, it should be independent, like any band that’s worth their salt should be independent.
Stefan: I don’t agree with that!
Z: Well, I agree with that, and that’s why I said it.
Stefan: I don’t think that necessarily working with a big company-
Z:I didn’t say that
Stefan: You said any band worth it’s salt should be independent.
Z: Yeah, which is having their own ideas, building yourself independently.
Stefan: Yeah, but alot of bands that you love and have talked about are on major labels.
Z: But I didn’t say that so….
Stefan: I think that independent bands have a different struggle than other types of bands. That’s great that they have outlets like yours to get exposure. I also think that there are a lot of great bands who are on major labels that have made it to a whole different level and a different path.
PUP returns to Toronto tomorrow, November 15th, at Lee’s Palace.