It is an inarguable fact that PUP has never stopped putting in the hard work of being a rock band. For their 2016 album The Dream is Over, the group completed an astounding 250 performances, and in the interim between albums, briefly joined forces with The Menzingers and Thursday for a handful of dates. During this chaotic period of time, PUP also managed to complete their third album, Morbid Stuff, as well as begin their own label, Little Dipper Art. Morbid Stuff is a masterful album that grows on the listener—each song builds the lore that surrounds the band even further. PUP’s ability to draw one into the world they’re living in is made possible by their raw and honest lyricism and each member’s controlled yet brutal musical talent.
One of the most interesting facets of PUP is their commitment to preserving their work as DIY artists. Their prior albums were made under the independent Canadian label Royal Mountain and L.A.-based SideOneDummy—the prior home of artists such as Jeff Rosenstock and Kill Your Idols. After restructuring within SideOneDummy took them off their roster, PUP took a unique path in building Little Dipper Art.
“You quickly learn that no one is going to give a shit about your band as much as you do,” says Stefan Babcock, front man and guitarist of PUP, between performances across Europe. “We’re all in a unique position of being four people that work really hard and have a really good work ethic and are kind of neurotic, so getting stuff done the right way is important to all of us. I’ve always wanted to start a label, and this felt like a natural thing that we could do. It’s a way to control a lot of the stuff that we do, from the music to the videos to the zines. It was important to us as a band that as we grew and had more and more people working with us, we were able to maintain that little shred of DIY that we’d always had.”
Upon forming the label, the band decided that they weren’t interested in just signing on more musicians, and instead wanted to use their platform to support other creatives. Babcock speaks to the idea of starting a label in the year 2019 (specifically: “It’s a fucking dumb idea,”), and by being highly selective about signing these artists, the band is able to ensure that those they work with can be cared for. One of the artists currently signed to Little Dipper is comedian Dave Ross, who’s comedy album and accompanying flipbook are available through the label’s site. The connection to Ross, and reasoning behind this decision, comes from a past tour that the comedian joined the band on—one which Babcock made a point of not naming. “It was a really awful tour… It was the worst thing we’ve ever done as a band, and I think it’s the worst thing Dave’s ever done as a comedian. I feel like he was our life raft on a sinking ship, and maybe vice versa. I think we formed a bond that I don’t think you can form outside of those circumstances… He also just happens to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, which was a big part of keeping our spirits up on that tour.”
Through these major changes, tours, and the ins and outs of life, the album Morbid Stuff was eventually born. However, putting it together was not an easy process for the group. After spending so much time on the road, the band finally returned home and felt the burnout of overworking themselves. The Dream is Over was written in a hurry, the process made more stressful due to the group’s constant road dog status. In making Morbid Stuff, the work became more intentional, with the members taking their time and building up to the process. “I write a lot to cope with stuff that I’m dealing with, and then to bring that to your group of friends and make a record together is really fun. Making this record kind of reignited that spark [of creativity] for all of us.” The product of their work speaks for itself. The music is dynamic, nearly cinematic with its evocative lyricism. PUP manages to make music that can capture a variety of audiences with energies that range from nihilistic to righteous without missing a beat.
In particular, the rather misanthropic single “Kids” is Babcock’s attempt at writing a love song. Boasting lyrics such as “I’ve been navigating my way through the mind numbing reality of a godless existence, which at this point in my hollow and vapid life, has erased what little ambition I’ve got left,” it is evident that most of Babcock’s more personal lyrics are drawn from a place of such brutal honesty. The music draws off of experiences shared with family, friends and lovers, but sometimes Babcock feels he’s too honest. “It’s weird to take these experiences that are precious to both of us, and almost exploit them, or at least make them something that’s completely public,” he says. “I think that’s something that’s hard for people.”
An example Babcock gives is a song from the band’s first record, Mabu, which is written about the car he shared with his sister. “I think she feels weird that I’ve created this whole thing out of that experience that was ours, and now it’s not really ours, it’s everybody’s.” The best thing for Babcock is to create the best product he can, and these sacrifices are the price he pays. In the end, he states, the people in his life know where he’s coming from.
PUP is currently in the throes of their tour for Morbid Stuff, a mere 100 performances across the world. While the band is playing larger venues across North America, in Europe they’ve opted to play some smaller shows of only a couple hundred people—while also hitting some of the largest festivals held in Europe. “We have to do it every now and then, selfishly I guess, to return to the foundation of what this band is, which is like, you know, getting sweaty in a small room with a bunch of people and feeling their spit on your face,” Babcock says. Whatever one may say, PUP never fails to keep themselves aligned with their roots, and that appeal is what continues to fill up major venues across the globe.
Be sure to catch PUP at Franklin Music Hall in Philadelphia on Sept 11 and at Terminal 5 in NYC on September 12!