PUP have been conquering Toronto and it’s surrounding areas for the better part of a year now, and it looks like they are gearing up for a global takeover now that they’ve signed to quintessential punk/rock label SideOneDummy. Even the guys over at Noisey agree that their self-titled debut is “a perfect ten”, and I couldn’t agree more. PUP, which was released yesterday in the U.S. was actually released fall of last year in Canada, so I’ve had plenty of time to sit on this piece of gold.
I asked guitarist Steve Sladkowski some questions via the good ol’ internet about topics ranging from Toronto’s music scene, to producing with David Schiffman, to how the band got their start. Check them out below.
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B.G.M. – Since you guys don’t display a Pathetic Use of Potential, what else would you make PUP stand for?
Sladkowski – There are a bunch of different acronyms you could use – Physically Unable to Perform, Progressive Unionist Party – but really all I’m doing is going through the list of Wikipedia acronyms: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PUP
What made you decide on the cover art for PUP? To show that punks can wear grills too?
A friend of ours introduced us to a very talented artist named Jason Bartell (who also has a rad band called Fang Island). Our album cover is actually the first in a series of charcoal drawings called Grievers.
Toronto’s noise rock/punk scene has seen somewhat of a resurgence in the past couple years. After Toronto has bein mainly associated with BSS/Arcade Fire for the past few years, this is a nice change. Obviously, Toronto has always had it’s loud/punk scene with bands like Fucked Up, No Warning, and Urban Blight among others, but do you think there’s a reason for this trend?
Toronto is a very supportive and nurturing musical environment in which most people assume many different roles all at once. It’s not uncommon to see someone playing one night and working the door or helping book bands the next. Because of that, it’s pretty easy to grow a vast yet tight-knit community – which is what’s happening with the punk scene in Toronto and in Southern Ontario. It feels like something vital is happening in this part of the country and that’s because there are so many great bands pushing each other to constantly improve and grow.
Congrats on signing with SideOneDummy! How does it feel to be on the same label as Anti-Flag, Goldfinger, Chuck Ragan, and Title Fight?
S1D is one of the reasons that all of us got into punk rock in the first place. To be honest, before we stopped by the LA offices a few weeks ago it didn’t even feel real. But everyone there is so passionate and stoked about what they do that it’s impossible to feel anything other than joy and excitement!
Recently, news has been traveling around about Danielle Fishel (Topanga) being a fan of metal music – Lamb of God and Slipknot are a couple. Obviously you guys aren’t metal, but do you think she would dig your stuff? That’s one hell of a potential groupie.
We tweeted at her a couple of times back in the day and, though she responded, I don’t think she really gave a shit. Oh well.
We’ve been lucky to play some pretty amazing venues in Canada. There’s a place in Montreal called Casa del Popolo that’s pretty awesome – it’s a small club that always feeds touring bands amazing food. There’s also a great place in Vancouver called the Media Club, where all of the CBC journalists used to hangout. Generally though we tend to like any bars like the Magpie – small and sweaty where crazy things tend to happen
You guys are currently touring the U.S. with another up-and-coming band, Montreals Solids. How have these shows been going?
They’ve been tons of fun – I’m actually answering these questions from the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan – tonight is our last night and it’s bittersweet because we won’t be hanging out and making stupid lost-in-translation jokes with Louis, Xavier & Vincent. Touring is a great way to see the world & meet people, and to do it with dudes as great as the Solids guys makes it even better – but it’s been four weeks and I think everyone is ready for a little time off.
You guys worked with Dave Schiffman for your debut, who you’ve said is your favourite producer, how did it feel when he said that he wanted to produce your record? – Who would you say was your #2? (if you have one) – Do you think you’ll work with Schiffman on your next record as well?
When Dave responded to our email in such an ethusiastic manner, we all kind of had to take a minute to rethink our lives. Up to that point in the band’s existence, we had been touring a little bit – pretty much all DIY shows – but had yet to take the plunge of quitting our jobs and doing it full time. Dave’s agreeing to make the record was the nudge we needed to say “fuck it!’ and pursue everything full-time. We saw him recently and he is still very enthusiastic, so there’s no reason not to work with him again.
PUP have been playing music together for a long time now. Has your songwriting process changed significantly since your early projects?
The more we play together and the more songs we write, the more we realize that every note, rhythm, and idea has to work in order to serve the whole of the song. There’s no room for superfluous ideas or things that clutter the musical arrangement because it just serves to obscure the song. When we first started writing music, we tried to cram as many ideas as possible into our songs only to strip away the majority of them because the songs ended up being too cluttered. It can be neurosis-inducing because we write diplomatically, but it always works out in the long term if we try to play only what the song needs.
If you were to choose 1-3 headliners for a tour (alive or dead), who would you choose?
The Clash, Built to Spill, and Michael Jackson
Looking back, how do you think things would have played out if you had all kept full time jobs while revamping the band? That must have been a tough decision to drop everything and focus solely on the music.
It would have been impossible – there’s simply not enough vacation time in a normal job to maintain the kind of touring schedule that we’ve got for this year. Also: fuck it! The last thing any of us want is to regret not taking the chance at this. If you have the opportunity, go for it.
Alright, lets end this with a couple simple ones: What would you choose as your last meal ever?
I am only one band member, so I can’t speak for the other guys – but I’d probably have my dad’s cabbage rolls and sauerkraut.
If you were stranded on an island and had to listen to only one record for the rest of your life, what would it be?
As above, this is only one opinion – Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco
What is Toronto’s best record store in your opinion?
This is totally biased because I still work there every once in a while whenever we’re in town for more than a few days – June Records in the Little Italy Neighbourhood
Do any of you guys own a pup? (you know, PUP’s pup)
Unfortunately not, but we’ve almost crashed the van a few times staring at awesome dogs on the street.
Clearly. Sladkowski is just as knowledged as he is musically talented, which is likely another reason why these guys are doing so well right now. They are fully aware of what they want and are ready to take it. Much like Toronto punks Fucked Up before them, PUP look like they are going to keep on climbing even after they reach the pinnacle, and this debut is just the start.