Toronto punk outfit PUP sets its sights on Victoria

Culture Music
Photo by Vanessa Heins Photography via Facebook
PUP are touring in support of their new album, The Dream is Over, and are making their way to Lucky Bar. Photo by Vanessa Heins Photography

The Toronto band PUP started mak- ing raucous high-energy punk music together in 2013, and have refused to stop ever since. Over the last two years, they have played nearly 450 shows, been nominated for a Juno award, and somehow found time to record their new album, The Dream is Over, which was shortlisted for a Polaris Prize earlier this year. I had a chance to ask their singer Stefan Babcock some questions over email before they play at Lucky Bar on Nov. 22.

The Martlet: You guys have played a tremendous number of shows. When you first started out, was your original plan to tour as much as you are? Do you think you’ll ever take a break?

Babcock: Yeah, this was always sort of the plan—or I guess, the goal. We’ve always loved playing live, and since day one this band has been about playing live, touring and con- necting with people face to face. As far as taking a break, I don’t see us slowing down for a while. We all know this won’t last forever, so we’re just trying to enjoy the momentum while we can, have fun, and see as much of the world as we can manage. We’re going to take a month off mid-December to mid-January, so I’m looking forward to that.

What was it like when you were shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize? Was it a big moment for you?

Definitely a big moment. I grew up listening to the shortlisted albums every year, so to be a part of that in 2016 is very humbling. As much as we don’t really seek validation through things like awards, I won’t lie, it was pretty nice to be recog- nized by an important voice in the Canadian musical community.

You guys are a welcome addition to the roster of super quotable punk bands on the label SideOneDummy like AJJ, Jeff Rosenstock, and The Smith Street Band. Were any of those other artists signed on SideOneDummy inspirations to you?

I, personally, didn’t really know AJJ or Smith Street until we became label mates, but have since become really close friends with those guys. Jeff was a bit of a different story, I was a big fan of his old band, Bomb The Music Industry! In fact, one of the first real shows I ever played as a 16-year-old in a shitty ska band was opening for Bomb. So, he’s definitely been a major influence on my song- writing, and someone I’ve respected and looked to for guidance for a long time. AJJ and Smith Street have also become big influences over the past couple years—we got to tour Australia in 2015 with The Smith Street Band, and it was incredible. They are some of the nicest dudes I know. And hopefully there’s an AJJ tour in the cards one of these days.

Your songs carry so much energy in them. Is it hard having to bring that same energy into live shows so often or does the crowd hype you up enough? Has there ever been a time when the crowd couldn’t live up to the hype?

I think bringing energy to the live show is actually a lot easier than bringing it to a recording. We love playing shows, we really feed off the energy of a crowd, and each night is a unique experience for us. And yeah, like any band, we’ve played to a lot of shitty crowds. More so when we were first starting out and people weren’t really into what we’re doing. But even now, sometimes crowds can be a bit too violent once in a while, or sometimes you get one inconsiderate asshole who doesn’t care about the safety of the people around them and they have to be dealt with. But I think in general, people come to our shows hyped up, ready to have a good time, and wanting to make sure the people around them have an equally good time. And when that happens, when everyone is stoked and looking out for each other, that’s when we play the best and that’s when everyone leaves feeling great.

PUP is playing at Lucky Bar on Nov. 22 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online at or at Lyle’s Place.