Posts Tagged ‘Stefan Babcock’

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The Tiny Desk Concert is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (home) concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit ,stripped-down sets, an intimate setting, just a different space. For PUP’s Tiny Desk (home) concert, the Toronto group refused to dial down the volume, filling Babcock’s neatly-furnished living room – complete with an Ontario pennant  and just maybe making a few enemies down the street in the process.

My neighbours hate us, and I don’t blame them, Babcock said. Volume complaints aside, that admission feels like a perfect summary of the band’s penchant for spinning stories of chaos into catchy-as-hell, shout-along songs. With bandmates Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula and Steve Sladkowski masked to adhere to COVID safety protocol, PUP wastes no time here, immediately setting the tone with “Rot” from the group’s aptly-titled 2020 EP, “This Place Sucks A**. From there, the set spans the band’s discography, spotlighting two cuts (“Kids” and “Scorpion Hill”) from 2019’s Morbid Stuff and “Reservoir,” a track off the group’s debut.

And to NPR officemates who think you’ve escaped an earsplitting in-office set with this (home) concert, let the handmade “Ceci n’est pas une Tiny Desk” (“This is not a Tiny Desk”) sign serve as a warning: When the Tiny Desk returns to NPR HQ and the U.S.-Canada border reopens, prepare to have your workday interrupted.

The Band: Stefan Babcock: vocals, guitar Nestor Chumak: bass, vocals Zack Mykula – drums, vocals Steven Sladkowski: guitar, vocals

Set List: “Rot” “Kids” “Reservoir” “Scorpion Hill”


Toronto punk darlings PUP released arguably their angriest, most fast-moving, existentially bleak and solid effort in last year’s “Morbid Stuff”. For the masochists of 2020, there’s more from where that came from when the “This Place Sucks Ass” EP, a collection of outtakes from those same sessions, spills over even more of that energy when it’s released later in October. So far, we’ve already heard some of it with the recent singles “Anaphylaxis” and their playful Grandaddy cover of “A.M. 180”, and now its latest preview in “ROT” very much lives up to the disclaimer that the tracks were cut for being too “frenetic” or “unhinged”. “Maybe I’ve been dreaming in lo-fi / Like I just can’t stop / Maybe I’ve been rotting on the inside / All alone with my negative thoughts,” Stefan Babcock’s anxieties are delightfully shrill in stereo. 

For PUP, a band whose breakout album begins with the all-time great kickoff line “If this tour doesn’t kill you then I will,” the only thing worse than being trapped on tour for a year is being trapped without the possibility of touring for a year. Innumerable great young bands have seen their touring careers stalled by the pandemic, and Pup is one of them: Instead of seizing the momentum of 2019’s phenomenal Morbid Stuff with another round of shows, the Toronto punk band is trapped at home and getting their aggression out with a characteristically misanthropic EP, This Place Sucks Ass. Titled after a routine tour refrain-turned-pandemic commentary (“at this moment in time, it feels so fucking real—wherever you are, it sucks ass right now,” frontman Stefan Babcock , the 17-minute release compresses the band’s infectious feel-bad punk energy into five new ragers and one cover.

Pup’s New EP ‘This Place Sucks Ass’ out 23rd October on Little Dipper / Rise Records.

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PUP is serving up a slightly different thesis on the flying insects. “Anaphylaxis” is yet another anxiety attack from the Toronto punks, this time focusing on the panic at the thought of a fatal bee sting—and the comedy of this irrational fear in retrospect.

“I got the idea for the song when I was at my partner’s cottage and her cousin got stung by a bee and his whole head started to swell up,” vocalist Stefan Babcock shared in a press statement. “His wife, although she was concerned, also thought it was pretty hilarious and started making fun of him even as they were headed to the hospital. He ended up being totally fine, but it was just funny to watch him freaking out and her just lighting him up at the same time. It reminded me of all the times I’ve started panicking for whatever reason and was convinced I was dying and the world was ending and no one would take me seriously.”

The claymation video for the track, created by Callum Scott-Dyson, is a pretty graphic depiction (well, it’s pretty tame in relation to the band’s live action videos) of the worst case scenario envisioned by the song’s narrator, pairing the song’s searing riffs and intense vocals with body horror imagery.

“Anaphylaxis” – New Song and Video! Hypochondria, paranoia, hallucinations, guitars that sound like bees! This song’s got it all!

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Taking the piss of Halloween themed TV specials, Toronto’s Pup present “Growing Up Ghouls”, aka their new visuals for ‘Morbid Stuff’ fave ‘See You At Your Funeral’.

Titled “Self Care: A Horror Story”, it follows different lols and spooky themed tricks to stop you from feeling heartbroken, including to exercise (your demons) and achieving inner peace. Easy, eh?

Taken from their third record ‘Morbid Stuff’, when we spoke to them back in April about the album, frontman Stefan Babcock explained of its origins: “I was bored as fuck, sitting around thinking about all this morbid stuff. Like if anyone I’ve slept with is dead and I got stuck on death and dying and obsessive thoughts that won’t let up […] I think that’s part of growing up and becoming more mature, realising that it’s just not gonna fucking work out. It’s just not going to. Being able to let go, for better or worse, makes it become a bit easier with each passing year.”

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“Should” is a tricky word. It sets unrealistic expectations. It’s guilt-inducing. I should go to the gym today. I should hang out with my friends more. I should be happy. PUP drummer Zack Mykula knows all about this: “The expectation that you’d be happy just because you’re a semi-successful touring musician—it’s like the other side of that sword is the self-shame that comes with acknowledging you should be happy,” he says. “‘Should’ is the operative word because ‘should’ is inherently a self-shaming word.”

Some might place this burdensome expectation on the Toronto punk band because the members have done a lot since they released their self-titled debut album in 2013. But even saying “a lot” is an understatement: The four-piece set a goal to play two hundred shows that year, and they played over two hundred and fifty. They followed up their beloved debut with another critical darling, The Dream Is Over, in 2016To top it all off, the band releases music videos that can be described as nothing less than iconic.

Now, PUP who are made up of singer Stefan Babcock, bassist Nestor Chumak, and guitarist Steve Sladkowski, in addition to Mykula are back with their most ambitious album yet, Morbid StuffOn the surface it’s a fun, bopping record with nearly forty minutes of rambunctious headbangers and mighty anthems.

But leading up to the creation of Morbid Stuffthe four guys were going through some bleak times.

Hiding in plain sight, beyond the commanding guitars, pulsing bass, and red-blooded drumming, this impassioned album is dark. Real dark. Babcock explores the shadowy recesses of his mind—the parts that most of us would prefer to avoid—to dive into ideas of self-destruction, numbness, restlessness, and isolation.

“We should be really stoked on life,” Babcock says. “That can be a tough thing to deal with, because your happiness or sadness can exist totally independent of things that are going on around you. We were always wondering what was going to come next for us in our lives.” .Luckily for PUP, these are the conditions in which they thrive creatively. But instead of extracting musical inspiration from other artists, Babcock turned to an unlikely medium: podcasts. He explains that when he’s deep in the writing process, listening to music can be the last thing he wants to do in his spare time. His favorite podcasts include a smattering of hockey-related series, as well as true crime pods Dirty John and Dr. Death.

“Especially listening to Dr. Death and Dirty John, I would be like, ‘Man, everybody’s life is way more fucked up than mine,’” Babcock laughs. “This isn’t that bad.” In Babcock’s words, Morbid Stuff became like his own personal podcast. One where he could be utterly vulnerable and comfortable with himself.

“I felt like I was just figuring out my voice, and figuring out how to say the things I wanted to say properly, and just ran with it,” Babcock says. “Sometimes probably too much. Should have fucking reined it in a little bit.”

It’s true—Babcock doesn’t shy away from divulging his most intimate thoughts on this record. From wondering whether he should have given in to his demons on “Kids,” to not being able to recognize himself in the mirror anymore on “Scorpion Hill,” he lays it all on the table.

You can find the fun dotted throughout Morbid Stuff,  in the form of wry jokes and black witticisms. At the end of “See You at Your Funeral,” Babcock throttles up to a panicky scream: “I hope the world explodes / I hope that we all die / We can watch the highlights in hell / I hope they’re televised.” And in the middle of a Satanic ritual (or is it just a trip gone wrong?) described in “Bloody Mary, Kate and Ashley,” Babcock grills the listener, asking an important but ridiculous question: “Do you prefer Ashley or Mary Kate?”

Uniting all eleven tracks is the idea of sticking together. Despite the self-loathing, despite the apathy, the band members still have one another. Even though Babcock decries the “mind-numbing reality of a godless existence” in “Kids,” it ultimately doesn’t matter, because he’s “pretty happy lying here with you / It’s pretty good to feel something.” We may all be losers, but at least we’re losers together. That’s what makes our pretty terrible world a little more bearable—and what makes this record a delight to listen to.

“Morbid Stuff” out on April 5th

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This is three minutes and thirty seconds of bombastic youth, all ramshackle and rambunctious, full of sweaty anxiety and shouted brashness, and I love it more than I should. Also: we should all admire the way lead singer Stefan Babcock pulls off his wordy, Craig Finn-like disregard of the rhythm/time signature. Also: more songs with words like ‘calamity’ in them please. Also: I am a sucker for hook-laden melodic punk that reminds me of when I was much younger/not so, so, so old.

“Kids,” the lead single from the Canadian punk outfit’s forthcoming album Morbid Stuff, careens in the background with their usual furious energy as PUP find themselves in Toronto in the year 2059. They’re not exactly where you’d expect. Bassist Nestor Chumak is dealing with a resentful daughter, Zack Mykula plays drums on the street for apathetic passersby, guitarist Steve Sladkowski clings onto his youth with an ageless head device and as for vocalist Stefan Babcock—well, you’ll have to watch to find out what happens to him.

We are so so stoked to let you know that our third album, MORBID STUFF, will be out on April 5th! We worked so hard on this thing and cannot wait to share it with ya!!! If you ordered our latest zine, you’ve probably already heard our new song “Kids”. New album ‘Morbid Stuff’ out April 5th

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PUP - The Dream Is Over


This quartet of childhood friends play a highly infectious propulsive brand of punk rock. There’s a touch of At The Drive-In in their unrelenting use of anthemic group vocals, but these guys are a lot more fun than the El Paso legends.  Their humble claim that they are, “4 dudes who play punk rock. That’s all,” belies the ambitions of their self-titled debut album, released via Side One Dummy Records, which deftly and effortlessly explores indie, classic rock and punk. Aptly, the moniker PUP is an acronym for Pathetic Use of Potential, and their lyrics largely deal with the lethargy and desire to escape that are synonymous with the dichotomies of youth.

The Toronto punk band open their second album, The Dream Is Over, with “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” a portrait of punk rock van life that’s darker and nastier than any I’ve heard at least in song. These guys are waking up on the same living-room floors for months on end, hearing each other tell the same jokes over and over again, wearing on each other’s last nerves. And it’s gotten to the point where every new van haul feels like a prison sentence. “Everything you do makes me wanna vomit / If this tour doesn’t kill you, buddy, I’m on it,” frontman Stefan Babcock hollers. And then: “You think you’re so original / I can’t wait for your funeral!”


If you’ve ever been in a touring band, or been friends with someone who is, then some of this might ring true. It sounds fun — packing all your shit in a van with your friends, leaving your life behind for a few weeks, playing loud music for strangers, seeing the world. But every dream job eventually becomes a job, and this one happens to be a low-paying, transit-heavy, privacy-annihilating dream job. If you talk to enough people in bands, and if they’re willing to puncture your romantic image, you might learn that  for instance  going to Europe sucks because nobody has good weed and because you’re always dealing with customs people.

And yet the way PUP play the song, it still sounds fun. PUP have levels of on-record energy that I’m just not used to hearing in 2016 — from a punk band or from any other sort of band. They play with a rocketing urgency, charging headlong into every chorus with guns blazing. They’re unapologetic disciples of the whole EpiFat sound — the ’90s variation on melodic California pop-punk that briefly conquered the world. And they play it like it’s new, that combination of all-out speed and sugary melody and snot-rocket sarcasm. Babcock’s voice is a passionate nasal harangue, and every time they get the chance, his bandmates join in on some gang-shout singalong shit. They’ve also learned from emo and post-hardcore and fuzzed-up revivalist Japandroids-style indie rock, with all these chords crashing and dynamics switching up in profoundly satisfying ways. The Dream Is Over is a short album, just a hair over half an hour, and it never lets up. That’s good.

But while the music is hurtling along, Babcock is putting all his energy into making twentysomething life sound like a living hell. “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You” is the only song that explicitly addresses the day-to-day realities of being in a band, but the rest of the album is all about that stage of life, how much it can fucking suck. When you get past that time, it takes on a rosy glow, but when you’re in it, the puke-sticky floors and day-long hangovers and warning-your-account-has-dipped-below-$25 emails seem like they’re never going to end. Again and again, Babcock sings about himself as a drunk loser who can’t keep a relationship together — partly, at least, because so many of his relationships are with other drunk losers. “I’m sick and tired of blacking out on my carpet / And waking up all alone / So I brought you home,” he wails. Then, later: “I can’t stand you trying to save me / It’s so fucking frustrating.” And nothing drives him more nuts than the people who express concern over his wellbeing, to the point where his most self-deprecating line almost registers as a gloat: “They used to say, ‘Don’t quit your day job!’ / Guess what? I never had one!”

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Before the band recorded the album, Babcock went to see a doctor because his throat was hurting. The doctor told him his vocal cords were damaged and that he’d have to stop singing. That’s where the title came from; the doctor actually told him, verbatim, “The dream is over.” Babcock, of course, decided that no, fuck that. If anything, he’s yelling even louder on The Dream Is Over than he was on PUP’s 2013 debut. But you get the sense, listening to the album, that this whole thing could end anytime. His voice could just give out on him completely, and he knows it. So he’s packed all his angst and anxiety into one furiously fun 31-minute album, knowing that it could well be his last. And more than any rock album I’ve heard in a long minute, he sounds like he’s saying things that he absolutely needed to say. Sometimes, you see, your own body and your own friends can seem as malicious as a pack of machete-wielding white-nationalist skinheads. And sometimes, you just have to yell about it.