Posts Tagged ‘Zack Mykula’

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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”

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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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