After having criss-crossed the world performing more than 450 shows in the last two years, coinciding with the 2014 release of their self-titled debut, it would have been reasonable to expect Toronto punk band PUP to take a breather before they dove into making the anticipated follow-up record.
While that might have been an ideal situation in some respects, PUP guitarist-vocalist Stefan Babcock didn’t really see taking a breather as being an option. Not that he and the band minded in the least.
“For a band in our position, which is to say we are scraping by to make a living, we really didn’t feel as though we had the option of letting our foot off the gas pedal,” Babcock says.
Since wrapping up almost two years of near-constant touring with a headlining appearance at Sackville’s Sappyfest in 2015 – the same town where PUP will perform this coming Tuesday evening – the group was able to reflect on the international success it found and had an even greater appreciation for what they had accomplished.
“I don’t know what we would do if we were to take a break. Touring and writing is what we know, so at this point, it feels natural to stay busy. We appreciate that not all bands are as lucky as we are. It’s hard to make a living doing what we are doing,” Babcock says.
It was that sense of good fortune and enthusiasm that became the focal point for the group’s second full-length effort The Dream Is Over, released this past May. Babcock suggests nobody tries to read between the lines of album opening track “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will.”
“Between the two records, I think our the inter-band relationships evolved from friendship to being more of a brotherhood. We all love each other and respect one another, but we also know how to push each other’s buttons and get on each other’s nerves. We’re all super lucky to have each other because we have each been through other bands where it was clear there was no future. As much as there may be some honest undertones to ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,’ it’s nothing more than a kind of inside joke among us in the band.”
As eventful as the last few years have been for Babcock and his bandmates, drummer Zack Mykula, bassist Nestor Chumak and guitarist Steve Sladkowski, another honour was bestowed upon PUP last month when The Dream Is Over was selected as one of ten albums in the running for the Polaris Music Prize.
As opposed to the bulk of awards, which are based on popular taste or album sales, the Polaris Music Prize is awarded on artistic merit, regardless of genre.
Although the group didn’t end winning the Polaris Music Prize – that honour went to Kaytranada’s 99.9% – Babcock admits that just being in the running for the prestigious award was one of the biggest compliments the group could have received.
“With all due respect to other awards, being in the running for the Polaris Music Prize is a special kind of thing. For us as a band, and for me personally, it is a huge feather in our hat, mostly because we never expected that it would happen,” Babcock says.
“We do realize that the music business is a business, but making artistic sacrifices to sell records isn’t something we are interested in doing. That’s what makes the Polaris nomination even more special. It isn’t based on how many records we’ve sold, but instead takes the music into consideration.”
When: Tuesday Oct. 18, 10 p.m.
Where: Thunder & Lightning, 23 Bridge St., Sackville
Tickets are $16.50. Advance tickets are available online at www.ticketpro.ca.