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Sunday, August 14, 2022

Though FEST 13 boasts many big names, a ton of lesser-known groups that deserve some spotlight will take on Gainesville this weekend. Among them is PUP, a Canadian group with both metal and pop-punk sensibilities and an impressive list of fans, including critics at Noisey, Stereogum and SPIN. Do yourself a favor and watch the video for their song “Mabu,” in which lead singer Stefan Babcock’s trashes his beloved 15-year-old car in a demolition derby. The Avenue spoke with Babcock to talk about PUP’s inaugural FEST appearance.

 

You mentioned in a Stereogum interview a while back that you and the guys have debated about which is better, “The Mighty Ducks” or “Angels in the Outfield.” Where do you fall in that debate?

I’m very much, very much a Mighty-Duck guy. I can’t even believe--I feel like people who would choose Angels in the Outfield over the Mighty Ducks just haven’t even seen the Mighty Ducks. My favorite movies go in this order: Mighty Ducks 2, Mighty Ducks 1, Jumanji and Mighty Ducks 3. We’re Canadian, so we love hockey--or at least, I love hockey. But the biggest argument here is, how many incredible baseball movies have been made already? So many! And there are a lot of great hockey movies, but none of them come close to touching Mighty Ducks.

So you guys all quit your day jobs to start a band, which is basically everyone’s fantasy. If you were to give advice on quitting an office job and joining a band, what advice would that be?

I guess you have to ask yourself a couple questions, like, “How badly do I want to do this?” And the answer has to be, “Really, really badly.” You just have to sacrifice a lot. Your relationships back home will suffer, your parents are disappointed in you, whatever; there are a lot of things. That’s one thing you have to ask yourself: How badly do I want it?

And the other thing you have to ask yourself is, are you surrounded by the right people to make this happen? I’ve always known since I was 16 that this is what I want to do and I’m gonna back it happen, but … I had to wait until I found the other three people who I got along with really well, had the same ideas and were good at playing music. If you’re not surrounded by those people yet, make sure you surround yourself with them before you quit the job.

Also, come up with a band name before you quit your job. Because I didn’t do that.

I remember going to parties, and people would say, “What do you do?” Well, if you quit your job to play music full time, I guess you’re a musician, so I’d say, “I’m a musician.” They’d say, “Oh, you play in a band? What’s your band called?” And I’d have to be like, “Well, we don’t have a name.” And then you get that reaction--like, “Oh, yeah, yeah, you’re a band? Everyone’s in a band, right?” So that was a pretty depressing three months for all of us.

How did things turn around?

We just decided, PUP was gonna be our name. We put it out into the world, and things started to happen pretty quickly after that. Within three or four months of becoming PUP, we were touring full time. It’s just a matter of being decisive and going for it. We quit our jobs to choose a life of fun over economic stability, and what we got was lack of economic stability and misery. So we were like, let’s just decide.

The range of your sound is amazing; you have tracks like “Mabu” that are bright and fun, but then you have songs like “Reservoir” that are heavier--both in sound and content. How do you balance the fun and the heaviness?

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I think it’s just a wide variety of influences. We never sat down and talked about what kind of band we wanted to be or what we wanted to sound like. I think we could’ve made a more cohesive record if we’d just been like, “We want to be a heavy band” or “We want to be a pop-punk band.” But we were way more interested in choosing the ten best songs we’d written, not the ten most cohesive songs we’d written.

Can you tell me more about your guys’ songwriting process? Do you have one?

We don’t, really; it’s so different from song to song. When the band started out, the very first batch of songs were songs that I wrote that the other guys could play along to. But as we started to grow comfortable with each other, that’s not the same at all anymore. It’s a more collaborative process now. And every song is different; like, some songs get out pretty quickly, and some songs we work on more until they feel ready. A lot of it is just coming in with an idea; I’m a melody guy, so I can come in with a chorus or whatever. And these guys are all amazing musicians and I’m not, so they’ll just come in and tear it apart and we’ll all put it together in a way that’s more interesting.

Had you guys heard of FEST before you were booked?

I’d heard mention of it. I have a couple of  friends who’ve come down and played it before, but literally since we’ve been booked, it’s all we’ve heard about. Pretty much every city in America that we play in, and actually a lot of people in the U.K, we’ve had people come up to us and say, “We’ll see you at FEST.” We had no clue what a big deal it was until we were booked, but we’re super excited. It feels nice to be embraced by a scene, and that’s something that, in our earlier days, we never had.

Is the punk scene very different in Canada versus the states?

I think Toronto has a great punk scene--there are amazing bands that come out of Canada, particularly Toronto. But I feel like the bands have a community vibe in our scene, but there’s not a huge community of people who go to see those kinds of bands.

Are there any other groups at FEST you’re excited about seeing?

The Melvins are playing, right? That would be insane; I’d love to go see those guys. Aside from that, there are a ton of bands that are part of that scene that we’ve never seen play before but heard great things about. We’re pals with them on the Internet now; You Blew It!, Chumped, Beach Slang, our friends Cayetana. There’s this band called Gnarwolves--they’re like, the hot shit in the UK. They are the band of the moment right now in the punk scene, and i feel like it hasn’t really translated here yet, but it will. I’m really excited to see them rip it up.

So what can Gainesville expect from a PUP show?

Our shows get pretty crazy; we played to 40 people the other day in … this shithole in Canada, and it was a 40-person insane mosh pit. I’m hoping for something similar at FEST. Expect crowd surfing, expect to get beer thrown all over you if you’re in the front.

 

PUP will perform at The Wooly on Friday from 8:50 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available at thefestfl.com.

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