If Their Tour Doesn’t Kill You, Then They Will:
Q&A With Punk Darlings, PUP
by Xavier Veccia
PUP reminds me of a simpler time. When my body was still capable of getting off of work at 4 a.m., but staying up until 8. When I drank rum and cokes like beer, and beer like water. When dive bars felt like home.
PUP is a Canadian punk band that is equal parts aggressive and melodic — not quite pop-punk, but certainly embracing pop through punk. The Toronto four-piece began their young careers with an energetic, eclectic self-titled debut, exploring different genres while sticking to their punk roots. Their latest release, The Dream is Over, stayed closer to those roots, packing a tighter punch.
On November 3, PUP stops in Columbus for the second time since the release of The Dream is Over. Below, drummer Zack Mykula discusses the album’s refined style, the current leg of their continuous tour and, everyone’s favorite, craft beers.
How’s your tour been going so far?
Good. It’s been really good. We came down — well, we came across — Canada. Then came down through the States. We did, like, Boston and New York and stuff and they were awesome show. Did Athens(Georgia) as well, that was super cool. Ended up meeting with Jeff Rosenstock and Katie Ellen and Hard Girls to make one giant show, so it was cool.
How’ve the fans been reacting to your newest album at the shows?
Really well, actually. I feel like it might be even stronger than the first record. I don’t know if that’s just from fatigue of the older material but it’s been really positive.
Besides meeting up with Jeff Rosenstock and all of them in Athens, what has been the best moment of the tour so far?
I love Boston. The venue (The Sinclair) was awesome. Like, it was such a good day. And it’s always exciting starting a tour, as well. Like, we started the American leg in Boston and we met with our friends Cayetana, who are with us, and our new friends Chastity, who are from ontario, they’re another Canadian band. It was just really cool meeting everybody and seeing all the bands and stuff and seeing a bunch of friends.
Obviously with “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, Then I Will,” you go into the general discomfort that can occur when you’re on the road so often. How do you guys move past your issues with each other, when you do have issues?
I mean, it’s [laughs] that’s a bit more tongue-in-cheek than I think some people realize. But with past issues, it’s just the classic thing of communicating and learning how to give people space and stuff and trying to be respectful but also forgiving. And we never really had a blow-up–it never gets to that. It’s just make sure you’re listening to each other and make sure everyone’s cool. And if someone needs space and if someone needs to talk, let them talk. Just let it kind of resolve of its own volition.
Over the past few years, your fan base has grown immensely. Like, you’ve gone from a Bandcamp darling to now headlining your own tour. What has this rise in popularity been like for you?
It’s been awesome. The big thing is getting more opportunities to do cool stuff and play cool festivals and see interesting countries and cities and meet new people and stuff. I mean, it’s great. It’s been really fun.
Can you go into what kind of cool stuff it has opened up for you? What kind of doors it’s opened up for you?
Yeah, one giant thing was, like, we got to go to Australia, actually twice at this point, and that’s like…How many bands get to do that? Like go get to see the entire country and then come back on a headlining tour? I think that’s pretty amazing. I mean, getting to see all of Europe and go to Italy and go to Germany and all those places, seeing all those historic cities, it’s a world where other jobs wouldn’t necessarily offer that, so it’s cool.
Obviously, as you get more fans, your shows become a little less intimate and personal, because there’s so many people there now, so how do you go about making the fans feel important to you still?
I mean, they’re always important. But yeah, you’re right, it does become less intimate. It’s hard to try to do that, I think, and manufacturing that is a false ambition of something you should not do. A lot of that just comes from how awesome our fanbase is. And a lot of the time, a giant venue can be made to feel intimate just because everyone there is so excited. We played our biggest venue in Boston so far and that just felt super intimate even though it was probably 450 capacity, just because everyone was so into it and getting along with each other. It was just so positive, while also being super raucous and rowdy. And that kind of offers, in the same way that a smaller venue would, the type of intimacy that is our favorite part of playing shows.
How do you feel your music as a whole has progressed over the past few years?
We’re better at writing together and we’re better at listening to each other musically. It just makes the whole process more simpatico and we kind of know more what we want to accomplish with each song. As I’m sure many people can hear on the first record, it’s very like a hodgepodge, it’s like this is what we can do. Where the second record is a bit more refined. So yeah, I think that’s the biggest thing, is getting better writing and getting more focused.
What in general were you trying to accomplish with this last album?
Well, I think we just wanted something heavier and more refined. That’s just pretty much it. We just wanted to be a bit more aggressive because that’s what we were trending for. Since we started the band, we were in the beginning, writing more folky songs peppered with heavier songs and then just eventually it just got heavier and heavier and this is just another progression in that. Not quite the furthest expression, but all the heaviness from the first record has kind of been refined into the second record.
Last time you were in Columbus was for Promowest Fest — What brings you back so soon?
I think we don’t hit Ohio enough in the first place, in general, whether it’s Cincinnati, Columbus or Cleveland. We just want to come play and it seems like there’s a cool scene there and we have friends there, so there’s no reason not to play it.
You guys seem to go pretty hard on tour. Like, I read when you toured with Modern Baseball, you guys wanted to drink like 1000 beers in a month or something?
Yeah, I think that was Ian [Farmer, Modern Baseball’s vocalist]’s plan. I don’t know. Those guys had set a record like that on a previous tour. They’re like, “Let’s do better this time.” I don’t know if that’s better or anything. Actually, much worse for us. Yeah, we go hard within reason. We want it to be safe. Yeah, I don’t know if we hit 1000. I’m not sure. I think that was an imaginary number, just an impossible number over our heads just so we’re always drinking.
Yeah, I’m sure at a certain point you lost count, at the very least.
[laughs] Yeah, I don’t even know if there was a count, if there was a tally. But I’m sure we got pretty close.
What do you look for in a bar then when you’re trying to go out, if you even get to go out.
We’re all craft beer fans. I mean, like, who isn’t? But we just look for local stuff, if there’s a good selection of good local stuff, that’s what we go for. And probably someplace quiet, because it’s usually loud where we are, so some reprieve is good, not having to yell over people is a nice change.
And are you still setting lofty goals for yourself now? No huge beer amounts or anything?
No, I think we just go for it. We just drink as much beer as we can in a given night and we do what we can. You can only ever do your best, and that’s what we’re striving for.