There are few bands that could muster energy to play two shows in one night. Even fewer could do it two nights in a row. Toronto punk outfit PUP are not most bands. Two days shy of setting off for a European tour, Pup played two sold out shows and lived to tell the tale. Megan Rach was on hand to chat with the band and document the moment for Music Vice.
When: Friday, January 31st, 2014
Where: The Phoenix & The Garrison, Toronto
In One Word: Wild
To say 2013 has been good to PUP would be an understatement. Not only are they playing sold out shows in Toronto and touring what the UK has to offer, they recently were signed to SideOneDummy Records on a roster including The Gaslight Anthem, Title Fight and Anti-Flag (yeah, not too shabby).
“It was great! It was really cool. We weren’t really expecting this to happen. It’s really exciting for us to travel around the world now and have some people give a shit – it’s better than a year ago when nobody gave a shit and we didn’t have a band name!” said vocalist/guitarist, Stefan Babcock.
Their last night in Ontario for two months kicked off with Pup opening for AFI at The Phoenix – an unexpected gig, but it was nothing short of wild. Even though the crowd wasn’t quite as receptive during the set as they were whenever AFI was mentioned, PUP managed to pack a punch and still impress the crowd. Babcock has a no-holds-barred attitude in his vocals, still giving it his all right before another gig. Wrapping a quick set, the band packed their van and sped across Toronto to get to The Garrison for their headlining show.
“It’s a whirlwind. You have to just take it a day at a time; it can be overwhelming at times. But it’s exciting – we have cool opportunities,” said guitarist Steve Sladkowski.
PUP is no stranger to opening for big names, and AFI is just another to add to the list. Previously, they’ve opened for fellow Toronto bands Billy Talent and Fucked Up.
“I think the coolest thing we did was when we played with Fucked Up – we literally played WITH Fucked Up,” recalled Babcock. “They liked our set enough that they asked us to start their set. So we played [Fucked Up song] Queen of Hearts. They had an MC who was hosting the show saying, ‘the best Canadian punk band – Fucked Up!’ and we just walked on… fthat was in Halifax, and that was really fun.”
“People were confused and disappointed,” added drummer Zack Mykula.
“They were,” continued Babcock, laughing. “Half the crowd didn’t know what Fucked Up looked like so they just went nuts, and the other half was like ‘this is fucking bullshit!’”
Even though they’re embarking on a tour overseas, PUP still has love for the hole-in-the-wall spots their city has to offer. Their favourite spot was The Magpie Tavern, for the fondest of reasons.
Mykula: “It’s such a terrible place but it’s amazing that way. The best thing – we played there in the summer in the insane heat wave, and it was sold out-“
Babcock: “Let me just say, there’s no such thing as selling out the Magpie, because we didn’t sell tickets.”
Mykula: “We were supposed to have over capacity – but there was never more than capacity in the room because people were trying to get away from the heat. They have an air conditioner at the back that was just air conditioning one little room and the rest of the club was just insanely hot.”
Sladkowski: “It was wet –“
Mykula: “The floors were wet from sweat – it was crazy. Stef’s amp exploded.”
Babcock: “It was a 60 cap room that we have over 200 people in on the hottest day of the year…I literally threw out my underwear when I got home.”
Promptly upon arrival at The Garrison, the band was met with friends and fans alike. Even twenty minutes before their set started, the entire crowd of more than 200 chanted, “PUP! PUP! PUP!”. It was no surprise that once Pup started playing, the place went crazy. The energy was a complete 180 from the previous gig, proving that Pup’s fan base is loyal, and constantly growing.
“I think we are consistently blown away by how amazing Toronto has been to us. It’s crazy,” said Babcock.
“New fans, but also old friends,” Mykula added.
Packed wall to wall, The Garrison housed some of the sweatiest, raucous people in Toronto that night. If PUP was tired from playing The Phoenix, there were no signs of it. Their set had even more energy, a give and take between band and fans. During the first song, Babcock, Sladkowski and bassist Nestor Chumak turned their microphones around to the crowd and without missing a beat, everyone packed in The Garrison yelled along.
Pup holds a lot of love for the people they play for. While they’ve been hard at work and growing as a band, they’re still aware of (and joke about) their humble beginnings in Toronto.
“Basically, we had this two show thing and immediately we had so many nice people who were willing to help us out,” said Chumak.
“It has felt to me like there’s a crew, a whole scene that has sort of been rallying around us which we’re really lucky – we’re so lucky that people have just been supportive,” said Babcock. “It seems like there are a lot of people that just want us to succeed and they’ve been helping us a lot. So we’ve just been really lucky that people believe in us, and giving us the opportunity to disappoint a ton of other people!”
“More than just our parents,” chimed Mykula.
Pup flew into UK today, and start their tour at The Miller in London on Wednesday, 5 February. In the meantime, Toronto can still get their fix from the debut self-titled LP available online.
© Megan Rach, Music Vice
Photos of Pup at The Phoenix and The Garrison: