After the release of PUP’s 2019 album, Morbid Stuff, vocalist and guitarist Stefan Babcock began to consider whether they should push and open up their sound without fundamentally altering it. “The line we’re always trying to straddle is, ‘How can we do something a bit weird without totally alienating our fans?’” Babcock tells Apple Music. “The goal with the guy who made the first three records, Dave Schiffman, was always like, ‘Here are the songs. Let’s try to make it sound like we’re literally playing the best live show we’ve ever played.’ We love what he brought to the table, but with this one, we wanted to push it and see what would happen if we had more time in the studio.” The Toronto punks stationed themselves for five weeks at producer/engineer Peter Katis’ residential Tarquin Studios in Connecticut to record their fourth full-length, THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND. Katis—whose credits include working with The National, Japandroids, and Interpol—distills the band’s essence with a little more kick. “It was a natural and unnatural fit at the same time,” Babcock says. “I think he was put in a position that he’s not used to—it was just a new challenge for him and that was an unnatural part, and the natural part was that we all think about music in the same way and appreciate the same types of qualities in music.” Here, Babcock guides us through songs from the album. “Four Chords” “It’s funny because there’s never been any piano on any PUP record, or keys or synthesizers of any kind, and we started this record with the stupidest piano ballad of all time. In one sense, it’s so un-PUP to have a piano ballad, but in another sense, it’s incredibly PUP to do something that dumb to start a record. I wrote the song as a joke after I bought a piano during the pandemic. I sent it to my bandmates, and we never talked about it again after. The last week in the studio, Nestor [Chumak, PUP bassist/keyboardist] was like, ‘You should record it and that should start the record.’ I slept on it, and the more that I thought about it, the more I thought he was really onto something. As soon as we embraced this idea that this was going to be the first song, the whole record started to make sense to me. It became more than just a collection of songs. I could almost see the forest for the trees.” “Totally Fine” “After ‘Four Chords,’ we had to go into a song that was very quintessentially PUP. It’s the same mentality we had on the second record when we started with a song called ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,’ which is a slow, mellow song, and then it goes into the most high-energy song on the record. So, there’s a little bit of not trying to recreate that, but a little bit of taking the elements that we liked—that dynamic between quiet and really ruckus—and shoving them together to start a record.” “Robot Writes a Love Song” “It’s a weird song for me because the vast majority of PUP songs are written from my first-person perspective. ‘Robot’ is not, but I was legitimately trying to see if I could write a really heartfelt love song, and it being just earnest, without any humor in it. So, this love song that I was trying to write, it just felt so yucky. It was so contrived, and it felt very not me and not PUP. When I decided to try and change the perspective, it worked so well. Suddenly, all of these things that I was saying, that I felt were so cheesy, were a little bit humorous and had more weight and impact to them. Hiding behind humor, for me, is a little bit of a crutch that I use, but I think that song turned out better because I was willing to take it to a place that wasn’t just entirely serious and super emotionally draining.” “Matilda” “This song is me trying to figure out why there’s such a strong emotional connection to an object, or what is it that ties you to this object? And usually, for me, it’s a very specific time in my life. On the first record, I wrote a song about my car, which I was very emotionally attached to. I did so much growing up in that car. I drove it across the country and I kissed a girl for the first time—all of these memories. So, this one is about my guitar, Matilda, and it’s the same sort of thing: Why am I so attached to this guitar? And it’s because it’s so connected to a time in my life that was so emotionally turbulent and also kind of wonderful. The first time that we ever went on tour, and we were trying to be a real band, everything was really new and exciting and weird. We were broke and loving it. That time in my life was almost like what I feel falling in love the first time, when everything is more vibrant. You feel every emotion so much harder than you normally would.” “Relentless” “Sarah [Tudzin], from the band illuminati hotties, sings on the chorus and in the bridge, and she’s awesome. There’s two sides to what I’m talking about here: One is trying to get ahead, being ambitious, pushing forward and trying to fight off the dread that comes with that, and the other side is this dread that you keep trying to get ahead of in life. I just feel like there’s always a demon over my shoulder and that’s how the world feels too. It’s so overwhelming; there’s no time or emotional or mental energy to look backwards or to look forward. You’re just dealing with what’s in front of you, and that’s a tough place for our world to be in.” “Waiting” “I asked Nestor to send me this running document of guitar riffs that he has. He sent me these five pretty heavy riffs, and from that we used one on ‘Waiting’ that I really love. I thought the best way to make it feel like a PUP song, rather than a metal song or a hardcore song, was the simplest, most uplifting chorus that I could write onto the really heavy guitar riff, and it worked in a very PUP way. There’s always this contrast in our music, the lyrics versus the actual music. If the lyrics are really serious, we try to make the music sound pretty fun and vice versa. I think we found that combination of heavy and joy that we’re always kind of looking for.” “Habits” “When I originally wrote the song, it was just guitar and voice, and it felt like a good PUP song. It wasn’t going to change the game for us, but we were like, ‘Yes, this sounds like us and it’s cool and it’s fun.’ But we kind of put it aside, and then one day Zack [Mykula, PUP drummer] came in and was like, ‘Hey, I made this thing for “Habits.” It’s kind of out there, but maybe it works.’ He was the one who crafted that synthy intro, which we also sprinkled elements of that throughout. I think we all really gravitated to what he did. For me, it took a song that we all liked and thought was pretty standard, but not in a bad way, into a new territory for us that made it so much more exciting.” “Cutting Off the Corners” “With most PUP songs—even when I’m writing the real dark and serious things—I’m always trying to find that little glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel, some silver lining or just some cathartic joy, and I very purposely avoided that as a crutch on this song. I don’t know how deep I want to get into it, but I wrote it three days after I lost an old friend. So, that was a song that poured out at me all at once, and it was very emotionally charged. We talked about adding some joy, some energy, some good vibes, and that felt like a disservice to what the song was about. So, it’s a strange one. That song is on the album for me and for her, and I just wanted to make something for them that didn't hide behind the humor.” “Grim Reaping” “I wouldn’t say we’re a traditionally political band, but the four of us all have very strong political convictions that we express in other ways—whether it’s through our social media or at live shows. It makes up for the fact that we don’t really talk politics too much in our songs, and the reason that we don’t is because I really struggle with making it sound genuine without it sounding super contrived. Like, ‘Fuck the man.’ I feel like every time I’ve tried to write those songs, I sound like a bad impersonation of OFF! or Bad Religion. I was trying to write about the state of the world but through a really personal lens, trying to express how myself and the band have been coping with those challenges. I’m pretty good at speaking eloquently about my emotions and less eloquently about other things, so I try to bring it into my universe.” “PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing for Bankruptcy” “This is truly an example of the unraveling of PUP, the band. This song is just so true to who we are as humans in terms of the lyrics, but also the way the music is arranged. It’s our version of being truly self-indulgent. If we were a prog-rock band, this would be our 14-minute epic. Also, part of the decisions that were made—the saxophone solo and then right after where there’s a room recording of me playing through the shitty PA that we found—came about because this was the last song that we recorded for the record. If it were during week one, we would’ve said, ‘No, that’s stupid. Let’s stay focused.’ And at that point, we’d been in the studio—where we were also living and sharing the same space together—for five weeks and were starting to get a little bit crazy. We were like, ‘That’s a great idea. What other stupid shit can we do?’”


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