Stefan Babcock fronts Toronto’s most-buzzed about punk group, but at the moment, all he can think about is laundry.
Over the next few months, his band PUP – which stands for Pathetic Use of Potential – will travel to the U.K., Germany, Holland and Belgium, and then embark on a U.S. tour. Before they fly out, they’ll also perform in Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal.
“Today is our last day off for several months,” he says from his home base in Toronto. “During the past few weeks, I’ve been going to bed early, waking up early and doing laundry regularly. I’m trying to get all my downtime in before I never have it again.”
His laundry timer even goes off during the course of our interview.
A lot of things have changed for the quartet in the past half-year or so, when they decided to switch their name from Topanga – a Boy Meets World reference – to PUP, and infuse their tunes with a more aggressive sound. Their raw, energetic live show has earned them opening slots for bands like Hollerado and Billy Talent, and their hilarious video for the single Reservoir has garnered tens of thousands of views on YouTube.
In terms of PUP’s frenzied performance style, Babcock, 25, says he wants to give fans something more than just a recreation of the group’s recorded output.
“When we started this band, that was kind of like our M.O.,” he says. “There are so many terrible, shoegaze-y indie rock bands from Toronto that just stand on stage and don’t do anything, and just play their songs. To me, that’s pretty boring.”
The Reservoir video recreates a PUP live performance, and features bloody, exaggerated injuries to every member of the band – which also includes Nestor Chumak on bass, Steve Sladkowski on guitar and Zack Mykula on drums. Babcock says that the video’s directors, Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, felt inspired to make it after watching the band suffer through mishaps at nearly every concert.
“There was one show where my amp literally caught fire and smoked out the whole show. There was another show where a guy was crowd surfing, but it was a house show – and there was a ceiling fan going – and he got all cut up in the ceiling fan. There have been shows where I smashed my guitar through my face by accident because I was rocking out too hard.”
PUP released their self-titled debut album in the fall through Canadian indie label Royal Mountain Records, and they recently scored a U.S. distribution deal with SideOneDummy Records. The group worked on the album with producer Dave Schiffman, who is known for his work with Weezer, Vampire Weekend and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
So, big things are obviously happening for these guys. But for the next day or two, Babcock says he plans to “lead a banker’s life,” which will consist of getting enough sleep, staying away from alcohol and packing for the months to come. And finishing his laundry, of course.
“I’m doing the exact opposite of the punk rock thing right now,” he says. “I’ll be like, ‘Sorry guys, I’m not coming out to party tonight. I think I’m going to drink some tea and go to sleep at 10.’ ”