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PUP’s Stefan Babcock: “This Is A Very Destructive Band To Be In But The Destruction Keeps Us Going”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 22 October 2020 at 18.17

"Thinking of letting down any of my band mates is like a crushing blow for me"

are gearing up to release their new EP 'This Place Sucks Ass' via Rise Records. 

Aside from having one of the best titles of a release ever, the EP finds the band at their vicious and volatile best with tongue lodged firmly in cheek and glint flickering in their eye. It's a short, sharp shot of self-deprecating reality that feels incredibly sweet and very much needed in these strange times. 

We jumped on the phone with guitarist/vocalist Stefan Babcock to find out all about it...

Where exactly did this EP start to take shape?
“So, there are six songs on this EP. Four of them were recorded during the ‘Morbid Stuff’ sessions. They are B-sides, but that’s never how we saw any of these songs. When we were having a discussion about the tracklisting for ‘Morbid Stuff’, we were specifically keeping ‘Anaphylaxis’ off of it. Not because we didn’t love it, it was actually one of all of our favourite songs, but because we wanted it to be the anchor for an EP further down the line. So it’s always been in the back of our heads. We recorded 15 songs when we were making that album and all of them, maybe except for one, were good enough to see the light of day. We knew that we wanted to add a cover and we knew that we wanted to have one other song that was a typical PUP ripper.”

It’s nice to be able to have songs cut from the same cloth exist in a completely different space…
“Yeah, completely. We’ve never put out an EP before. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we can’t tour or the fact that it is an EP, but it’s been such a refreshing change of pace to be putting this out. Every album we have made, when we were actually making the album, we were all having big meltdowns. That’s every single record. Fighting with each other, stressed out, not having a good time. When it comes time to releasing the record, we’re all excited to do it, but it’s the same sort of thing. There’s a lot of pressure and weirdness that goes into that process. Putting out this EP has been the opposite of all of that. Stress free and fun. We all love these six songs and we believe in them and believe they should be out in the world, but it doesn’t have the same pressure as putting out our next album and then having to go out on tour to support it. Being able to put out songs and say, ‘We like these songs, we hope you like them too’ has been great.”

How does it feel to be able to have that moment to breath?
“Like pretty much every band, when we started off there were no stakes to make as career out of this. It was just the four of us having fun and writing songs. We could put out songs and chances were nobody was going to hear them, so who cares? Now, even though we know a lot of people are going to hear this EP, we still have that spirit. These songs feel like when we were writing our first record to me. So many artists are guilty of saying this, and I’m guilty of it too, but it’s a lie when you put out a record and say, ‘I don’t care what other people think of this’. When I’ve said that in the past, what I’ve meant by that sentiment is that the most important thing to me is that the four of us make music that we like. Of course you fucking care though. You’ve sunk your whole life and money and time into this project and if it flops you’ve got to go work at the Burger King. But right now, I feel closer to not caring and just being excited about the songs than ever before.”

So when you saw how this year was panning out, how did you as a band process it?
“Obviously, it’s been very tough for us. We had a big festival season planned and it felt like for the first time we weren’t going to scrape by and actually make a living out of this. It sucks that that has all gone. But, we’re in such a more fortunate position than so many other people out there. This is not a woe is me situation. We were lucky enough that last year we did well enough so that we could focus on this band and keep on writing for a few months until we have to worry that we can’t pay our rent. If this had happened three years ago, I don’t think there would be a band anymore. Three years ago, we were having trouble feeding ourselves, so it would have been a very different conversation. A lot of my friends are earlier in their band career than us and it’s so much harder and I feel so bad.

“We’re a very self-deprecating, not serious band but this is also a serious time that we’re living in too. We’re relearning to navigate those priorities and what’s worth talking about and what’s not worth talking about. I think we have a platform and we are using it well, but I know that we have that platform because we’re not self-serious fuck ups. So we’re just learning where our place is in all of this and making sure we’re checking our privilege and amplifying the voices that we need to.”

‘Rot’ is the one original song on this EP that wasn’t created during the ‘Morbid Stuff’ sessions. Did it get its life from the world and the environment that we’re all living in now?
"It was definitely written when the four of us were in a pretty negative, frustrated and aggressive headspace for very obvious reasons. The goal of that song was to capture the spirit of how we were feeling at the state of the world. I think that we did that pretty well. I would love to write a political protest song, but every time I’ve ever tried I’ve tried to write quite literally about politics, it just comes out sounding so fucking contrived and makes me hate myself more than I already do. So I’ve navigated that desire with the abilities that I have. I think I’m pretty good at taking how I’m feeling about the state of the world and describing my relationship to the external world and how I’m feeling about things without sounding like a white guy shouting and telling people how I think they should feel. Everyone in the band is also channelling their discontent through their parts as well.

"Lyrically, a lot of it is about self-destruction and the endless cycle of self-destruction that we have in this band. This is a very destructive band to be in but the destruction keeps us going. It keeps us engaged and keeps people coming back to see us. We built a career on being fuck ups and the more than we fuck up, the better the band does. The better the band does, the more we self-sabotage and that keeps this beautiful endless cycle going."

So how do you prepare for the next stage of PUP every time you set your mind to a new record? On a personal level, what keeps you coming back?
"It’s definitely changed over time. For me, the thing that keeps me going is that I fucking love writing songs. It’s my favourite thing to do in the entire world. It’s also my best form of therapy. I do go to therapy and try and eat healthy and do yoga and all that stuff, but songwriting is the best thing for me. I don’t know that I could go through this world without writing songs about how I’m feeling. Whether that’s for people or for myself, it’s just such a part of who I am. Even thought we explode at each other a lot in PUP, they are quite literally my three best friends in the world. They also happen to be three of the most incredible musical partners that I could hope for. All of them bring something very different and unique and there is no PUP without all four of us. I’ve been in several bands before this and none of them felt special. I think all three of them would also say that about all four of us. There’s nothing better than playing music with your best friends and feeling like every person elevates it to a level that you couldn’t have previously conceived."

When you find a bond like that, you never want to let it go…
“I work so much harder because of them too. Not only do the four of us push each other, which makes us work harder and which is also a source of frustration and resentment, but we individually all want to work harder because we recognise that. We realise we’re surrounded by people that we love and respect and not only do we want to take advantage of that opportunity, but we don’t want to let each other down. Thinking of letting down any of my band mates is like a crushing blow for me.”

Finally, and despite how uncertain as these times are, how are you looking forwards into the future of PUP?
"Stepping out of character for myself and trying to find a silver lining, because of the uncertainty it’s brought us back to a place that we were at a few years ago when we thought, ‘What can we do when we can’t plan?’ So what we’re going to focus on is writing music that we love. Maybe that’s ok right now. We’re not thinking too far ahead, we’re just going to write what we connect with right now and then deal with what that means a little bit down the line. Some people are putting too much pressure on themselves right now.

“You get told throughout your whole life that you have to set goals and that’s how you accomplish shit. For us, letting go of those goals and those signposts at the end of the road is the best thing we can do for ourselves right now. Listening to that instinct is good.”

You can pick up a copy of 'This Place Sucks Ass' on Rock Sound Records exclusive vinyl from right HERE

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