PUP are easily one of the most exciting up and coming punk rock bands of today. Their 2013 self-titled album garnered them a devout following and a lot of praise from critics. With their second album, ‘The Dream Is Over’, the band maintain this flowing energy with straight-up honest songs that basically say ‘Fuck you’ to anyone who says the band can’t. Anyway, enough stalling now – here’s out chat with PUP’s singer/guitarist, Stefan Babcock.
I know you’re probably sick of talking about this, Stefan, but I had a few questions about your vocal injuries, if you’re cool to talk about that?
Yeah, sure thing man.
Cool. Well with the issue of your vocal injuries, you’ve said before that you’ve worked out how to pace yourself and worked out a routine now, but does it hurt to get through a full set these days?
It’s always going to be a struggle for me. I didn’t take care of my voice originally. On tour, every day, it’s currently tough. But at the same time, I’ve found ways to make it work. I feel like it’s something I can manage.
We had to approach things differently now. We used to do 30 shows in a row or do multiple shows a day, and we’re only human. So we try to take a day off per week, like a normal person would [laughs]. I’m starting to take care of myself better while on the road. Touring can be really tough, and a big part of it is staying healthy and remembering that if you’re touring full time, every day cannot be a party.
Of course, man. After being told that you may have to give up singing in the band, was there ever talk of you stepping down as the vocalist and sticking solely to guitar, bringing someone else in, or even leaving the band entirely?
No, we never really talked about that actually. Interesting thing though, when we started the band, I didn’t want to be the singer. I was singing the songs in practice but I was urging the band to find somebody to sing and they were having none of it. They just wanted me to learn to become a better singer.
Ultimately, that worked out. And I’m glad I started singing for the band. As for another singer, though, I’m not sure what that band would feel like. It would probably be a very different band…
Maybe, but it’s good you’re still here. Knock on wood, obviously, but do you honestly think your voice will last long term?
When I first went to see the doctor, she pretty much said that if I went out and sang that night, that could be the end. Which is a really tough thing to hear. But I didn’t heed that advice all that well. When I heard that, that was the first day of a seven-week tour… and we did six of those weeks [laughs]. After those six weeks, I couldn’t speak; I couldn’t even make a sound. It was pretty tough.
One option I had was therapy. The first part of it was to not speak for two weeks. That was really isolating and just a really weird experience. Then there was the recovery month for it after that, too. But we’ve just finished our first tour since I had these problems, [and] I’m feeling pretty good.
Good to hear! Also, that therapy sounds pretty full-on, I don’t think a lot of non-singers could do that, either. If you don’t mind me asking, what where there any other therapy techniques or routines you were given?
It was a two-fold situation. I have a speech-language pathologist, who is kind of like a physical therapist for your voice. There’s a whole bunch of muscles in there that if you keep them loose and not tense, you’re less likely to cause damage again.
The other thing was getting a vocal coach and learning to sing better. Then there are lifestyle choices, like your diet, getting sleep, not doing as many drugs – all that boring shit. It’s just a whole bunch of things that you need to do to protect your voice. Unfortunately, I learned all of that the hard way, but I’m taking all of those steps at once to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Well, that seems like such a PUP thing to do, honestly. It seems like a very punk rock thing on your part to just go ‘Fuck it, we’ll play anyway’ and prove them wrong.
Well, the doctor literally said to me, ‘Your dream is over’. So I asked if I should just quit the band, go home and get a job at the bank or something, and she said ‘yes’. In my brain, I thought that if this was it, then I might as well just go down in flames. If I’m not going to be able to sing in a band one day, I might as well do it until I can’t. so…fuck it!
[Laughs] Love that attitude Stefan, I really do. Changing gears, with the PUPtendo game and the ‘DVP’ music video I take it you guys are, or at least, were very big gamers?
The other three are more gamers than me, but yes, definitely. We all grew up anywhere between Super Nintendo to Nintendo 64, and all that stuff.
Right on. Do you revisit those old games every now and then or do you play more modern titles?
I haven’t played a video game any more advanced than a Nintendo 64 game [laughs]. The only kind of games that I enjoy these days is the occasional Mario Kart, hockey, and sports games. I wish I could answer that better, man.
All good, figured I’d ask anyway. It’s not every day that a band makes a video game, no matter how simple. In this day and age, I think there are too many of the same music videos being made, but you guys have some really interesting, really engaging videos that keep your eyes glued to the screen. I think that’s integral for a band to stand out, what do you think about that?
Yeah, I really think so [too]. I think it’s a very cool opportunity for bands to really go beyond the music. Our good friend, Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux, he’s pretty much the fifth member of PUP, and we collaborate on every video that we do. We’ve been lucky to have him around.
Finally, you guys have obviously played a lot of shows so you must have a few crazy tour stories? If there were one or two that stick out in your mind, I’d love to hear them!
Sure thing, there are a lot. Let me think for a second… the first time we played in the U.K. we played in some town at a 400 capacity venue, but we only had 25 people watching us. They were stoked on us. But you can’t really have a 25-person mosh pit in a 400 capacity room. So these people formed a human pyramid during our set. The dude at the top was level with me on the stage and he was high-fiving us. We had a great time and everyone got super drunk afterwards. It was a really special show for us.
Aw, that’s awesome, dude. I’ve only seen a human pyramid done well once at a gig. Anyway, we’ll have to leave it there Stefan, thank you for your time today.
Have a good day!
‘The Dream Is Over’ is out now. You can read our review here.
Catch PUP touring this October. Details via: WWW.XIIITOURING.COM.