Regardless of what their name might suggest, PUP is a Toronto four-piece with some serious bite. When you see them live, it's clear that their bloody, sweat-soaked, shirt-ripping romps in videos like "Reservoir" and "Lion Heart" are only a few shades away from the reality of what you can expect when they're playing right in front of you. The stabbing guitars, wrecking ball intensity and sing-a-long choruses deliver raw, palpable energy. It's the kind of music that resonates authentically with everyone from DIY punk kids to big time producer Dave Schiffman, who singed on to help the band record their self-titled SideOne Dummy debut, released in April. Before the band plays the Roxy tomorrow night, we took a few minutes to talk to guitarist Steve Sladkowsi about the band's recent beginnings from a basement project to full-blown buzz band.
OC Weekly (Nate Jackson): I just got finished watching your video for "Guilt Trip." I'm assuming that's really the way you guys came together as a band.
Steve Sladkowsi: Yeah it was cool, it was an idea that was pitched to us by two friends Chandler Levack and Jeremy Schaulin-Rioux who happened to be incredible directors and editors. They also did our "Reservoir" video and our "Lion Heart" video as well. We're lucky to have friends who have great vision and talent. There may have been some historical distortions in that video [Laughs].
How long have you guys been playing together?
We've been playing together on and off in different projects for a decade. But this formation and this band has only been going for two to three years. And a lot of that was us just in a rehearsal space writing. We've really only been playing shows for the last year or so. But it's not our first band experience together.
Has the chemistry and familiarity of being in bands together before helped you when it comes to writing and tracking PUP songs?
It became apparent to us in previous attempts to record the music that it didn't have the same sort of energy or vibe that people were telling us the live show had. So we really tried to capture that this time around.
How did your producer, Dave Schiffman, who has worked with huge bands like Weezer, Rage Against the Machine and The Bronx hear about you guys and decide to work with you?
Going into this album, our manager told us to come up with a list of producers we'd love to work with regardless of who they are and he was at the top of the list. We sent him some tracks, totally thinking he was gonna dismiss us as these idiots from Toronto. But he was actually into it. So he flew up to Toronto and we got to hang out and he got to know the tunes a little but more intimately and a couple months later we were making a record. It was a moment where we were all like 'wow, maybe this isn't just a basement project after all.' That was really exciting.
Describe the punk/ indie scene like in Toronto when you were growing up and just starting to perform.
Growing up, the scene was all based in a series of venues housed in one building called The Reverb. The Cathedral and the Big Bop were the big ones where you could go see your friends from high school playing in some ska band but you could also go see Rancid there. It kinda gave everyone a shot. We used to go to the Horseshoe and see see bands too. There's a healthy scene in Toronto and a lot of supportive punk bands and stuff. There are people doing interesting new things and collaborating all the time.
What's it like for you guys as a band playing in the U.S. as you begin to tour here?
It's been a totally crazy opportunity. It was sort of overwhelming at first. We had to get work visas and figure out a lot of different things as far as logistics. There were people in various border towns who had heard our music through word of mouth or through the BBC which picked up our music sometimes. But going from that to having Side One pick us up, was crazy. I guess they'd heard us on our Bandcamp site and from there, they came over to see us last October and they were really excited and passionate about us and they continue to be. And that's the only thing we know now–touring, being on the road. That's the only way to really be sustainable. We've loved touring America and getting to see parts of it we'd never get to see otherwise. It's crazy to think that three years ago we were sitting in a basement just writing songs.
Now it seems you've gotten some real hometown love with the Toronto Blue Jays playing your song "Lion Heart" at the stadium during the games.
Yeah, that's a particularly big thing for me since I'm like the biggest Jays fan. Someone tweeted that at us the other day and I lost my mind a little bit. But it was great. It's totally surprising and humbling. We're still really just enjoying the ride and looking forward to keeping this band going.