“If this were a song,” PUP vocalist Stefan Babcock says during our interview, “I would go back for a rewrite and make it more cynical.”
We were talking about the excellent new album THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND (arriving Friday, April 1st) and the “rewarding experience” of fans connecting with a song. But Babcock can hardly finish the thought before cutting himself off: “That sounds so fucking cheesy.”
“Cheese” is a favored insult, or perhaps something like a worst fear. Babcock says that the track “Robot Writes a Love Song” comes from the perspective of a machine because it allowed him “to write about real emotions without going too deep down the cheese rabbit hole,” and he’s wary of “songs that are more based in positivity… coming across as cheesy or a ska song or something.”
That’s not the first time that “ska” has been used as an insult, but Babcock’s concerns seem personal. Throughout our chat, he shows a self-consciousness that isn’t shared by the rest of PUP. Guitarist Steve Sladkowski goes deep on the “logic of capitalism” and the tension between art and commerce that lurks behind tracks like “PUPTHEBAND Inc. Is Filing for Bankruptcy,” while Babcock says, “I think we were just trying to be as stupid as possible.”
Elsewhere, talk to turns Neil Young and Spotify, and Babcock laughingly cautions his bandmates, “Careful! Careful guys.” It’s a warning drummer Zack Mykula promptly ignores, calling Young’s decision to deplatform himself “cool,” and adding, “If you are jumping a platform for ethical reasons and keeping other platforms, I think you need to look at the content on all of the platforms.”
And after bassist Nestor Chumak tells a sweet story about audiences gifting them toy chameleons, Babcock is temporarily sidetracked by that “rewarding experience” mentioned earlier, only to shut himself down.
At the end of our time together, he explains where this reticence comes from:
“I could talk about the lyrics and how I’m trying to make this big statement and it wouldn’t be completely false. But I think the point that I would more like to focus on here is that this album is called THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND… and it is literally the sound of the four of us unraveling. Like, losing our collective minds thinking that saxophone freakout solos would be a good idea.
It’s some of the goofiest parts on the whole record and it’s some of the dumbest lyrics of the whole record, and a part of that is, yeah, we were losing our minds by the end of the process, but that shit’s funny. Music is supposed to be fun.”
PUP also spoke about how technology is changing humanity, the worst industry advice they ever received, and much more. Watch the full interview above.