By Troy Hasselman, October 15 2019 —
On the heels of the release of their third studio album Morbid Stuff, PUP has scaled new heights. The band has maintained the critical acclaim they won with 2016’s The Dream Is Over, garnering their second short-list nomination for the prestigious Polaris Prize and getting raves from big publications like Pitchfork and NME. PUP has also grown themselves to new levels of popularity by playing some of the biggest venues of their career on the massive tour that accompanies the album. The band began their year-long tour behind the album with a show at Calgary’s Commonwealth Bar & Stage in March and are now returning to our city for a show at the — much bigger — MacEwan Hall on Oct. 11. This year’s successes have not changed the band, however. They still carry themselves with the same self-consciousness and self-deprecation that comes through so clearly in their work and they still tour just as relentlessly as they did when they were on their long come-up. The Gauntlet spoke to drummer Zack Mykula before the band’s show in Calgary about touring, the new album and where the band goes from here.
The Gauntlet: The last time you were in Calgary was the first headlining show you played in 2019. How do the shows feel six months later? Do you feel more confident in the new material? Do the audiences feel different?
Zack Mykula: Personally, I feel about the same about our role in the whole thing. We may be better or tighter at this point than we were last time we were in Calgary. But we all still feel the same in that we still are very proud of this record. To that point though, as others have gotten deeper into the material, I feel the crowds have gotten more responsive and intense, if anything. It’s been gratifying to see.
G: On this tour you’ve upgraded to using a tour bus. Has that had an impact on how you feel on a day-to-day basis on tour? Do you ever find yourself nostalgic for the days of grinding it out in a van and sleeping on floors?
ZM: I’d argue that if you miss not sleeping enough, there’s something wrong with you. So no, I am not nostalgic about the method by which we toured — especially since on this Canadian tour, we’re back to a van, and have been travelling in a van for most of the year — but, I do have lots of nice memories of the early days. Again, by and large, we’ve spent most of our time touring this year in a van, so there’s little chance of me forgetting, let alone getting nostalgic about it.
G: You’re just wrapping up what looks like a pretty gruelling tour of the South and Midwest. Have you been able to hold onto some semblance of a day-to-day routine while travelling and playing that many shows?
ZM: Same routine as always. Sleep. Coffee. (Bathroom.) Beer. Rock. Sleep. Not the best for you, but hey. Sometimes you break it up by overindulgence and sometimes indulgence is all you have to rip you from the cyclical nature of your working life. Reading and Nintendo Switch are good, too.
G: This tour you also began a new initiative where you’ve partnered with a different charity in each city you’re touring in to represent themselves at each show. How do you feel about the initiative after having it for a few months? How have you felt about the reception to it?
ZM: I am gratified that people have gotten into it, and we are extremely grateful to the charities who have stepped up and represented themselves at shows. Not always easy with the nature of volunteering and charity work as it is. Either way, I am glad that our audiences are so in sync with us as far as trying to make a difference in their and our communities.
G: Morbid Stuff captures a lot of the uncertainty and hardship that makes up life in 2019 for so many people, while at the same time being a mostly musically upbeat album that’s also funny at a lot of times. Does that reflect your perspective on hard times? Do you try to look at the funny or more ridiculous parts of what you’re making music about?
ZM: I think we’re all pretty sardonic. Stefan is really good at capturing that attitude in his lyrics. Laugh through the pain while also trying to become a better person for yourself and the people around you. It’s a hard life so you may as well make fun (of each other).
G: This has been a very busy year for the band. Are you looking at taking a break in the new year, staying on the road or looking ahead at the next album?
ZM: Always looking forward. Always maintaining low expectations. There will be breaks, for sure. But we only know one speed, and I don’t foresee that abating any time soon.
G: Your shows are known for being energetic and communal. How much does the energy from the audience have an impact on your performance? Has it been able to pull you through shows where your energy level wasn’t quite there?
ZM: The show isn’t the show without the audience. That’s obviously a fatuous statement. But, to be honest, it’s accurate. No matter how hard the show or how poorly it may be going (to us as our worst critics). How bad we’re feeling physically or emotionally. It’s the audience that gives us our strength. We owe everything to them.
G: You’ve been playing larger venues on this tour. Are there new challenges that come with playing larger venues? Do you feel like you’ve moved up a level in terms of popularity?
ZM: The shows are definitely feeling more intense just by virtue of finding new audiences. But we still hope to maintain the same community-mindedness we always have. The real challenge has been reaching every person in the room, even as the audience expands. It’s definitely been at the forefront of our minds as we’ve moved through the first phase of this album cycle. It’s not easy trying to make sure everyone has a good time, but it’s definitely rewarding.