The life of a contemporary touring musician includes an abundance of grueling hurdles. Obstacles that paint life on the road differently than the lavished fame and fortuned experience that music striving millennials may have dreamed of. A more realistic example of the experience is meticulously chronicled through the perspective of Canadian punk quintet Pup in the music video for their song, “Dark Days,” released last July.
The video is an animated glimpse of the band’s touring life. While tirelessly driving a tattered van through snowstorms and flashing passports, the late-twenties Torontonian buddies Facetime significant others on shattered phone screens and puke in empty dive bars from too much boozing between playing gigs and sleeping upright. Their journey has high moments as well, though it is hard to overlook the rock star dream’s inevitable “disillusionment,” as singer and rhythm guitarist Stefan Babcock would call it.
“I started realizing in my mid twenties that you’re faced with some sort of disillusionment at a certain point where you’ve grown up being told you can do anything you want and you think that, ‘when I grow up this is what I’m going to do,’ and at a certain point you face up to the fact that… man… you’re pretty much grown up!” said Babcock.
“And maybe those dreams were not realistic or not compatible with your lifestyle or your skill set,” he added, “but you just have to learn to adapt and it can be a pretty cold, hard reality check but that’s called growing up ya know?”
In hindsight, the video for Pup’s “Dark Days,” which is an uplifting, catchy punk anthem and highlight of their self-titled first full length, accurately depicts their last two years of perpetual globetrotting. That record earned plenty of critical praise including Rolling Stone’s Break Out Acts of 2014.
“Part of the success of that record probably was us just writing for ourselves,” said Babcock. “We didn’t expect the first record to be anything.”
On May 27, Pup will release their sophomore LP, which has many similar themes of “disillusionment and disappointment and frustration.”
It is theoretically titled, The Dream Is Over.
Babcock, who suffered a band—threatening vocal injury last July, titled the new record after a conversation he had with the doctor who diagnosed his hemorrhaging. His screaming style is one of the factors that forced Pup to drop out of several tour dates with Modern Baseball, Jeff Rosenstock and Tiny Moving Parts.
“I don’t think there’s a technical way to do what I do,” said Babcock.
“The way I sing is technically incorrect but it sounds the way it does because I do it and I’m not really willing to forfeit that,” he added.
The band’s constant gigging was the contributing factor.
“There were times when we did thirty some shows in a row, which is a lot for your voice without a day off and then there would be days during those thirty days where we’d play a show and someone would ask if we could play their house party after the show and we’d say sure, fine, why not?” said Babcock.
After two weeks of vocal rest, Babcock was offered the option of surgery, which would have cost him have six months to a year.
“I kind of got this once in a lifetime opportunity and I don’t know if it’s still going to be around in a year,” said Babcock.
Recently, Babcock has been exercising his voice to rehabilitate it and is looking forward to getting back on the road after just a handful of stationary months.
“I’m a little nervous but I feel a lot healthier than I did going into our last tour,” said Babcock.
He added, “And it’s always nerve racking after spending so much time off but you just gotta get back on the horse and do it and I’m confident. I’ve been working hard on recovering so I’m confident that everything is cool.”
In June Babcock and friends Steve Sladkowski (lead guitar), Nestor Chumak (bass guitar) and Zack Mykula (drums) will be back in their element, their van. They’ll be headlining the “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” tour with Rozwell Kid. Charly Bliss and Pkew Pkew Pkew will be splitting the opening duties.
The tour opens at the Pikeroom in Pontiac.
“We’ve never played in Pontiac so I’m not exactly sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to it,” said Babcock.
“From what I know there’s a pretty solid punk rock scene out there and we’ve always had pretty good luck going to new towns and Michigan and our Ontario stomping grounds are pretty similar so hopefully it will be good,” he added.
“Our last Detroit show was a lot of fun so hopefully this one will pick it up a notch.”