Pup got its start in 2010 as Topanga. Under that name, the band released the EP Lionheart. Since rebranding as Pup in 2013, the bandmates dropped three albums, each more popular than the one before. Frontman Stefan Babcock, bassist Nestor Chumak, guitarist Steve Sladkowski and drummer Zack Mykula, all in their early thirties, have spent the past decade touring the United States and Canada, and they're doing it again.
Along the way, Babcock says, they have struggled to be confident in their writing process, to stay unified in direction, and to push themselves to put out their best material. “We don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what others think we should be doing, mostly because we’re too focused on how we can best give back to the music.”
Much as he did on the band’s first two records with Pup, Babcock used his own experiences to shape the band’s sound and message. “I’ve learned that I’m not poetic in the traditional sense, so my lyrics, except for one song on each album, are all autobiographical,” he says.
The songs exude potent youthful energy; they’re about being reckless but also free. In part, they were inspired by the experiences of the four bandmates (also childhood friends) suffering through Canada’s cold winters. Now the band’s live shows are high-energy ragers, where fans often mosh to Babcock’s full-throated howls.
Pup’s new album, Morbid Stuff, which comes in at under forty minutes, is filled with earnest, autobiographical songs about love, resentment and personal struggles. There are anthems like “See You at Your Funeral” and sinister-yet-jolly tracks like “Bloody, Mary, Kate & Ashley,” filled with nonsensical energy. At times, the lyrics are downright macabre.
When it comes to booking shows, the members of Pup are committed to making the experience one that’s inviting to all, and they’re particularly concerned about creating diverse lineups — even if their own band comprises all heterosexual white men. To do so, the band has invited opening acts including Charly Bliss, Casper Skulls and Screaming Females, to increase the number of women and non-binary people on stage.
“While it wasn’t forced on the members to bring non-binary and female bands on the road,” Babcock says, Pup is making “a conscious effort to bridge the gap.”
Pup plays with Screaming Females and the Drew Thompson Foundation at 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, at the Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue. Tickets are $22 to $25 and available at axs.com.