PUP with Grounders at the Garrison (1197 Dundas West), Friday (January 31), doors 9 pm. $10. RT, SS, TSW.
In the gory video for PUP's song Reservoir, the energetic Toronto band endure increasingly disturbing onstage injuries as they pogo their way through the high-octane pop-punk anthem.
While none of the members have been impaled by cymbals in real life (yet), they've spilled enough blood onstage to be a little nervous about the very real possibility of getting teeth knocked out on their upcoming UK tour far away from their Canadian dentists.
"There have been a lot of real injuries," admits singer/guitarist Stefan Babcock as we sip coffee. "I smashed the headstock of my guitar into my head in Victoria and ripped my face open, and that was not great. I sprained my ankle in the middle of a show in Whistler and had to just keep duct-taping it up every night until we got home and I could recover. You get beaned in the face with microphones all the time at venues where there's no stage. We're learning, though: I used to play barefoot, but I've stepped on enough broken glass by now that I've stopped doing that."
Originally known as Topanga, PUP played shows continually for three years before releasing their self-titled debut album last fall. Their goal was to become a tight live act before committing it to disc.
Not only did that strategy pay off - their album successfully captures their raw energy - but it also helped them build a dedicated fan base long before signing with L.A. punk label SideOneDummy and getting write-ups in NME.
"We'd book these little weekend tours and try to play three markets each week," explains Babcock. "The first run of them were terrible, playing to three or four people. Granted, we weren't a great live band at that time, but each time we'd hit Montreal or Ottawa, a few more people would come to see us. It was a really slow build."
Guitarist Steve Sladkowski interjects: "A lot of it was learning how to take care of our bodies on tour. You can't go out and get drunk every night and treat yourselves like shit."
That groundwork is paying off in the music press, and the band has a busy year of full-fledged international touring ahead, not to mention unexpected new opportunities like appearing on Jian Ghomeshi's radio show.
But as much as those things impress their parents, they speak much more passionately about the all-ages punk scene they came out of, which has been struggling as key venues close.
"Well, there's no Big Bop any more. There's no central place that on a regular basis gives a band that Sunday-afternoon slot for all the kids to come down to," Sladkowski says.
"That space created this community and a whole generation of kids from Toronto who wanted to be in bands," Babcock continues wistfully.
"That is the only reason I play music now: because I got to go to shows when I was 15 and 16, so I think it's really important for us to give back to that community [by playing all-ages shows] as much as we can."