PUP released Morbid Stuff earlier this year, their third studio album and arguably their most complete work to date. The Toronto-based four piece has taken it all over the world, and while stopping off in Europe, drummer Zack Mykula took some time to chat about growing into their sound and the band’s work ethic.
Where does Morbid Stuff rank among your favorite PUP records thus far?
I think that remains to be seen, but I think we all believe it was our best concerted effort. We’re super stoked with how it came out and how naturally we worked together. I guess that’s a combination of us learning how to play and write together for so long. It just came together better than anything we’ve done before. That’s a cool feeling.
You’ve established a very unique sound. It’s young; it’s angsty. As you grow into your thirties, do you think the sound will evolve? Or will you always stick with what’s worked?
I’d like to believe that we’ve never “stuck to what’s worked” in the larger sense. We’re always experimenting and trying to find better ways of doing things. Trying new ideas. Trying old ones. That’s always been part of the process. I hope it evolves. That’s kind of the goal behind creating music; finding new things and trying them out.
Ten years ago when you were forming this band, what were you listening to then?
I can only speak to us individually. I was probably into different stuff that the other guys. It was all about just trying stuff until we found something that worked. There was no grand design other than figuring out a band name and writing songs.
That period of time was great for Canadian rock music. What do you attribute that wave of music to and why it caught on in the States?
I don’t know if it had anything to do with being Canadian. Mostly what’s worked for us is just continuing to try our best constant and never being tired of the process. We work and try to dig in the corners and look for success that way.
It was happening during a time when I think Americans kind of dismissed rock music as dead. But up there, there were you guys, Japandroids, Metz – you were all playing hard rock music and folks here were loving it. Is that why it may have been a little easier?
Well, it hasn’t been easy in any sense of the word. [laughs] We’re always busting our [expletive] to play and write music and get heard. I think that’s the same for a lot of bands. Each of us has been trying for over 15 years to play music as a job. I wouldn’t call it easy. And I couldn’t say that’s a Canadian thing because there are lots of bands in lots of places all over the earth that have a good work ethic. They’re grinding and digging in corners and trying their best. Sometimes stuff comes of it; sometimes stuff doesn’t.
What was it like when you were able to quit your day job?
It was scary. That was essentially at the beginning of what the band is today. We had learned that we were going to go on tour; we were planning on recording a record. That was as far as we had thought. And we were getting out of our major entanglements. There was with a lot of trepidation that we took it to our bosses and hoped they would understand. By and large, they did. But it was scary for us. It’s hard to say there’s a moment where we’re like, “Yes, this is what we do. This is our job.” because success is incremental. You’re always trying to get over the hill. You’re trying to make your next goal, and when that goal is met, you make a new goal. There’s always a step that you had after you get somewhere. There’s not been an epiphany or anything. I guess, in general, that’s what owning a business is like. It’s cool that you’re self directed, but you’ve got to keep your eye on the ball, so to speak.
A few years ago, you played more than 400 shows in a two year span. Is that the only way to get over that hill now?
There’s not a lot else you can do. You’ve got to be seen. You’ve got to be in front of people. You’ve got to know the crowds and make friends in the scene. You’ve got to play with bands that are kind of like you, but different enough that you can grow an audience. There’s just so many factors. You’re always looking in every direction to find a way to make headway. There are so many ways to go about it, but for us, that was definitely the way. Just play as much as possible and be tireless about it, but also be smart. And try your best to make a lot of friends; and we still have a lot of friends. We had friends that would go to bat for us in the early days. We’re extremely lucky to be where we are, and it’s in no small part because of those people. You’ve got to nurture the scene, and you only get in return what you give.
PUP returns to Saturn on Sunday, September 22. Illuminati Hotties and Potty Mouth open. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the show begins at 7 p.m.