Formed back in 2015, Toronto-based punk act PUP — Stefan Babcock, Nestor Chumak, Zack Mykula and Steve Sladowski — quickly became punk scene darlings with their first two albums, which received critical applause from The New York Times, Pitchfork, NPR, Rolling Stone and a long list of others.
The band’s third and latest album, last year’s Morbid Stuff found the band maturing and further honing the approach and sound that won them international attention — by doubling down on the gang’s-all-here vocals, big power chord-driven choruses and lyrics about death. And as a result, the album’s material teeters between gleeful chaos and bleak oblivion while delving into Stefan Babcock’s struggles with depression. In some way, admitting his depression allowed him to take some control — and to laugh in its face. The album was released to critical applause, and as a result of a rapidly growing profile, the band wound up making their late-night Stateside television debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers. They also supported the album with a largely sold-out world tour that found them on the road for most of the year.
The band’s latest single, the breakneck “Anaphylaxis” is the first batch of new material from the band this year and the single which features shouted, “the gang’s-all-in” vocals, rousing hooks, enormous power chords and thunderous drumming is the sort of song that’s simultaneously a mosh-pit friendly ripper and the “raise-a-beer-with-your-buddies-and-shout-along” anthem, centered around lyrics that balance sincerity with heavily winking irony. Everything is falling apart all around us — and holy shit, ain’t it kind of funny that it is?
“I got the idea for the song when I was at my partner’s cottage and her cousin got stung by a bee and his whole head started to swell up,” says singer Stefan Babcock. “His wife, although she was concerned, also thought it was pretty hilarious and started making fun of him even as they were headed to the hospital. He ended up being totally fine, but it was just funny to watch him freaking out and her just lighting him up at the same time. It reminded me of all the times I’ve started panicking for whatever reason and was convinced I was dying and the world was ending and no one would take me seriously. In retrospect, I always find those overreactions pretty funny. So we wrote a goofy song about being a hypochondriac and tried to make our guitars sound like bees at the beginning of it.”
The band got together — virtually — to record a live version of the song that features three of the members playing in their houses or practice space with the band’s Stefan Babcock in the backseat of his van. “During our quarantine, I couldn’t go to our jam space,” the band’s Stefan Babcock says in press notes. “I also live in a small apartment and my neighbours understandably get very annoyed and/or concerned about my mental state when they hear me yelling my head off about getting stung by bees or killing my bandmates or whatever garbage these dumb songs are about. So I started making demos and recording in my car in a parking lot across the street from my house. Every few minutes, cops would slowly drive past to see what the unhinged kid in the busted up Ford Escape was doing. But I’m white, so lucky me, my biggest worry was that they’d judge my precious lyrics. White privilege is real. Defund the police.”