If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You: The Story of PUP

PUP (abbreviation for Pathetic Use of Potential) is a Canadian punk rock band formed in TorontoOntario in 2010, originally under the name Topanga. PUP’s self-titled debut album was released on October 8, 2013 on Royal Mountain Records. In December 2013, PUP signed with SideOneDummy Records and re-released their debut album in the United States on April 8, 2014. The group was in the studio in late 2015 recording their second album The Dream Is Over which was released on May 27, 2016 through SideOneDummyThe band’s third album, titled Morbid Stuffwas released on April 5, 2019. “Pup is a band that means a lot to me. Their musicc constantly talks about the type of pain that young people deal the with.” – Matthew Wareham, sophomore at Kennesaw State University.


PUP posing for a picture for the promotion of their album “The Dreams is Over”.

Bassist Nestor Chumak, guitarist Steve Sladkowski, and drummer Zack Mykula are childhood friends who attended school in Toronto together. Two of them met in third grade, and the third met them in high school at Humberside Collegiate Institute.  Throughout their childhood, they played in several bands together. Vocalist and guitarist Stefan Babcock also grew up playing in bands in Toronto. During high school, Babcock was the lead guitarist for a ska band called Stop Drop N Skank that he formed with some of his classmates at Earl Haig Secondary School. Babcock encountered Chumak, Sladkowski, and Mykula on occasion at local Toronto music venues, but was not close with them at the time. 

After high school, Babcock’s band Stop Drop N Skank dissolved. While attending Ryerson University, he worked with Nestor Chumak to record a song he had written for a school project. The project went well, and the duo teamed up with Chumak’s friends Sladkowski and Mykula to form a group called Topanga. The name comes from Topanga Matthews, a character on the 1990s Disney sitcom Boy Meets World whom the band has called “our first middle-school crush.” They decided to record a four-track EP together, although Babcock says that at the time, they considered this a one-off project and didn’t think of themselves as a “real band.” Topanga EP was released as a free download on December 7, 2010. “I once saw PUP live at the Masquerade in Atlanta, my far one of the best shows I’ve ever been to.”- Anthony Scott, junior at Kennesaw State University. 

Shortly after the release of their debut EP, the band began performing live together. They played their first show ever at the Bovine Sex Clubin January 2011. According to Babcock, the EP was gaining traction online, and they began receiving increasingly better show offers. By the beginning of 2012, they had begun touring with Hollerado and were signed to Hollerado’s label, Royal Mountain Records. On February 15, 2012, they released the two-track Oceans 7″ with Royal Mountain. “PUP is by far one of my favorite bands of all time, I just really enjoy that type of punk-emo style that they give off.” – Chris Mathis, Kennesaw State University.

pup 2

PUP playing a wild show at an underground venue, the crowd is super pumped and happy.

In 2012, Topanga began contemplating making their first full-length album, and wanted to find a producer who could help them capture their heavy performance style in a studio recording. Inspired by The Bronx‘s 2008 self-titled album, they were interested in working with its producer, Dave Schiffman, an industry veteran who had worked with artists such as Rage Against the MachineWeezer, and Anti-Flag. They sent him a demo, and, to their surprise, he liked it and soon flew to Toronto to begin working on their album. 

While working on the album, the band decided to change their name from Topanga to something else. According to Babcock, they felt the name was less fitting now that they had locked down a heavy punk rock style (as opposed to the lighter rock style they had played early on). In addition, Disney had announced a new spinoff series based on Boy Meets World, and the band didn’t want to be associated with it. After a few months of uncertainty, they decided on the name PUP. The name was inspired by Babcock’s grandmother, who told him that playing in a rock band was a “pathetic use of potential” (P.U.P.).  The band officially announced their new name via social media on April 16, 2013.

The upcoming album’s release date was set for October 8, 2013. From September to the end of November 2013, PUP joined Holleradoand the Zolas on a 24-stop tour across Canada to promote the album. Upon its release, the self-titled debut album was met with critical praise. The Calgary Herald named PUP one of Canada’s best new bands, and Stereogum listed them as one of the top 40 new bands of 2013. PUP won two Bucky Awards from CBC Radio 3 for Best Live Show and Best New Artist in 2013 and was nominated for Best Video.  

In December 2013, PUP signed with SideOneDummy Records and re-released their debut album in the United States on April 8, 2014.  In 2014, they went on their first tour of the UK, playing 8 shows around the country with the UK band Slaves. The first two shows of the tour in London were part of the NME Awards tour.  After that they played South By Southwest in Austin, Texas, followed by several more London shows and the Groezrock festival in Belgium. In May they started an extensive tour of the US with the MenzingersLemuria and Cayetana, playing 32 shows in 39 days. In August they opened for the Hives in London, England, and then played at Reading and Leeds Festivals. In September 2014, they made their first appearance on Riot Fest at Chicago and Toronto.


Album art for PUP’s latest album “Morbid Stuff”.

In late 2014, PUP completed its first head-lining tour of Canada and the US, culminating in a sold-out concert at Toronto’s Lee’s Palacefeaturing a “next level” performance. In early 2015, PUP completed a multi-city tour of Australia, supporting The Smith Street Band. PUP then participated in the 2015 Vans Warped Tour, joining the tour for the month of July, including a highly anticipated date in Toronto, the band’s hometown and place where the band has enjoyed success. This was the band’s first time playing the Molson Amphitheatre. Between October and December 2015, the group supported Modern Baseball on their headlining US tour. 

 all photos are derived from Creative Commons 

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