Rising Toronto punk band Pup isn’t named for a small dog, though its members know it seems that way. The group's seemingly innocuous name is an acronym for “Pathetic Use of Potential,” which is how singer and frontman Stefan Babcock’s grandmother described his career choice when he and three friends formed the band in 2010.
Born out of the same exceptionally strong Toronto punk scene that gave the world Fucked Up and Metz, Pup cut its teeth opening for other bands and taking midday slots on the now-defunct Warped Tour. The band is now leading its own “tour-pocalypse” and will headline Fort Lauderdale’s Culture Room Wednesday, September 18.
It almost didn’t happen that way. Between the group's first and second records, after two years of heavy touring, Babcock saw a doctor when his vocal cords didn't feel right. He received crushing news. The doctor told him he'd never sing again and went as far to say, "The dream is over." Against all odds, Babcock continued to sing, and when it came time to name the band’s second record, the group went with The Dream Is Over.
Pup’s most recent album, 2019’s Morbid Stuff, was a breakthrough in a number of ways. Sonically, the record is a major step up from the band’s previous work, but it’s most notable for the lyrical deep dive Babcock takes into the darkest recesses of his despondency.
On the record, Babcock invites listeners into his punk therapy session, dealing with his depression through earworm riffs and trademark biting wit. Morbid Stuff is the most focused, emotionally affecting, and altogether dialed-in effort of the band’s career, and it has catapulted the Toronto punks to a new level of prominence. The record made the shortlist for the 2019 Polaris Prize, broke into the Billboard Top 200, and led the band to headline the biggest shows of its career this year.
As the bandmates anticipate their forthcoming South Florida show in light of the group's recent success, Babcock tells New Times: "It's been forever since Pup last played Florida. The last time, we almost got arrested for blasting off fireworks on the beach to celebrate Canada Day, which I guess is not an internationally recognized holiday and, therefore, you aren't supposed to be blowing shit up in a public area. Makes sense."
For its (let's hope arrest-free) return to South Florida, Pup will be joined by Illuminati Hotties and Potty Mouth, both admirable openers that should make for a can’t-miss night of bubblegum-tinged guitar rock. Culture Room is known for hosting some of the rowdiest shows in the region, and if the atmosphere at the band’s previous shows is any indication, the Fort Lauderdale date will be no different.
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