Toronto-based punk rockers PUP have racked up awards, been lauded by Rolling Stone and have performed on Last Call with Carson Daly. In anticipation of their Dec. 28 show at The Paramount along with Thursday and Frank Iero and the Patience, we spoke to guitarist Steve Sladkowski about endless touring, old school video games, his connection to Finn Wolfhard of Stranger Things, plus sports, music and life.
Long Island Press: You guys have actually been out here to the Paramount and Jones Beach before, did you get to see Long Island at all?
Steve Sladkowski: Yeah a good friend of ours actually lives on Long Island and we’ve stayed with him a couple of times, we stayed with him after that Paramount show, and we were able to just hang out, you know get bagels and just sort of chill out. Yeah it was great. Paramount is a beautiful theater, the staff was great, I’m really excited to be back it’s nice to play kind of old historic theaters.
LIP: So you guys tour all the time, I saw in an interview you’ve done something like 600 shows?
SS: Yeah a couple of years back we did like 250 in a calendar year, which was a bit suicidal. I think at this point it’s sort of been so much of…how you grow a project and how you really connect with fans is by taking the project on the road, you know? People aren’t buying records kind of anywhere these days but especially not for bands that sound like us, because we are more album driven rather than single, and you know I’m cool with that, and it’s nice to tour and kind of grow a project that way. It’s very organic and there’s more people at every show we play so it doesn’t feel as rough as it could feel.
LIP: Yeah it’s interesting, no one buys records and that industry has declined but there is definitely a more grassroots feel to it now and it’s cool in its own way, although maybe there’s not quite as much money in all of it.
SS: Yeah if you’re looking for money then maybe you should be in finance…and I think the way it’s kind of broken has benefited bands like us who are willing to work hard and be dedicated to a project and a band for all the right reasons.
LIP: Are there any smaller towns that surprised you or impressed you at all?
SS: Yeah there are a lot, you know one of the places that we’ve consistently had great shows that we never would have expected is in the state of Iowa believe it or not. We’ve had a lot of really cool little shows there. You know any place you play where bands don’t come through as often as, you know, the coastal regions or some of the major cities…are always very, very appreciative. But yeah I feel like some of the small Midwestern states often are some of the most surprising. They’re very punk rock, you know, they take care of their own. You never have to worry about the mosh pit getting out of control because the people who control it are the ones who are in it.
LIP: What do you listen to?
SS: We listen to Sword and Scale obviously, there’s a current events podcast I listen to when we’re on the road, you know it’s hard to keep up with what’s going on in Canada, it’s called Canada Land. It’s just like a current events and media criticism podcast, and we were lucky to, we hung out with Roman Mars who does 99% Invisible in Oakland last time we were there. He’s super cool he’s like an old D.C. Dischord punk, which was an insane thing to find out, so we listen to that podcast and you know obviously This American Life is a great one. And you know music too, we try to listen to new music or stuff that we wouldn’t necessarily be encountering all the time in clubs. So that’s anything from you know your Kendrick Lamar to your Waxahatchee to Devo to all kinds of stuff.
LIP: It’s interesting how hip hop kind of influences any [genre of] music today.
SS: Yeah and it’s kind of the great, in my opinion, the great, like, cultural movement and artform of our generation…I’m 29, I’m almost 30, and hip hop has been such a significant part, and I wouldn’t even consider myself. I’m a bit of a head but I’m by no means a super big connoisseur and I love hip hop and I know a fair amount about it. But even just being on the periphery, it’s so influential and in Toronto now especially you know R&B and Hip Hop are such a force from Drake on down…our guy Daniel Caesar who we’ve played a couple of gigs with just got two Grammy nominations, which is amazing.
LIP: The DVP and Old Wounds videos are old school video game based, they’re awesome, do you guys still play those 8-bit and 16-bit games at all?
SS: A little bit, I still have an OG Sega Genesis but I want to get one of those new consoles that have an actual port for the cartridges. But you know I don’t have a ton of time for video games now, just because when we’re on the road I’m actually trying to, you know, stare less at screens? Trying to read just to kind of balance myself out, but I do really love the classic SNES and Sega Genesis. I still think that those are some of the greatest games ever made, I like games that feel like you can finish them.
LIP: Finn Wolfhard from Stranger Things is in another two of your videos and that inspired him to start his own band, Calpurnia. Have you had a chance to see them perform at all?
SS: Yeah I saw them a couple weeks ago at the Horseshoe tavern, which is a legendary Toronto venue [currently] celebrating its 70th anniversary. It’s like an old country bar but sometimes there will be an unannounced gig like Spoon and it’s like an 180 cap venue.
LIP: I have an amazing quote from Finn: “PUP is probably the most influential band in the last 10 years of my life – them and the Beatles.”
SS: He’s way more influential and successful than we probably ever will be (laughs). I can’t wish success on someone [more]. We as a whole band have been able to watch him grow as sort of an artist and he’s passionate and hardworking and, like, kind of nerdy, you know? He just loves music and comedy and acting and I honestly do think he’s going to be that rare example of someone who finds success as a kid early and will translate it into something far more meaningful and powerful for people.
His parents are amazing which I don’t think always gets out. His parents are always around and helping out and looking out for him and making sure he has, as much as possible, a regular teenage experience which I think is important. Yeah,he’s a good kid, man, I’m really, really glad that we were able to help him out and he’s obviously helped us out a lot.
LIP: I know you’re a huge fan of the Blue Jays and the Raptors, so, game 7, Rogers Centre, behind home plate or game 7, Air Canada Centre, courtside seats?
SS: Oh god…wow…the Jays have been around longer and that would be bigger for me. But if you asked my girlfriend it would be Raptors (laughs) so maybe it should be that. Yeah, that’s a hard pick but I’ve been a Jays fan since 1991, my earliest memories are of begging my dad to take me to the game when the Jays were in their first big championship push.
LIP: On your Instagram that you have a signed Michael Jordan baseball photo with a really interesting caption on it about “the impermanence of glory and success.” Can you elaborate on that?
SS: Yeah, I think part of that is a reminder to stay humble. There’s nothing more humbling than the greatest athlete to ever a play a sport failing spectacularly at another sport, and I think it’s a testament to the fact that you need to work hard. It’s very rare in this music thing to find people that are so prodigious that they just can get by on raw talent, and it’s just a reminder to keep your head down and keep working and not get trapped or wrapped up in your own bullshit and not let success define you.
PUP will perform with Thursday and Frank Iero and the Patience at The Paramount, 370 New York Ave., Huntington. paramountny.com $20-85. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 28.