On February 12th, 2016, PUP revealed the name of its new album The Dream Is Over. Theyre the exact words a doctor
spoke to singer/guitarist Stefan Babcock upon discovering one of his vocal cords had a small cyst and was beginning to hemorrhage.
Given that the band completed by drummer Zack Mykula, bassist Nestor Chumak and guitarist Steve Sladkowski played
over 450 shows in the last two years in support of its self-titled debut, its perhaps not surprising that it happened.
But while PUP had to end 2015 by cancelling its last couple of shows, by announcing The Dream Is Over the way they did
onstage at a sold-out show in Brooklyn the Toronto four-piece proved that the exact opposite is true. The Dream Is
Over is visible, visceral proof that the dream is still alive. Its just that, after two exhausting years on the road,
it turns out that the dream is just very different to what the four of them thought or imagined it would be like.
I think, says Babcock, that a lot of people in their mid-20s start to feel this sense of disillusionment
- realizing that maybe life isnt going to turn out exactly as youd pictured it. I love touring and playing music
more than anything in the world. But, theres also this realization that maybe the romanticized version of this lifestyle
Id imagined 10 years ago has little or no relation to the actual experience. I used to dream about this shit when I
was a kid. But I never dreamt about the bad days - waking up in a Walmart parking lot in a van full of dudes, and thinking
Fuck, Im 27, broke, and lonely. What am I doing?. Thats where a lot of these songs come from. And
while that experience is very specific to me, I dont think the emotions are. I think most people eventually experience
that resignation, that acceptance of real life, with all its imperfections. Its called 'growing up'.
Yet if these ten songs bear the marks, bruises and scars of the realities of their experiences, it also captures the sheer
joy of their journey. Yes, it starts out with the marked venom of If This Tour Doesnt Kill You, I Will and
its gentle distaste for life in a van, but as the song accelerates towards the end, theres a thrill and a happiness
and a playful exuberance to the music that defies and overpowers the sentiment of the lyrics. Which, as it turns out, is very
similar to what happens on the road, too.
I always find theres two types of days on tour, says Babcock. Eight or nine out of 10 are the best
days of my life, and then one or two are literally the worst fucking thing I can imagine. So its just like a rollercoaster
ride. Theres no middle ground. And thats where a lot of the record is coming from Accepting the bad with
the good, because on good days, I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.
As such, The Dream Is Over is the sound of a band not just surviving the storm, but thriving in it. Its a raw and honest
account of real life which is precisely what their dream turned out to be. Yet if these songs cater to specific experiences,
theyre also wholly relatable to a whole lot more. Sleep In The Heat, for example, is a jilting, angular
anthem thats also a poignant tribute to Babcocks late pet chameleon Norman theyd met onset during
the bands Mabu video and he took her as his own, but after an infection led to her tongue needing to be
surgically removed, she refused to eat and sadly died. Elsewhere, The Coast is a dark, doom-laden track that shudders
and shivers with anxiety and neurosis but which rallies against those very emotions and grows stronger by confronting the
emotions which inspired it, while Old Wounds is a blistering, straightforward hardcore punk song which bursts
with energy of the kind you only get when youre really, truly experiencing everything life can throw at you.
In the end, contemplates Babcock, Im happy to have shitty experiences like that. I didnt
expect this to be an easy road. The past couple years have really given us a whole new perspective."
That new perspective is ironically in full force on The Dream Is Over. The bulk of the music was written last
spring in a brief period of downtime between tours, and recorded in the fall at home in Toronto with David Schiffman, who
also produced the first album. And as if to prove the age old cliché that what doesnt kill you makes you stronger,
The Dream Is Over, for all the trials and tribulations that inspired it, finds PUP as confident, as tight as a musical unit
and as in tune with each other as they have ever been. Its a very conscious act of rebellious defiance that turns this
crazy dream of theirs back on its head.
We had a clear idea of what we wanted to do this time around, says Babcock. We knew that we wanted it to
be heavier than the first record, we knew that we wanted to keep all the weird, quirky time signatures and we knew that we
wanted to have banging choruses. We went into it with one mindset and everybody knew what their own individual goals were
on the record.
As for that self-aware, tongue-in-cheek title? Everybody at the show in Brooklyn could tell it was ironic, that its
as far from the truth as anything. One listen to these songs will confirm the same.
What can I say? Its a brazen title, chuckles Babcock. Its a fuck you to that doctor who
told me I may never sing again. Its a fuck you directed at ourselves for every single moment we ever took for granted.
And its a snotty reminder that shit happens, expectations change, but were still doing what we wanna do. This
is life. This is the fucking dream."