On the bright side, had PUP not been forced to down tools and call temporary time on their eight years of almost constant touring, the six songs of This Place Sucks Ass might not have ever seen the light of day. Characteristically seething new tune Rot most definitely wouldn’t have, informed as it is by events of the past few months. Fittingly recorded in a Toronto studio with band members socially distanced as producer Dave Schiffman Skyped in from Los Angeles (“To pretty much tell us that we fucking suck”), it finds Stefan sneering ‘I’m doing something productive with my self-destruction / It’s the one thing keeping me sane’ as the song lurches towards its mid-point explosion.
“That’s almost this band’s motto,” he explains. “In every PUP song that’s angry, dark, sad or whatever, there is always a silver lining. We make sure that there is, because I don't want to make music that’s sad for the sake of being sad. That doesn't help me as a writer, and it doesn't help the listener. There’s nothing worse to me than self-serious emo.
“We all have negative emotions,” he continues, stressing how pivotal this track has now become in the PUP story. “The point of us playing in a band together and making these songs has always been to take those emotions and to try doing something positive, so that we can feel good about ourselves and our contribution to the world. Rot is angry, anxious, frustrated and fired up. All that pent up aggression comes from what's been happening in the world, but even if the song’s dark, there's a joy in us four friends being in a room together, making something awful fun.”
It’s a neat encapsulation of where PUP as a collective find their heads at, given everything that’s happened this year. In merely fighting back, in doing something and refusing to be beaten by circumstances, they’re winning. Like everyone else, they’ve had no choice but to reflect and take stock on who they are, what they’re doing with their lives and perhaps just as importantly, what they want to do going forward. Naturally, that’s come at great cost.
“This year has wreaked havoc on our mental health,” Steve admits, “but we're in a pretty privileged place. We’ve realised how lucky we are. The four of us as a creative unit have always been steadfast in wanting to improve the work that we do from a songwriting perspective, but that is something we’ve tried to extend to how we conduct ourselves. That matters. We have a platform and we need to use it responsibly, whether that be through charity work or ensuring that it's not just people who look like us on stages alongside us. To try to do better and to be better people is the reason we do this.”