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No doubt you’re across the concept of a diss track – a song that explicitly aims to take a specific person or group down a notch through its lyrics. On The Dream is Over, the second studio album from Canadian indie-punks Pup, the opening number is entitled ‘If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will’ – and it’s a diss track against every other person in the band. It offers up such ripping lines as “It makes me ill seeing your face every morning”, and perhaps most devastatingly, “I can’t wait for your funeral”. It’s mean, angry and pissed-off – but, in a twist even M. Night Shyamalan wouldn’t see coming, all of the band members love it.

“Jamming that song out in our rehearsal space would have to be one of the most fun times that we’ve ever had as a band,” says singer and guitarist Stefan Babcock, who’s responsible for penning the song’s scathing lyrics. “They all thought it was hilarious and loved it immediately. To me, that song is lyrically a representation of all of us. When you’re in such close quarters to one another for such an extensive period of time, the little things tend to drive you mad. I knew that, when I was writing those lyrics, every single person in the band had felt that way about every other person in the band at least once. The fact we could all get together on a song like that and make this goofy, fun, cathartic song… that was all part of us strengthening our friendship. We realised we didn’t have to bottle everything up anymore. We could just talk about it – we could even sing about it.”

The Dream is Over – named after a verbatim quote from Babcock’s doctor after warning him about touring with a damaged throat – arrives a couple of years on from Pup’s self-titled debut LP. In the intervening years, Pup – Babcock, guitarist Steve Sladkowski, bassist Nestor Chumak and drummer Zack Mykula – spent a solid portion of time touring across the world, from empty bars to sold-out crowds in their hometown of Toronto. A lot of it was documented in the music video for, Dark Days, the final single from Pup, which was released in the middle of last year.

“I’d like to think we’re as honest as we can be about the whole thing,” says Babcock. “It’s impossible to understand what touring is like until you’ve actually done it – and even when you have, it’s impossible to comprehend what it’s like to do it for ten straight months the way that we did. Usually, it’s in bursts of a couple of months with breaks in between. For us, we just didn’t stop. Touring is a theme that permeates a lot of the new songs – they’re the backdrop to pretty much everything that we’ve all gone through since the last record came out. I’m hoping that people that listen to this record don’t feel alienated by that, but at the same time I hope it gives people a glimpse into what that life is like. It’s not like a Kings of Leon video or anything like that.”

Indeed, a lot of grievances are aired during The Dream is Over’s 30-minute runtime, and no one is safe. It’s the sound of Pup staring down the proverbial barrel and defiantly screaming in its face. There’s no bullshit, no flowery metaphor or coded speak – it’s straight up, blunt and unrepentant. And that’s exactly how Babcock would like to be perceived.

“I’ve found that being genuine and honest is really important,” he says. “I think it’s missing from a lot of music. The point of writing music, at the end of the day, should be to put yourself out there. That’s the way that I see it, anyway. That’s something that I’ve learned from a lot of bands that we’ve toured with – The Smith Street Band being one of them. Australia’s own. Wil [Wagner]’s lyrics are really honest and really truthful, and I think that’s why I love that band. I think that’s why a lot of people love that band. You’re not making shit up. You’re talking about things that you know. That’s what people are drawn to. I tried to approach this album like that by being honest with myself and not holding back.” To coincide with the release of The Dream is Over, Pup are heading back to Australia this October for their first-ever headline tour. The shows will come 18 months removed from the band’s first visit down under, a 20 show run supporting The Smith Street Band. “That was probably the most fun tour that we’ve ever been on,” says Babcock. “I can’t wait to come back. We’re really excited – Australia has been so good to us in the past.”

Written by David James Young

Release: The Dream is Over is out now via SideOneDummy/Cooking Vinyl
When & Where: Reverence Hotel, Melbourne – October 6