Canadian punks PUP know how to make a music video, though their clips should come with warnings. It started in 2013 with “Reservoir,” from their self-titled debut, in which the band is maimed, stabbed, and beaten by a Toronto audience. Their penchant for self-destruction resurfaced again in a video for this year’s Polaris Music Prize–nominated The Dream Is Over. And in “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” the band’s members actually die — at their own hands, taking a go at one another.
Perhaps most memorable, though, is their video for “Guilt Trip,” from that first self-titled record, in which Canadian child actors play a young PUP, with Stranger Things star Finn Wolfhard playing front man Stefan Babcock. If it’s a coming-of-age tale, it’s a dark one: Wolfhard accidentally shoots a cop, and in that moment, while forced to dispose of the body, the band forms by bonding over the misfortune.
Today, Vulture premieres the next installment in that saga, a continuation of “Guilt Trip” set three years later. Wolfhard now plays a slightly older, slightly more mature Babcock, and the adventure is decidedly less violent. The song, “Sleep in the Heat,” carries the dark and despondent weight that comes with losing a loved one. Babcock wrote it after his pet chameleon, Norman, died when her tongue got infected. Knowing that, the song takes on a different life and a more familiar death, as most of us have experienced a beloved pet’s passing.
We spoke to Wolfhard about working with PUP versus Stranger Things, Canadian pride, and his own burgeoning music career.
How did you find out about PUP?
When I got this open casting call for the “Guilt Trip” video. My dad showed me a video of theirs, “Reservoir,” that director Jeremy [Schaulin-Rioux] did with Chandler Levack. That was my first time seeing all the guys in action. It was super interesting because I love alternative, indie-punk music. I was super-nervous. I didn’t know if they liked me or not. I was just starting into acting. I look a lot like Stefan, so that was a lot of the point.
Five or six months after the shoot, I saw that they were going to play in Seattle, which is about two hours away from my city, Vancouver. I emailed Stefan and said, “Hey, I see you guys are playing in Seattle, do you think you can get us tickets?” We did a road trip, Malcolm Craig and I (Malcolm plays PUP’s drummer Zach [Mykula] in both the “Guilt Trip” and “Sleep in the Heat” videos), drove to Seattle, and we spent like two days there.
Was that your first time seeing them live?
My first time ever! That was the first time I met all the guys and they gave us free merch and free records, and Zach gave Malcolm his drumsticks. He still has them today. In the “Sleep in the Heat” video, we’re actually playing the song. I was playing guitar, and Malcolm was playing drums, which he did in the first one, because he’s a really good drummer. He was using Zach’s sticks that he gave to him in Seattle.
Have you found time to make your own music?
Yeah! As of now, I really want to record something and play live, get something out like an EP. I really see some sort of future in music because I love it so much.
“Sleep in the Heat” is about Stefan’s chameleon dying. Was that a weird place to draw inspiration from? Have you ever had a beloved pet pass?
Yeah, of course. Anyone who has had a pet pass away knows what’s going on with that. When I first listened to the song I was like, “Oh, this is super-dark, maybe about some girlfriend overdosing on heroin, cooped up in a bedroom or something.” I was filming a movie in Toronto and we were having ramen together — me, all the PUP guys, my mom, and Jeremy — and we were talking about the song. This was before they were planning to do a video for it. I said, “Do you guys want to do a ‘Guilt Trip part two?’” jokingly. They said, “Yeah, we really want to.” I told them “Sleep in the Heat” is one of my favorite tracks on the album and asked Stefan what it was about, if it was about a girlfriend passing away, and he was like, “Nah, it’s just about my chameleon.” It was surprising. It’s pretty awesome that you can write a heartfelt song about your little chameleon.
Do you listen to a lot of other Canadian music?
Yeah. This guy Mac DeMarco is from all over Canada; he’s from Vancouver and Calgary and this little place called Duncan in my province, British Columbia. He’s super cool. There’s Rush, obviously. I don’t listen to them very often but I love them when I do listen to them. My mom says the Tragically Hip, the Guess Who, Arcade Fire — there’s so many! Metric. I can go on and on.
Now that you have this relationship with PUP and you’ve done two videos, how does working with them differ from more traditional acting roles, like Stranger Things?
I think why it’s so refreshing and awesome to work with all these guys is that it’s one of the first things I ever did. When I first started, when I did the first scene, I was like, “This is my job,” and then I’d come in for scene two and I’m already ready. I don’t stop being ready. Sometimes I forget it’s a job. I’ve known Jeremy for a long time now, and the PUP guys, all the guys who play little PUP, they’re all my close family and I love them all. I hope we can do more stuff together. I could go on and on about them.
This interview has been edited and condensed.