Pure Evil is out now!
Image: James Clare.
UK-based grunge three-piece Puppy recently treated us to the release of their self-produced sophomore album, Pure Evil. We caught up with the trio to chat about the release, working on their visuals, the evolution of their artistry and so much more!
Tell us a bit about your background in music and how Puppy came to be…
Our background in music is, tellingly, very amateur. We’re all pretty much totally self-taught and have always done lots of creative work outside of the band, but musically the three of us have always bonded over a shared appreciation of the stuff we loved as teenagers; nu-metal, comic books, lo-fi bedroom Indie music, computer games and James Bond theme tunes. Puppy is a band about celebrating the juvenile, the innocent and the silliness of playing guitar music in 2022.
Your sophomore album, Pure Evil, is out in the world! You self-produced the album, what do you think are the advantages of having that complete control over the collection of songs?
The main benefit we found doing the album ourselves was time, time to experiment, time to mess around and get things wrong. Generally, in a proper studio, you’re working on the clock, in a pressurised environment that costs money and involves a multitude of external people getting involved in whatever technical or creative capacity. This can be an advantageous & cool way to make music, but we all enjoyed approaching this project in kind of the opposite way; allowing ourselves the time and the space to make mistakes on our own and to try out things that usually wouldn’t take priority in a traditional studio environment. Rude Records deserve a lot of credit for providing the means and the trust to let us experiment a bit like this. We’re all super proud of the album we’ve made as a result.
The album continues your fusion of alt-rock and metal influenced sounds. How did you arrive at the sonic realm the album exists within?
We’ve always been a band that leans into the potentially contradictory elements of all the stuff that inspires and excites us. Even on our earliest EPs, we had a lot of fun seeing if chunky, J Mascis style guitars could work next to a Slayer beat down section and a big Power Pop chorus. Even though the answer was often ‘no, that doesn’t work’, it’s an ethos that we’ve carried through with us and is somehow entwined in what the three of us are about creatively. With Pure Evil, we were able to explore a few different avenues in this regard and lean into the kind of a hodgepodge of sounds and reference points that make up our pool of influences.
Walk us through the conceptual nature of the record and the themes explored across the collection of songs…
We settled on the title Pure Evil pretty early on (it was the name of a track that didn’t make the album), and in a way, this loose phrase kind of guided our hand a bit as we streamlined and recorded songs. In one very crude sense, there’s always been both ‘pure’ and ‘evil’ elements to our music - big, uplifting choruses rubbing up against darker Metal textures and lyrical themes. At the same time, though, we kind of liked the dichotomy of those two titular words, which are inherently contradictory but kind of create something new when put together. This carried over into the sequencing and shape of the album as it came together. In terms of thematic content, subject & lyrics, we never consciously followed a tight concept, but, listening back, there are a lot of allusions to higher, pseudo-religious imagery and transcendental themes from a place of yearning or separation that feel kind of relevant in the realm of ‘pure’ and ‘evil’.
Your debut, The Goat, arrived in 2019. How do you think your artistry and approach to creating evolved between albums?
We’re all super proud of The Goat and loved making it, but there’s a sense when writing and recording your first album of wanting to compress the band’s essence into a tight, digestible form to get people on board early. We were undoubtedly conscious of making a cohesive record and pulling in the same direction from the same place. Part of what was so fun about making ‘Pure Evil’ and what we all like about it now on reflection is that we allowed ourselves to be pulled in a myriad of directions and kind of leant into the idiosyncrasies of our tastes a bit.
You’ve shared some great visuals throughout the albums rollout. Talk us through your process when it comes to conceptualising the visuals and imagery surrounding your music…
We’ve always handled videos, and the artwork ourselves and the visual realm of our music is an essential part of how we conceptualise and envision where an album, EP or song will sit. With Pure Evil, we had the idea early on to use a model/toy castle diorama on the cover - there’s something so childish and fun about these kinds of models. Yet, they’re also the same structures used in history museums and movies to depict horrific battles, massacres, and executions. Model making also forms such a tight part of fantasy culture, so it sort of felt quite on the nose in terms of the tensions we were playing around with in the album title and songs. As soon as we had this central motif of the castle in place, we thought it would be cool to have the videos play out within that realm - a kind of pubescent, Medieval cosplay zone in which the interior of a Games Workshop rubs up against Gothic fan art, Lord of The Rings chat rooms, Bill & Ted, Monty Python and iconic Heavy Metal iconography.
Which three songs off the album would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan, and why?
We all love Shame, which feels like the farthest we’ve stretched our sound so far. The recurrent guitar drone it’s built around was based on the Still Dre piano hook, which we somehow managed to render sad, Gothic & and introverted. …And Watched It Glow is based around the simplest riff we could think of (it’s literally just one note), and we’re all pretty proud we could make a song work with so few chords in it. Glacial, which closes the album, is enjoyable to play too and neatly marries our love of Britpop, Heavy Metal and Glaciology.
Is there a particular line/lyric from the record you’re most proud of, or one that you return to more often than the rest?
I think probably Shame’s opening line: “I can’t get the blood from underneath my nails/ drained of my successes every time I fail”. It just sums up that oppressive feeling of shame and guilt that the song’s meant to explore. “Blaming something else to disassociate/ so I don’t have to be somebody that I hate” nicely builds on that, too- the mental gymnastics you can do whilst trying to navigate something like that.
If Pure Evil was a piece of pre-existing visual art, which artwork would best capture the album?
Crazy Staircases by MC Escher, one of our favourite ever rappers who also paints.
You’ll be taking to the stage at 2000trees Festival, Outbreak Festival and Bigfoot Festival over the coming months. What’s in store for an audience member attending one of your live shows?
Pyrotechnics, power chords and ping pong.
Weezer, Helmet, Faith No More and the key change in Livin’ On A Prayer.
It would be amazing to work with an electronic pioneer like Brian Eno or Apache Indian.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Probably The Blue Album by Weezer. It was the first time we heard people playing rock music but totally being themselves, being honest about what growing up learning guitar alone in your bedroom does to you instead of trying to hide it behind makeup and machismo, but somehow still idolising and aspiring to all that stuff.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Slacker Pop Metal.
Best song of 2022 so far?
Leave The Door Open by Silk Sonic, no question.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
What was the first song you loved to sing? ⁃
Probably not the first but Jock and Will did a rippin’ duet of Hero by Chad Kroeger at a karaoke night year ago that helped cement the forming of the band. True story.
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Band On The Run by Wings. Anything off that album really*
* “except Jet” – Billy
* “especially Jet- Jock and Will
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip? ⁃
O Brother Where Art Thou Soundtrack. We’re pretty good at getting the harmonies down on Man Of Constant Sorrow now.
First concert you went to? ⁃
Jock - POD supported by Il Ninó.
Billy - Ozzfest 2001.
Will - Idlewild.
Best concert you have been to?
We went to see Tool recently, and it was amazing.
First album you ever bought?
Jock - What’s The Story Morning Glory
Will - Space Jam Soundtrack
Billy - White Pony
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
I don’t think any of us could pull off a cocktail dress particularly well, but musically Spice Girls for sure.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Will would be Vanilla Spice
Jock would be Egg Fried
Spice and Billy would be Miami Spice
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Probably Download 2016. It was our first festival, and we couldn’t believe we’d been asked to play.
Guilty music pleasure?
We are 100% guilt-free—everything we like, we like unapologetically. The music of Pearl Jam causes many arguments within the Puppy camp, though.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry
Boring answer but probably The Beatles. They did everything and did it so well. Absolute GOATS.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
TBH we’d probably instead get advice from our future selves. Bring back a sports almanac and make ourselves billionaires.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
For all of us, we just got so into music when we were younger we wanted to make our own. That’s still our guiding light and always will be.
Pure Evil is out now!