“Sophomore Slump” is one of the most terrifying events in music. A well-known quote in the industry states: “You’ve got a few months to make your first album and your second.”
There are all sorts of reasons why second records are often worse than debuts. Artists can rush after their first album, so they don’t have enough time to focus on developing their craft. Critics and fans may react negatively to a creative decision to change the way the artist establishes. Or, conversely, people may get tired of hearing more of the same. But it’s important to remember (always), that an album’s performance and critical reception aren’t necessarily the right way to measure its value. For you as an artist, the most important thing is to be true to your creative passion, regardless of peripheral noise.
“I hesitate to say that this is public advice, because it worked for us and probably it doesn’t work for everyone,” said Stefan Babcock, Toronto punk hero. PUP Said. “But for a band like us, the things that really derailed some of the things on the second record were the conversations, ‘Oh, do we think this song could be on the radio?’ Or ‘What do we think? Pitchfork Or is anyone going to write about this song? ‘That thing is the poison of our band. So we will not cum with that thing anymore. ”
PUP followed their 2013 Self-titled debut Record with the stars of 2016 The dream is over, And have been keeping chugging with their excellent third album, 2019 ever since Sick stuff. We caught up with Babcock to gather some ideas on how artists can stay on top of their game.
Stop the noise
A sophomore record can put a lot of external pressure on you already putting pressure on yourself. Babcock knows that he and the rest of his bandmates have high expectations of themselves, so they made a conscious effort not to let the pressure of labels, agents, and other outside sources fall on their heads.
“In creating the second record, we all had this expectation that we wanted to create a record that we’re going to be more proud of than the first record, and not really think about what others are going to think about it,” Babcock said. “I think that’s probably how a lot of bands get into trouble – other people think about what their records are going to do.”
Within years PUP And The dream is over, The band travels about 250 dates a year. While spending most of their time on the road, Turing tightens the band, allowing everyone to bond, and in Babcock’s words, “Learn what’s wrong with everyone’s brain so we can be sensitive to it.”
“Travel makes you a really good unit and a more integrated group and better at working together creatively,” Babcock said. “But the other side of that coin is that if you travel too much, you never give yourself time to write music. So I think we landed in a kind of sweet place where we traveled so much that we felt really comfortable with each other, and then we were smart enough to stop it when we knew we had to write another record, and give ourselves something. A few months to do it. Like getting out of the tour and going to the studio and ‘Okay, I guess we’ll figure it out.’
The band promised to practice five times a week while they were writing The dream is overRegardless, whether they were feeling inspired. Many times, those exercises can be frustrating, but staying in the habit keeps their creative wheels spinning.
“It’s hard to break down that wall,” Babak said. “We’ve fought so hard, but we also have confidence in each other that if we continue, something will finally click. If not here’s a new product just for you! We are a band. Our job is to record. We have to. We just have to. And when it starts working, it’s really fun. This is the best feeling in the world. ”
Plus – you don’t want to disappoint your friends. Do a band with your friends? Find someone you can use as a sounding board for your ideas, who will help you stick to your plan.
In practice, Babcock believes there must be a “spark of talent”, but he is not one of them. All he has to pay, he says, is hard work. So when he has a travel vacation, he puts himself on a strict schedule – every day from 8:30 to 12:30 in the morning – during which he doesn’t look at or answer his phone, stops other distractions, and just composes music. The idea is that if you write garbage every day for two months, you will probably eventually come up with something better. The important part is working the writing muscles.
“At the beginning of the writing process The dream is over I was really creatively inactive, ”Babcock said. “Nothing really came to me and I decided that I would write a song every week, no matter how bad it was. A complete song – verse, chorus, bridge, full lyrics, everything. Even vocal tunes. And I did. I used to write a song about two months a week. None of those songs were very good or made records. But it got me in the mood so that when I felt inspired, it was easier for me to catch up.
“Writing that first record will make me feel inspired and then it will take me a few months to crystallize how to say what I want to say,” he added. “It’s not a great way to write your second record.”
And know your limits so you can plan accordingly. Babcock now realizes he can’t write anything on the street, so he takes some extra time between traveling and recording to get things written and ready.
Trust your instincts, and don’t rest on your laurels
Being very satisfied with your work can easily lead to a half-baked idea or pace. If you personally think it’s not a jam, viewers will probably also think it’s not a jam.
“One thing I avoid is what I think would be the kind of universal complacency,” Babcock said. “Don’t think because people liked your first record that you can take a shit and everything will be fine. What made your first record special was that you fell in love with everything you were on or most of the things on it. And if you don’t fall in love with what you’re doing on your second record, it’s probably not good enough. You should probably work harder for it. ”
And finally, it’s worth mentioning that it’s important to enjoy yourself – not just because you’re wasting your life doing something you don’t enjoy, but also, who wants to hear a band having a really bad time?
“Have fun,” Babcock said. “Because you’re playing music – maybe for a living or maybe to have fun. It doesn’t matter. You are doing it because you like it. Even if your record is sad, your first record probably has some joy for playing music. You can’t lose it when you’re making the next one because it’s done.
– Matt Williams