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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Toward the start of the stay-at-home order, I remember telling a friend (on a Zoom chat, of course) how much I looked forward to that wonderful day when the lockdown was over, and we could meet for happy-hour and hug again.

Ah, how naïve I was. If only it could be that simple.

We could meet for that happy hour again on Friday, as bars will be reopening that day. However, the scene would not be like it was in my mind’s eye. When I imagined that wonderful day, I didn’t imagine face masks and socially distanced tables—nor did I imagine the agonizing, scary dilemma going out to a bar would present.

And that hug? It’s definitely too soon for that.

Nothing seems simple in this pandemic-tinged, half-assed world in which we now live. On one hand, I keep seeing justifiably optimistic announcements on social media about gyms and cocktail lounges and movie theaters and even Disneyland reopening soon.

On the other … I keep looking at the local COVID-19 stats, and sighing at the across-the-board increases—which, predictably, people are freaking out about on social media. According to the state, our local hospitals have 85 coronavirus patients as of yesterday—the highest number I have seen a while.

But there’s a dilemma within this dilemma: The experts have said all along that when we reopened, cases would begin to rise. As Gov. Newsom said yesterday: “As we phase in, in a responsible way, a reopening of the economy, we’ve made it abundantly clear that we anticipate an increase in the total number of positive cases.

He’s right. They did say that. The goal is to make COVID-19 a manageable problem as life resumes. But it’s still a problem—a potentially deadly one—and nobody’s sure if we’ll be able to keep it “manageable” or not.

Today’s links:

• It’s official: Coachella and Stagecoach are cancelled for 2020. Dr. Cameron Kaiser, Riverside County’s public health officer, officially pulled the plug this afternoon. “I am concerned as indications grow that COVID 19 could worsen in the fall,” said Kaiser in a news release. “In addition, events like Coachella and Stagecoach would fall under Governor Newsom’s Stage 4, which he has previously stated would require treatments or a vaccine to enter. Given the projected circumstances and potential, I would not be comfortable moving forward.”

• If you’re one of the people who is sniveling about masks, or denying that they work … it’s time for you to stop the sniveling and the denying.

Palm Springs City Councilmember Christy Holstege and the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association are in the midst of a war of words. Here’s the brief, oversimplified version what happened: On Monday, Holstege wrote an open letter to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors in support of Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s proposed resolutions to condemn the killing of George Floyd (which barely passed), and request the Sheriff’s Department to review its own policies (which failed when Perez couldn’t get a second). In it, Holstege wrote, among other things: “Like most communities throughout Riverside County, in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley, we have a long history of racial segregation and exclusion, racial violence, racist city policies and policing, and injustice and disparities in our community that exist today.” This did not sit well with the officers’ union, which today accused Holstege of not bringing up any problems with the department until now, as well as “vilify(ing) our officers and department.” Holstege has since responded with claims that the union is mischaracterizing what she said. All three statements are recommended reading.

• Related-ish: San Francisco’s public-transportation agency recently announced it would no longer transport police officers to protests. The San Francisco Police Officers Association’s response? Hey Muni, lose our number.

• From ProPublica comes this piece: “The Police Have Been Spying on Black Reporters and Activists for Years. I Know Because I’m One of Them.” Wendi Thomas’ story is a must-read.

• The Black Lives Matters protests are resulting in a lot of long-overdue changes. One shockingly meaningful one was announced today: NASCAR will no longer allow confederate flags at its racetracks.

And Walmart has announced it will stop keeping its “multicultural hair care and beauty products” in locked cases.

And the Riverside County Sheriff announced today it would no longer use the use the carotid restraint technique.

• The government is understandably rushing the approvals processes to make potentially helpful COVID-10 treatments available. However, as The Conversation points out this is a potentially dangerous thing to do.

Also being rushed: A whole lot of state contracts for various things needed to battle the pandemic. Our partners at CalMatters break down how this created—and forgive the language, but this is the only word I can think of that sums things up properly—a complete and total clusterfuck.

• Provincetown, Mass., is normally a packed LGBT haven during the summer. However, this year, businesses there are just starting to reopen—and they’re trying to figure out the correct balance between income and safety.

Your blood type may help determine how you’ll fare if you get COVID-19. If you have Type 0, you may be less at risk—and if you have Type A, you may be more at risk.

Wired magazine talked to three vaccine researchers for a 15-minute YouTube video. Hear the voices and see the faces of the scientists behind the fight to end SARS-CoV-2.

A study of seamen on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt—where there was a much-publicized COVID-19 outbreak—offers hope that people who recover from the disease may have immunity.

If it seems like groceries are more expensive, that’s because they are—about 8.2 percent more expensive.

What fascinating times these are. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Black Lives Matter. Please help the Independent continue what we’re doing, without paywalls, free to all, by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will likely be back tomorrow—Friday at the latest.

Published in Daily Digest

It was an insanely busy news day, so let’s get right to the links:

• First, a correction: In the emailed version of yesterday’s Daily Digest, I had the month portion of the date wrong for the city of Palm Springs’ “Restaurant, Retail, Hair Salon & Barbershop Re-Opening Guidance for Business Owners” webinar. As a few eagle-eyed readers pointed out: The webinar is taking place at 9 a.m., May 28—in other words, tomorrow. Get info here, and please accept my apologies for the mistake.

• Other Palm Springs news: The City Council voted yesterday to extend the eviction moratorium through June 30.

• While this news is certainly not surprising, it’s an economic bummer for sure: Goldenvoice is reaching out to artists slated to perform at the already-delayed Coachella festival, and trying to book them for 2021 instead. Translation: A Coachella cancellation announcement may be coming soon.

If you’re going to read only one piece from today’s Daily Digest, please make sure it’s this one. Yesterday, we talked about the appalling lack of journalistic integrity NBC Palm Springs showed by airing an unvetted fluff piece—multiple times—provided by Amazon talking about all the great things the company is doing to keep its workers safe. In reality … at least eight workers have died. Today, the Los Angeles Times brings us the story of one of those eight fallen workers. Grab a tissue before you get to know the story of Harry Sentoso.

• Gov. Newsom announced today that more information regarding gym/fitness center-reopening guidelines would be released next week, as the state moves further into Stage 3.

• The Coachella Valley Economic Partnership just released a new survey of local businesses regarding the impact of the pandemic … and the only word that comes to mind is “yikes.” One takeaway: 99 percent of businesses have experienced a reduction in revenue—and 56 percent of those declines were between 91 and 100 percent

• It’s well-known that a number of COVID-19 antibody tests are flawed, but now there are concerns about the accuracy of the diagnostic tests. NBC News looks into the matter.

• Well, this could be interesting: President Trump, angry that Twitter placed a fact-check notice on an obviously untrue statement of his, apparently plans on taking some sort of action against social media companies via executive order. Will tomorrow be the day our democratic republic comes to an end? Tune in tomorrow! 

• In Pennsylvania, Democratic lawmakers are accusing GOP lawmakers of covering up the fact that a lawmaker had tested positive for COVID-19—possibly exposing them in the process. Republicans say they followed all the proper protocols … but didn’t feel the need to tell Democrats about the positive test, because of privacy. Jeez. The barn-burning video of Rep. Brian Sims expressing his extreme displeasure is horrifying.

• From the Independent: While tattoo shops remain closed (at least legally) across the state, they may be allowed to reopen soon, as we move further into Stage 3. The Independent’s Kevin Allman spoke to Jay’e Jones, of Yucca Valley’s renowned Strata Tattoo Lab, about the steps she’s taking to get ready.

• An update on what’s happening in Imperial County, our neighbors to the southeast: A coronavirus outbreak in northern Mexico is causing American citizens who live there to cross the border for treatment—and overwhelming the small hospitals in the county. The Washington Post explains how this is happening, while KESQ reports that packed Imperial County hospitals are sending patients to Riverside County hospitals for care.

• Don’t let the headline freak you out, please, because it’s not as horrifying as it sounds, although it remains important and interesting: The “coronavirus may never go away, even with a vaccine,” explains The Washington Post.

Nevada casinos will begin coming back to life on June 4. The Los Angeles Times explains how Las Vegas is preparing for a tentative revival.

• Another business segment is also making plans to reopen in Nevada: brothels. The Reno Gazette-Journal explains how brothel owners are making their case to the state.

• Given that Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, it’s 1) interesting and 2) not entirely surprising that she thinks California’s reopening process is moving too quickly.

• Some of us are naturally inclined to follow rules; some of us bristle at them. University of Maryland Professor Michele Gelfand, writing for The Conversation, explains how these primal mindsets are coming into play regarding masks and other pandemic matters.

The Trump administration is still separating migrant families—and often using the pandemic as an excuse to do so, explains the Los Angeles Times.

• The New York Times reports on the inevitable upcoming eviction crisis. Eff you, 2020.

Some Good News, John Krasinski’s feel-good YouTube series, has been sold to ViacomCBS. Here’s how and why that came about.

• Finally, here’s an update on increasing evidence that sewage testing may help governments stop new coronavirus outbreaks before they blow up.

That’s all today. I am going to now go raise a toast to the life of Harry Sentoso and the other 100,000-plus Americans this virus has claimed so far. Please join me if you can. We’ll be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

Understatement alert: Things are weird for all of us right now.

On a personal level, this fact really hit home for me when it was a relief and even a pleasure—a temporary return to normalcy, if you will—to spend two hours today editing/proofing 8,000 words of question responses by Rancho Mirage City Council candidates.

Yay, journalism!

Normally, an editor such as myself would find a task like this to be about as enjoyable as dental surgery without anesthesia. (No offense to the Rancho Mirage candidates; the case is the same with full Q&A interviews with candidates for each and every office. The responses are important and interesting, albeit a bit rambling in some cases, but the task of carefully proofing the text is, well, bleh.)

But today, it was … nice.

A hat tip to Kevin Fitzgerald, the Independent’s staff writer, who had to transcribe all of those 8,000 words. Buy him a drink the next time you see him out and about. Y’know, in a few months.

Sigh.

Anyway, on with the news:

• Yesterday was the first time in the Independent’s history that we’ve ever sent an email to our e-subscriber list that was not specifically related to Independent content. Instead, it was about the vitally important work the Desert AIDS Project is doing now—and the fact that the organization, due to a loss in revenue and a huge rise in expenses because it opened a whole, new clinic to respond to the COVID-19 crisis—really needs our help. Find that message here, and go here if you can help: https://desertaidsproject.salsalabs.org/covid19fund/p/coachellavalleyindependent/index.html

Eisenhower has put out a call for donations of personal protective equipment. Call 760-837-8988, or click here for details. 

The city of Palm Springs has clarified the temporary rules on short-term rental and hotel bookings. To paraphrase: They’re not allowed, save for some very specific exemptions.

• Some, but not all, of the big banks have agreed to a 90-day moratorium on mortgage payments if you’ve been affected by COVID-19. As of yet, alas, the state has yet to take firm steps to protect people who rent—but Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia and others are calling for action.

• However, the city of Rancho Mirage has already taken action by issuing a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions.

• Here’s more info on what the city of Rancho Mirage is doing to boost the takeout-offering restaurants in that city.

Confused about what’s an essential business, and what isn’t, and what this all means? The city of Palm Springs has posted this helpful breakdown regarding the state order means.

The Desert Healthcare District has allocated $1.3 million to help with various issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic locally.

• From the Independent: Coachella and Stagecoach have been moved to October this year. Our Kevin Carlow thinks that should be a permanent thing.

SunLine is offering free fixed-route rides during the pandemic. Just make sure you board in the back.

• Fox and iHeartRadio are teaming up for an all-star concert, hosted by Elton John. It’s called the Living Room Concert for America, and it airs this coming Sunday on Fox.

• The Conversation brings us this fascinating piece on the mad-dash effort to find existing drugs that will help patients suffering from COVID-19.

• Meanwhile, the FDA is allowing doctors to use the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19 to treat people in the midst of the battle with the virus.

• The California Desert Arts Council has compiled a list of resources offering financial relief for artists and art organizations.

Stephen Colbert is the latest talk show to announce a return to the air—just with everyone working from home.

• Theater fans: The Tony Awards, to nobody’s surprise, have been postponed. In other, awful theater news, the coronavirus has claimed the life of the Tony Award-winning writer Terrence McNally.

• The Wall Street Journal suggests these home workouts you can do to keep yourself in shape.

• Remember that kid in that viral video who refused to stop partying, saying, “If I get corona, I get corona?” Well, he’s apologized.

• Some local restaurants including Jake’s and Dringk are starting a very cool thing: Selling food essentials in addition to prepared dishes.

• In related news, our friends at the Purple Room are offering an online virtual show tonight to go along with takeout food.

• Local treasure Joyce Perry—you may remember her as Joyce Bulifant, of Airplane! and Match Game fame—has posted this hilarious (if oddly violent video) of her son trying to show her how to use Tinder.

• DJ Galaxy—our readers’ pick in the Best of Coachella Valley as the Best Local DJ—made this video of shuttered spaces in Palm Springs and Cathedral City that are beloved by the LGBT community. I’ll admit: It made me cry.

That’s all for today. Wash your hands. Eat good food. Call someone you love. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

“You guys must be so busy during Coachella!”

That drove me crazy my first couple of years here in the desert—almost as crazy as when people ask for “something with vodka, but not too sweet.” Bacchus, save the doe-eyed innocents who say things like that in my presence.

I am not trying to be a jerk. I swear. I just need to smack that little floater of small talk into the ground like I’m Dikembe Mutombo. And instead of just taking my answer—“No, business is actually slow; it’s pretty far from here and fills all the local hotels so nobody can just visit Palm Springs”—as a good explanation, they make me draw a little map of the Coachella Valley, point out our hours of operation, explain the basic rules of supply and demand, and so on.

The end result: For most valley bars and restaurants open in the evening, Coachella sucks.

I realize I am writing this with a particular experience—that of a bartender in Palm Springs. I understand that a pool server at a hotel or at a breakfast spot, or a bartender closer to the event grounds, may have a very different experience. Nevertheless, I believe that the move of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival to October should be a permanent thing. It would be better for the whole Coachella Valley—and festival-goers, too.

Related question: What, exactly, is “season” here in the desert? People ask me that all the time, and the quick answer for me is February to April. We also have busy spurts at Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Thanksgiving, plus the pool parties in the summer if you work at certain hotels, and Palm Springs Pride if you work in downtown Palm Springs.

That’s about it. Otherwise, it’s very sleepy most days.

April, regardless of Coachella, would be high season (at least in years when we’re not dealing with pandemics). It’s the time of year when the weather is still pretty darn nice here, except for the wind. The hotels and vacation rentals would be full regardless of the festival, as April is a pretty blah and rainy month for most of the U.S. and Canada—and without the festival, those visitors wouldn’t be here for a cloistered event and would actually be out supporting local businesses. Much of the town at night wouldn’t be empty for two prime weekends a season. Think about that: The bars and restaurants, at least in Palm Springs, are slow for half the weekends during one of the potentially busiest months of the year due to Coachella. We lose most of a third weekend if you count Stagecoach, although the effects aren’t as dramatic.

About that wind … it can get pretty severe in April. I have a mental .gif from a few years ago when I watched two acquaintances of mine, in their cherry British convertible, get smacked in the face with an errant palm frond while driving down Arenas Road. It gets so bad that even Palm Springs VillageFest closes some weeks, and the smell from the Salton Sea can be intense. In other words … this is a great time to be at a hotel, with breeze blocks and such, but not such a great time to be standing in an open and unprotected polo field. Just look at last year, when festival-goers were dehydrated in the heat and covered in dust from head to toe. Remember, that dust is full of salt and agricultural runoff—the same terrible air quality that has been covered in this very paper for its deleterious effects on the human body. I am not so jaded against festival-goers that I want them subjected to that.

Now … let’s think of October. This is the underused start of shoulder season, and while I enjoy the generally perfect weather and quiet streets, there is a lot of room for economic growth. Guests often comment on the fact we have Greater Palm Springs Pride here in the fall—at the start of November—rather than during the summer months, when it’s scorching. Attendees love having a reason to come here and get another round of parties, parades and good vibes. Halloween here—while not as wild as the celebrations I attended during my youthful days in the witch capital of Salem, Mass.—is also a real spectacle. The costumes are top-notch, and the bars are busy downtown, but not intimidatingly so. October and early November are a second potential busy season left on the vine, in my opinion.

I did some informal polling in the time between the Coachella-postponement announcement and the stay-at-home order. While most service-industry people didn’t want to go on the record—or I didn’t feel right asking for an official quote as things got more dire—the consensus, at least in Palm Springs, is that October should be the permanent home of Coachella.

An owner of a large rental company sparked this take when he told me he wished the festival would stay in October. I figured people renting out properties were just raking it in during the two weeks in April and wouldn’t want to rock the boat—but I was wrong. He, like me, sees a wasted opportunity in October. He hates that his company has to waste two or three weeks that they could easily rent for good prices worrying about festival-goers. In non-Coachella Octobers, properties are more or less rented for off-season prices. A switch would be a win-win for them.

I am sure most readers of this paper don’t care too much for the profits of landlords—but I do find it telling that the wealthy rental owners and restaurant moguls are on the same page as the local cocktail bartenders, restaurant managers and servers.

It’s becoming a poorly kept secret that you can walk into any of our best restaurants during festival weekends and get a table any time you want. You can have a normally full popular bar mostly to yourself on a Saturday in April. This is a lot of wasted opportunity. We shouldn’t be making less on a weekend in April than we make on a weekend in September.

I have been trying to find a good reason that Coachella shouldn’t permanently be in October, and the only one I can think of is marketing: Coachella in April makes it the Iowa caucus or New Hampshire primary of music festivals. By being the first of the major music festivals during the calendar year in the Northern Hemisphere, it gets to be the flagship, the trend-setter, the taste-maker. When you are in the industry of cool, it’s important to be first. But still … hopefully this rescheduling will show Goldenvoice that Coachella can still be the top music festival without it being early in the calendar year. After all, if you are the 600-pound gorilla, you can sit wherever you want. On behalf of most industry folks in my part of the desert: Coachella, please go sit in October for good.

Kevin Carlow can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Cocktails

It all started—or, well, seemed to start—with Goldenvoice’s cancellation of Coachella and Stagecoach.

“I completely understand the stance of Goldenvoice in postponing Stagecoach in light of the virus threat right now,” said Alice Wallace, who was slated to play in Nikki Lane’s Stage Stop Marketplace at the festival. I had an interview scheduled with her, and she was kind enough to give me a statement after the postponement was announced. “From everything I'm reading, the postponements and cancellations of this festival and others are warranted and necessary, and I certainly want all of my fans to remain safe and healthy.

“But as a musician who makes her living playing music on stages across the country—as so many do—the next few months could prove to be pretty devastating. I think we are only seeing the beginning of cancellations, and I worry about the impact it could have on the music industry as a whole.”

Of course, we now know that Wallace’s fear of more cancellations was correct.

Giselle Woo and the Night Owls were selected to bring their Latin rock to this year’s Coachella festival. Before the cancellation, I spent a few hours talking with them about the upcoming performance—and I could see how excited they were for the show.

Then the news broke about the cancellation.

“It was a shock to us all, but I’m glad that it was postponed rather than canceled,” said drummer Jose Ceja. “We’re all in good spirits. We are excited to play, and now we have more time to prepare a better show. For some of our friends, it has affected their shows, and it has unfortunately canceled a lot of really important events, but our hope is that all safety precautions are being taken, and that it will help prevent the spread of this virus.”

When the governor of California directed that all bars be closed, a shock wave went though both the bar and music scenes.

“It's hitting the local economy pretty hard,” said Josiah Gonzalez, of Little Street Studio and local band Avenida Music; he’s in a unique position, being both a gigging musician and a talent-booker. “Multiple hotels have suspended music programs and residencies until further notice. Events are either moving to the fall or being cancelled altogether. Enquiries about new events have slowed to almost a halt.”

I, too, am a musician, and I’ve seen all my gigs pushed back or flat-out cancelled. Not surprisingly, morale among local musicians is very low—but if there’s one thing I know about music, it’s that it will never die. People aren’t letting the fear of the virus take over; they are taking precautionary measures to combat spread of the virus and “flatten the curve”—to ensure music is still able to be enjoyed by all.

One of my favorite musicians—also a friend—helped pioneer an idea that is now being used by other performers during this shelter-at-home stage. Garage-rocker Ron Gallo, out of Nashville, Tenn., as of this writing has so far hosted two Instagram live shows, during which he and his band performed a set to anyone watching—from the safety of home. He is encouraging everyone to #StayTheFuckHome, while throwing up a Venmo so people can support the band. Check out his Instagram, @rongallo, for more info.

“As artists, our livelihood depends on traveling around and cramming as many people as possible in not-always-big spaces, so if we all sacrifice that right now, it’s 1,000 percent the right thing to do,” he said. “It’s a really powerful message to get people to take this seriously, and in turn, do our real job—which is make people happy and use our voice for truth and positive influence on the world.”

“This kind of lifestyle change doesn’t have to be a bad thing, either. Trust me: I can’t sit still for five minutes, and I’m enjoying it. … The time is NOW, and there is a lot of positive in slowing down, being with loved ones, and returning to simplicity and pausing the chase for a minute.”

He said he came up with the Instagram idea when the show cancellations started.

“My brain started racing to figure out how to get creative with this situation,” Gallo said. “So I got some necessary gear and we … broadcast two shows from my house on Instagram live (one for the U.S., and one for Europe). This gives people what they need right now while also being in the safest place we can all be—home. Not to mention, there’s more freedom in this way to be conversational directly with people in the audience—from afar! We can offer comfort, play new songs, etc. Feels like everybody wins.

“Until this looming crisis, I never even considered something like this, but now that I have, I do see a future in it. I kind of want to find a way to do the first online world tour, or even the first world virtual-reality tour. … Possibilities are endless, and I think artists just have to get super-creative with it right now. Hit me up. I’m ready.”

Ron is setting an example for what could be the (at least temporary) future of live performances. If we need to stay inside for longer than anticipated, we could very well see many bands turning to live-stream shows. Along with those shows, Gallo is hoping the kindness of others can help substitute for the money being lost due to the inability of musicians to play in-person gigs.

“I’ve been telling people to Venmo or PayPal me if they can or want,” he said. “It’s not exactly covering the money lost on cancellations yet, but even one day after announcing (the first show, contributions by fans) at least covered the flights to get my drummer, Josh, here for the show. That's a positive, and I will give and take any and all of that I can get right now.”

Other artists have followed suit. The Purple Room broadcast a show by Michael Holmes and Keisha D live on March 16 (which you can watch at www.facebook.com/purpleroomrestaurantstage), and there are talks among various local bands to begin live-streaming shows. I’ll be posting updates on the Independent’s Facebook page as these develop, so please follow along, and feel free to message us.

The Coachella Valley is one of the world’s music epicenters. The current situation is less than favorable—yes, that’s a gross understatement—but it’s up to all local musicians and music-lovers to band together, and make sure that music continues to thrive.

If I was in charge of HGTV, I would use PUP’s music as the soundtrack for the home-demolition processes in each show: Songs like “DVP,” “Reservoir” and “Back Against the Wall” make you just wanna go destroy things. Heck, the video for “Mabu” even features the guys destroying their car, in true punk-rock fashion.

However, a handful of tracks are more somber, and may even bring a tear to your eye. “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will,” “Sleep in the Heat” and “Dark Days” still bring that heavy sound, along with a little bit of sentimentality. It’s OK—it’s totally punk rock to cry.

PUP has a story unlike any other, and I was excited to get the chance for an interview. The Toronto-based band’s decade of screams and headbanging could have been cut short a few times, yet here they are, about to play one of the biggest stages in the world, barring any pandemic postponements: You can catch them at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, aka Coachella, on Friday, April 10 and 17.

“It’s crazy,” said guitarist Steve Sladkowski during a recent phone interview about the Coachella booking. “I still remember when I got the email. I was walking home, and it was freezing cold outside. I was alone and walking to my apartment, and when I saw it, I just blurted out, ‘Woah!’

“It’s still a very surreal feeling. The guys were in shock. We thought it was fake. It’s gonna be a great time, and we’re all looking forward to it. Just being able to see Rage Against the Machine, I’d do it just for that.”

PUP includes Sladkowski, drummer Zack Mykula, bassist Nestor Chumak and frontman Stefan Babcock. The quartet has been crafting its unique punk sound and going batshit insane at live shows for a decade now. I saw them in San Diego last year, and the entire crowd was a mosh pit. Take my word for it, or check out “PUP Live in the K! Pit (Tiny Dive Bar Show)” in the media section below.

“Our first record came out in 2013, but we played under a different name before that,” said Sladkowski. “We’ve been writing songs, hanging out, drinking beer and piling into a van for a hell of a long time. We’ve been able to see so much more of the world that I’d ever thought I’d see: Europe, Australia, weird Spanish islands off the coast of Africa, every province in Canada and Late Night With Seth Meyers. It’s been a whirlwind, and it’s so crazy to me that this is our job and that we can make a living while still being a close, tight-knit family.”

There have been no lineup changes since the inception of the group, which is uncommon these days. I mentioned this to Sladkowski, and he explained the amazing relationship he and his bandmates have.

“We spend New Year’s together every year, so it’s not like the four of us are just in this because we’re having success; we’re truly friends,” he said. “The band is so dependent on the four of us, both socially and musically. Each of us brings something to the table when we are working together to write songs. It wouldn’t be the same without any one member.”

I was curious if this concept of working together translates to how the group crafts their songs.

“It’s totally a group effort,” Sladkowski said. “Some days, someone will come in with a song that’s as close to fully formed as you’d hear on a record, and other days, someone will come in with a shell of an idea, and the four of us will work together to build on it. We’re willing to do whatever works, and are willing to try to serve the song, and not repeat ourselves creatively, which can be a challenge, and very-time consuming. But at the end of the day, putting in that time and effort to find new ideas and creative directions is totally worthwhile.”

PUP’s success is due in large part to the band members’ tremendous work ethic. They’ve released three albums, two EPs and 15 music videos, all while touring relentlessly.

“When we’re at home, we always try to work on stuff,” Sladkowski said. “We’ll send around demos to each other, or try to relearn some of the songs that didn’t end up on Morbid Stuff (the band’s most-recent LP) just as a creative exercise. We’re always working, tinkering and writing. We’ve never been the type to stick to one process at a time—writing, recording, touring. It’s kind of a mish-mash of whatever is happening at the time, but we’re always very intent on working. We’ve gotten to a level of success that no one could ever have dreamed of, and it doesn’t feel like the time to coast on that. It feels like the time to continue working, and trying to make interesting things.”

While this does sound rigorous, Sladkowski assured me that it never feels like a hindrance.

“This is what I’ve always wanted to do, so even on days when it’s tough, it’s a lot easier to make sacrifices for it,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is my job, and it’s the best job ever. You never know when something like this is gonna end, so you have to make the most of it.”

Part of the reason for the band’s opportunity-seizing ethos has to do with a moment that every musician fears: Babcock at one point was diagnosed with a cyst on his vocal cords. His doctor told him “the dream was over.”

“That’s the kind of thing that makes you realize how lucky you are to be in that position, but how fragile that position can be,” said Sladkowski. “It’s something as random as a cyst on a vocal cord that shows you how quickly everything you have can unravel, but I think that made us really strong as a band, as friends, as family. I remember Stefan coming to us and him fearing he wouldn't be able to sing again, and him blaming himself for it.

“We got through it, and came out stronger as a unit. We learned there were some things we had to do, long-term-oriented, in terms of health and wellness, and learned how to take care of ourselves. Not only was it a wake-up call, but it was an opportunity to really figure out how to do this in a more physically sustainable way. It’s something you could have never predicted. We had shows to play, and then we had to finish and tour the record. All of a sudden, Stefan couldn’t talk for a month, and he had to relearn how to speak and sing. We’ve been through so much together that it would be crazy to do anything other than have unwavering support for one another.”

In true punk-rock fashion, the group named that album The Dream Is Over. Since then, the group has been on a roll, releasing Morbid Stuff last year and landing a spot at Coachella.

“I think a lot of bands lack great support in their relationships, as (do) a lot of people,” Sladkowski said. “It’s causing people a lot of pain and fear that they can’t come forward and talk about things. No one should ever feel that way, so if there’s anything to be taken from what we went through, it should be that it’s OK to lean on your friends, and it’s OK to ask for help.”

Published in Previews