YouTube covers of songs are big business. From guitar tutorials to drum remixes, the video platform is packed full of fans pitching cameras up in front of their respective instruments and tearing through (or, sometimes, trashing) their favourite tracks. Careers have been made after budding musicians were picked up based off their YouTube history. For Canadian punk quartet PUP, though, that wasn’t quite wacky enough.
PUP, you see, have something of a knack for music videos. From the Finn Wolfhard-starring epic of ‘Sleep In The Heat’, to the recent, Netflix-level production of ‘Kids’, these sketchy punk-rockers have Hollywood-level ambition. Their latest video, for ‘Free At Last’, is perhaps their best.
The big-time production value of those aforementioned clips has been shelved and they’ve instead handed the reigns over to their fans – with a brilliant twist. Sharing the chords and lyrics to ‘Free At Last’ a good few weeks before anyone had heard it, they challenged their followers to cover the song in whatever style they saw fit. Completely unaware of how the ‘real’ track would go, fans were left entirely to their own devices. The results are… mixed.
“The video for ‘Free At Last’ started off as a very, very stupid concept,” says the band’s frontman Stefan Babcock.
“Before the song was released, we put out the lyrics and a basic chord chart and asked people to record their own versions without hearing the original first. It was a bit of a social experiment. We expected to receive 15 or 20 covers. We received 253. A lot of them were very… interesting… but most of them were actually really good. We listened to every single one front to back (13 hours and 34 minutes), and by the end our brains were puddles of sludge and we couldn’t remember how our own version sounded.”
“We received hip hop versions, ska versions, grindcore, EDM, Mariachi, Ukulele, Polka, and piano ballad versions. Incredibly enough, none of the 253 covers sounded like ours. And even more astounding, no two of the covers sounded the same either. The amount of creativity and love put into these things absolutely blew us away.”
Compiling those attempts into a compilation video, alongside an instructional run-through of the real version of ‘Free At Last’, PUP’s latest music video is a brilliantly inventive twist on the age old ‘fan submissions’ trope. Check out the final ‘Free At Last’ video below, while we take you through five of our favourite submissions. You can find the full list
The ska-punk version
Probably the most accomplished version of the bunch, this takes arguably the worst genre of all time and weaves it around PUP’s impeccable knack for songwriting. It’s somewhat bearable. An impressive feat, for ska.
The famous friend
PUP have been friends with Stranger Things fella Finn Wolfhard for ages, so this cover version is perhaps not all that unexpected. He’s a punk rocker too, after all. Still, famous pals never hurt anyone’s career, right?
The naked shouty bloke
Hardcore group Hellbent twisted things right up, their self-proclaimed “bastardised” version of ‘Free At Last’ both furious and oddly charming, due in no small part to the almost-naked bloke doing a cute dance along in his skivvies. Sure, why not.
The Gameboycore electronica version
Taking ‘Free At Last’ into a bold new frontier, this version finds the track completely warped into an electronica track, complete with digitised vocals and a hacked GameBoy as an instrument. Pretty inventive stuff.
The polka version
A wholesome ending to a bizarre bunch of tracks, this one does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s PUP, but polka. An underused genre, these days, I’m sure you’ll agree.