As the Get Up Kids prepare for a reunion tour, Matt Pryor struggles with the fact that hes happy
Heartfelt, honest and influential as hell, the Get Up Kids is one of the most famous Kansas City bands around — and with good reason. Best known for its well-loved landmark 1999 album, Something to Write Home About, the five-piece group (made up of members Matt Pryor, Jim Suptic, James Dewees, Ryan Pope and Rob Pope) crafted spunky indie-pop anthems from 1995 until bowing out in front of a jampacked Uptown Theater in 2005.
And now, after group members have been pursuing other projects for four years (including the New Amsterdams, Spoon, and Reggie and the Full Effect, to name a few), they’re playing reunion tour dates around the world on the heels of a 10th-anniversary reissue of Something that comes with a live DVD. The band has played a few reunion shows already this year (including a sold-out concert at the Blender Theater in New York City this past May), but starting Friday in Kansas City, the Get Up Kids will begin reconnecting in earnest with fans who’ve been jonesing for the genuine pop-punk sweetness that spawned hundreds of imitators. But few competitors.
Last week, we chatted with lead singer Matt Pryor as he chilled on his front porch in Lawrence, talking about touring eyeliner, musical inspiration and (duh) barbecue.
The Pitch: So now that you’ve been out on the road a bit, do your shows feel different than they did when you toured before?
Matt Pryor: Everybody’s just a lot more levelheaded. Sometimes when you’re out on the road, a good show can be the best thing in the world, but a bad show the next day can be like the end of the world. And, after 14 years of touring experience, you realize that a bad show is just a bad show, and you just move on to the next one.
Looking back, what do you think your biggest nonmusical influence has been?
Collectively as a band, it’s been the crazy adventures that we’ve had on the road. The silly things we’ve done and the weird places we’ve seen and the strange people we’ve met.
What are some of those crazy stories?
Oh, like the time we played a house show in Iowa, where the mom of the kid who was putting on the show had a tube in her stomach. She was mainlining peppermint schnapps directly into her stomach. That was kind of fucked-up. She was a lifer.
Out of curiosity, what interview questions are you most tired of answering?
I don’t know! The only ones I ever have any trouble with are describing the sound of the band or “How do you see yourself as an influence?” People cite us as an influence, and they want to know how that makes me feel. I don’t really care. It’s nice to be liked, but it doesn’t really make or break anything.
What inspires you now in your music?
Musically, as far as the Get Up Kids goes, we all just get together and play something, and if it doesn’t click in 30 minutes, then we scrap it. We don’t overthink things to death, like we used to. Lyrically, I’m trying to not fall into typical things that are easy for me to write about, like breakups and love and shit like that.
Do you find your influences changing as your life is changing?
Yeah, I mean — I’m really happy in my life right now, and no one wants to hear a rock song about “I love my wife, I love my kids, and everything’s great.”
Do you think that rock is centered on a certain type of angst?
To a certain degree — it doesn’t have to be. But it’s certainly not about being happy all the time.
Sometimes it seems like it’s harder to get that passion out of happiness, and it’s easier to get that passion out of sadness.
Well, I think that you can get the same passion out of happiness, but the way that it gets conveyed — it comes across as being sort of sappy, you know? Even the best love song about how much you care about somebody — it comes across as sappy. But then you write something that’s really dark. It doesn’t have that same stigma to it. [Pause.] So you put on eyeliner. And then you take it off.
Eyeliner is always the answer, it’s true.
It is true.
You guys seem to have a lot of love for Kansas City; you spend a lot of time playing shows here.
We didn’t get a lot of love from Kansas City back in the day, but it’s always been home. You can have kind of a love-hate relationship with your home, but you still ultimately love it. And, plus, I love the idea of making people come here to see us play.
You like to get the outsiders to come out here?
I think it’s funny. I like it when people fly from New York to come to Kansas City just to see us play. Like, the first time we played in Manhattan [in New York City], they were like, ‘So, do you guys ride cows to school?’ We were like, ‘First off, you don’t ride a cow. And second off, no. We don’t.’ I love that we’ve forced some of those people to come here sometimes.
To educate them. To show them why we’re great.
Yeah. Get them some barbecue and tell them to shut the fuck up.