The Get Up Kids // The 405 Interview
Itâs rather an odd feeling interviewing the band who set the soundtrack for my early teenage years. Arriving into my world during an appropriate phase of adolescent angst , my first encounter with The Get Up Kids came about when a select group of taste-making friends at my school discovered the Missouri quintet and decided that they were simply âtoo awesomeâ to share with the rest of us (as kids do...). Overhearing the huddled group murmuring about the cunningly-codenamed â... (continued)
Itâs rather an odd feeling interviewing the band who set the soundtrack for my early teenage years. Arriving into my world during an appropriate phase of adolescent angst , my first encounter with The Get Up Kids came about when a select group of taste-making friends at my school discovered the Missouri quintet and decided that they were simply âtoo awesomeâ to share with the rest of us (as kids do...). Overhearing the huddled group murmuring about the cunningly-codenamed âThe Stand Up Childrenâ raised my interest and a few days later I somehow managed to acquire the real name of the band from one of the tastemakers- much to my enthusiastically immature delight. From that point on I listened to their early releases Four Minute Mile and Red Letter Day and of course their most notorious album, Something To Write Home About, on an almost daily basis. Not only was I fully hooked on their repertoire at the tender age of 15, but even today The Get Up Kidsâ songs are fully embedded in my memory of that carefree time of my life- a time when earning a living and paying the rent wasnât the issue it seems it is today. Summers memories of leaning back with an acoustic and hazily strumming TGUK riffs on a grassy hill alongside the familiar entourage of drunken chums, some mumbling the words and others tapping their mini-bongos were sheer bliss, not to forget spending hours perfecting kick flips in the car park beside a boombox blasting out âCentral Standard Timeâ and âHolidayâ (much to the older folksâ disgust ) are also memories I will quite simply never forget. Looking back it on it now, I realise it is a time I wish I had cherished more. That was nine years ago and in all honesty by the time TGUK had released their follow up albums, I had moved on to a different stage in my life and was absorbed in a hardcore/ post-rock phase. And so it became that our once almost-inseparable relationship gradually withered away and eventually perished, our last known moment being when their CDs were shuffled away to the back of the top shelf- a true sign the digital era had arrived and it was my PC that was now the jukebox. Yet when the opportunity arose to interview the band who was such an important part of my youth, I was quick to get in contact.
Now, sitting across from a confident, cool (and perhaps slightly intrigued with my sheet of questions) Matt Pryor of The Get Up Kids in the sweaty back end of the Camden Underworld, itâs time to ask him some questions-some of which have been on my mind for some time.
You sold out your London show last year. Youâve done it again this time and added another date straight after. How does it feel to return to the UK to such strong fan support again and again?
Oh itâs great. Last time we were coming back for the first time since our split, so itâs nice to know that people are still interested and coming to see us, even though weâre not promoting a new album or anything- except the EP. Yeah itâs good, we like it here.
Having split up for a few years, what prompted you to re-release Something To Write Home About last year and have you found it attracting a younger or older audience than when it was first released in 1999?
I donât know the answer to the audience question of it- as I havenât really been paying attention to whoâs been buying it. We decided to get together and play again just because we were getting along again and we were enjoying each otherâs company. And the only real reason we did the STWHA reissue is because we needed an excuse to get back together, but really, yeah...it was just a bit of a marketing ploy (laughs)... another reason to come back and play shows!
How many songs do you play in your live set from your older material compared to your newer songs- with this new EP just being released, will you be playing all four of them?
Weâre gonna play 3 of them, and then one brand new song. With an encore, we normally play around 20-22 songs, so itâs like really heavy on STWHA- something like 6 songs off that record, and 2-3 songs off the first record, and like two songs from Off A Wire, and then 2 from The Guilt Show. This is the most new songs weâve been playing live.
Are you nervous about it?
If you look at your albums and EPs, theyâre quite different when you compare Four Minute Mile and Red letter day to Simple Science and The Guilt Show - theyâre got very different styles. Do you feel like your songs have matured as you have matured as well?
I think the overall sound of the band just kind of evolved. I mean Four Minute Mile sounds like a bunch of little kids to me, and STWHA sounds like... college age kids (laughs), but I donât think weâve ever made the same record twice, so I like the balance. We try to keep the set pretty up-tempo, with the occasional slow song just so we can take a break. But I think there are some songs that work well from each of the records and some that donât. I think it flows pretty well when we combine them.
Does it feel weird to play your older stuff live these days, as your records and sound is changing and evolving? Do you ever feel like, âwell, the fans want to hear what they want to hearâ, as opposed to âwe actually really enjoy playing these songs ourselvesâ?
Well you find a balance with it. On the one hand you love playing to people who are singing along- and we have fans who like our whole career- our whole cannon of work, so, I donât know. We cater a little bit in the sense that we play more songs from STWHA than any of our other records but if you gonna like our band, youâre gonna have to go along with all of our twists and turns. If youâre open to it, youâll have a good time at our shows- itâs a pretty high energy rock show, and pretty fun!
Youâve got a lot of fans all over the world. At the time when you released through (your then own label) Heroes and Villains via Vagrant Records, did you expect to be in the unusual and quite fortunate position of not only gaining but then keeping such a large and loyal following, even after a decade?
Oh god, at the time I had no idea. I mean we were just trying to get from day-to-day, the next goal was to make the next record or book the next tour- we didnât think about things in a big, grand, sweeping world view. It was more like, this is what we do- we write songs, we make records and we put them out. Iâm amazed that people still come to see us; I mean people seem to really connect with the band- itâs awesome. So itâs not something I expected at all.
Can you tell us about Heroes & Villains Records- how and why you started it, instead of going down a more traditional let-the-label-do-the-work route?
Well Heroes & Villains was more.....well, it was an imprint, but it was more that we were the A&R people and then Vagrant did all the database stuff of it.
So would you say you were signed to Vagrant and you had your own mini label from Vagrant as well?
Initially, that whole thing started because we had a partnership. We had the Reggie record and the first Anniversary record that we also wanted to bring to the table and so it was really Vagrantâs idea to do an imprint. But it kind of got to the point where it was too much- like if Koufax was unhappy with Vagrant then I would have to step in. Iâve got too much shit of my own to worry about than someone elseâs band.
So was that almost like being employed by Vagrant, as well as being an artist on the label?
No, it wasnât really like being employed......it was more like ....err. I donât really know why they did it! Honestly, they didnât seem to gain a whole lot other than that they got some good bands out of it. And I think they were just trying to sweeten the deal, because we were on the fence about whether to sign with them, so I think they were just trying to sweeten it, you know? They were like âWeâll give you guys your own labe!!!â ... âAllright!â
You turned down quite a few majors. Was that because you prefer the indie ethos, or did you feel like you just didnât want to be part of a major in any way?
Well initially we always intended to do that- to sign with a major label. When we didnât in the first place, I think we developed a very much punk-rock work ethic and we booked all our own tours. Itâs totally accidental that we never did it because even when we signed to Vagrant we thought, âok, weâre gonna do one record with Vagrant, then sign to a majorâ. And that relationship happened to work out really, really well so we stayed with them. It was nice, because...they never told us what to do. (laughs) It was like they would go with whatever we did. We never had to turn in a record to have them say âThere's no single on it!â or anything like that. We just did our thing!
Music discovery on the internet wasnât as developed as when Something To Write Home About was first released. How much do you feel the internet has kept attention on your previous releases when you stopped working together a few years ago?
Iâm kind of surprised our first two records... actually all of our records, still sell or are played consistently even when weâre not working. Which I assume has something to do with people sharing that information with others online. I donât really know- the internet as a marketing tool kinda baffles me to a certain degree just because I come from that old-school way of life, but I mean this is the new platform for that. You can be an independent band using all the tools of the internet at itâs disposal.
Do you think itâs harder to be a band now, as opposed to when you first started out, because there are so many bands that anyone with an internet connection can easily find?
I dunno, I think the cream always rises to the top, or....sometimes the shit (laughs). But I think for the most part, if the bands good, then people are gonna tell their friends about it. But I think there has always been too many bands, like forever!
With the internet still making your releases get attention, even when you had broken up, was the continuing love from fans one of the reasons you decided to carry on?
No, weâre all kinda oblivious to a lot of that sort of stuff. I mean, we only got together because....well we shouldnât have actually broken up in the traditional sense, because really we just needed a break from each other. Weâd been touring solid for ten years together and you know... we were sick of each other! So we got back together again because we were starting to enjoy....well, enough time had passed, you know, so that we could be friends again. Weâre terrible at âfakingâ this band- if weâre not having a good time it shows really, really bad, so we had to get ourselves to a point where we were having a good time again. But now we are!
Youâve now got three kids, one of which sometimes plays onstage with you.
I do, yeah.
If he said âDad, would you recommend I become a musician- and can I earn a living off it?â would you say go for it, be very careful, or donât do it?
I would say go for it except , the only thing that I would say is that itâs a lot more work than you think itâs going to be. And youâre gonna work way harder for something, whilst everyone around you will think youâre just loafing around being a bum. So you really need to have drive and hustle and you have to want to do this in order to make it work. My advice to my son, or to anybody, is that if youâre going to go into business with someone, whether itâs a friend, a major label or itâs a booking agent- make sure thereâs a level of trust there. Because thatâs the thing about the music industry- people will stab you in the back without thinking twice about it. You gotta make sure you surround yourself with people that you can trust and people that care about you....and make sure your band doesnât suck! If your band sucks, thereâs nothing you can do about it!
What are your own personal thoughts to music piracy?
I donât really mind it. I mean, Iâd be a hypercritic if I said Iâd be against it- I do that sort of thing myself. I guess I kind of think of it as that like, you have to treat record sales as part of the puzzle, and understand that way of thinking of records as more of a promotional thing, where for us itâs like âOK, we make records and if nobody buys them then maybe that means people still might be hearing them. So when we play shows, maybe more people may come and see us- and thatâs how we really make a livingâ. I think itâs a hard thing for people to get their heads around.
Youâre often referred to as an emo band and Something To Write Home About is seen by many the perfect emo album. Yet the emo genre has changed so dramatically over the past decade, as have your releases. Are you, or were you ever, happy to be associated with that genre?
Well, as far as I can tell... weâve been called emo since day one. It was always a derogatory term, it was always like âfucking emo band!â and was like calling someone a pussy, basically. And you know, a lot of the bands that we started touring with in the 90âs like Braid and Jimmy Eat World... we were all getting called emo, and we were kinda like âwhat does that even mean???â I mean I love a lot of those bands, theyâre my friends and I own their records and I like them, but it got to a point when we decided to make On A Wire, that we were like âwe canât keep pretending to be this band that...you know....â I mean thatâs just one part of us. I like it now that we get the second wave of emo that can distinguish us from bands like Paramore, and whoever else is out there. A lot of the bigger bands have said that theyâve been really influenced by us, which is cool. But you know, weâve always thought of ourselves as an indie rock and roll band and we just kinda do what we do. I donât know, for some reason early on we did really well, but I mean itâs not fun to just play the old stuff over and over again. Everyone in those bigger bands are really nice though, theyâve all treated us really well (laughs) !
Your latest EP, Simple Science, was recently released as a first of a series of new EP releases. What made you decide to release a series of EPs, instead of an album?
Yeeaaaah, I think that whole series of EPs thing is going out the window, I think itâs just gonna be an album now....because we keep writing more songs! Weâre up to 15 songs now, and they keep getting better. The original idea of doing a series of EPs instead of an album though, was to drag it out over the year because we didnât know if were gonna be touring or not. Currently the plan is, which is always subject to change, is that weâre gonna do a single release in the late fall and an album in late January or February.
There's a very old video on Youtube of you playing an acoustic rendition of Shorty from the Four Minute Mile EP at a college. How do you feel your approach to songwriting has changed since those days?
Well actually, our song-writing is currently more in line than that Four Minute Mile era- not in the style of the songs, but as far as how weâre writing them. Back then, weâd get together in a room, jam out an idea and somehow build a song out of that. It wasnât until we started writing STWHA where the style was that Iâd come in with a complete song, and the band would build around that. So this time, we have no ideas, just you know, making something up... and its fun- doing stuff because itâs weird and because itâs interesting.
Whatâs next for The Get Up Kids?
Probably a new album in the Spring and then a tour. Weâre coming back to play Reading and Leeds Festival in August, and then I donât know after that. Everything is kinda on hold until we finished the record. Weâve exhausted our reunion capitol, and now we need to put out a new record.
Interview conducted by Chris Foster
You can visit The Get Up Kids by heading to http://www.myspace.com/thegetupkids
The Get Up KidsInterview