The Get Up Kids returned in 2019 with their sixth studio album, Problems. It’s their first album since 2011’s There Are Rules, but this time, the band never really broke up as they did in 2004. While they each pursued some other projects, they never went far from one another, staying on the festival circuit when called.
Matt Pryor is the lead singer of the Lawrence, Kansas band. Before returning to Birmingham for the first time since – what he believes to be a performance at the now closed Barnstormer’s Pizza in Montevallo – he spoke about the new record, time apart and finding an audience from Lawrence.
You guys spent some time apart before 2011’s There Are Rules. It’s been eight years since, but it doesn’t really feel like you guys ever “split” this time. Is that accurate?
When we got done with the last record – and we did a whole, world-wide touring cycle on that record – it was kind of like, “Alright, let’s take a break.” That’s what we should have done when we broke up the first time, “Let’s take some time off to get away from each other for a little while.” Because we were burnt. Jim [Suptic, lead guitarist] went back to school and got a degree. Ryan [Pope, drums] moved to Paris for a couple of years. Rob [Pope, bass] was playing with Spoon; and James [Dewees, keyboards] was playing with My Chemical Romance. I started doing solo records; I did several solo records in that time and started doing my own shows. But we were performing. If a festival offer came in, we’d get together and go play it. One year, in 2013, Jim had “Spring Break” from college, so we did a Spring Break tour which was really fun.
Did you try to keep your solo touring light so you could be home with the kids?
Yeah, to me, the ideal tour is ten days. Because you’ve got two weekends in there. Although, I don’t know that that’s true with acoustic shows. In a perfect world, the best way to tour is short tours and to tour seasonally, which we are not doing a very good job of right now – we’re going to Alabama in July.
Our booking agent was like, “They’ve got air conditioning.” And I’m like, “Yeah, okay, cool. Great.”
Was Problems something that you’ve been working on in some form for those entire eight years, or was it something that you sat down and knocked out in two weeks?
There’s a couple of songs that were old demos. I think all three of Jim’s songs started off as older demos; I want to say that two of mine were. It wasn’t really intentional; they were just kind of the right songs, because that’s what you do. Then when it’s like, “Alright, we’re going to get together and try to start writing.” It’s like, “Okay, well, let’s dig through this scrap heap and see if there are any good parts to put in the cart.” But it wasn’t intentional. It wasn’t that we had been writing this record for eight years. No. [laughs] There’s probably a couple of songs that are that old.
I know it’s been important to you guys to evolve your sound. I think you accomplished that with this one. It doesn’t sound like a stereotypical “punk” record. How did you accomplish that? What was that evolution like?
I don’t exactly know. On other records we would really try to push ourselves to try something that we had never tried before. I think that we came up with a lot of really cool things in that mindset. On this record, the mindset was to play to our strengths a little bit; not to be too weird for the sake of being weird. We weren’t afraid to say, “Oh, yeah, that sounds like something you would have played in 1999.” That’s not bad. We were really popular in 1999.
It was kind of “getting out of our own way.”
When you started doing this in the 90s, a good chunk of the bands doing it were from California – and Florida, some, to an extent. How did you find your way to doing this from Kansas?
This is just where we all grew up. [laughs]
Did you ever feel alone? Was there any kind of scene there?
Yeah, it was a little bit of a heavier scene. Bands like Shiner; they’re like a heavier, mathier band. But there was a pretty thriving all-ages scene and an indie-rock scene. But it wasn’t really genre specific. We would play shows with ska bands. We would play show with gutter-punk bands. We would play shows with hardcore bands. There were so few of us that it didn’t really matter. “We’re all outsiders, so we can’t have a scene that’s that specific.”
Kansas is a difficult place; or it was at the time. We learned pretty early on that if we were going to do this at all, we needed to leave. And I don’t mean “move to L.A.,” I mean go on tour. We learned how to do that, and we did it.
The Get Up Kids comes to Saturn on Friday, July 12. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8:30 p.m. Great Grandpa opens. Tickets are $24.