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Feature: An Essential Guide To: The Get Up Kids

To celebrate their recent re-formation, the 10 year anniversary of ‘Something To Write Home About’ and their imminent return to the UK. We thought it would be fitting to take a retrospective look at one of the most influential and genre-defining bands of the last decade, The Get Up Kids.

Part 1: History

Formed out of two bands in high school, Matthew Pryor, Jim Suptic and brothers, Ryan and Rob Pope formed The Get Up Kids in 1995. In the year that followed, the four-piece became increasingly popular in the Mid-West music scene. This was assisted by 2 split releases, the first with Coalesce (1996) and the second being alongside Illinois’ Braid (1997).

This would be followed by the bands first 7-inch, ‘Woodson’. The release caught the attention of Ohio-based Doghouse Records, which led to the band soon signed with.

The band’s first full-length was ‘Four Minute Mile’ (1997), produced by Bob Weston and was recorded in the space of 2 days. The 11 track release set the bands musical template, consisting of energetic, catchy rock with sensitive lyrics.

The release had an over-whelming response from critics and the bands growing fan base. However they became unhappy with Doghouse Records and after the release of the ‘Red Letter Day EP’, the band left the label and signed with Vagrant Records.

The bands first release for Vagrant was ‘Something To Write Home About’ in September 1999 and produced by Alex Brahl. The record was more upbeat but retained its warm, emotional tone. During this time a fifth member was added. James Dewees; formerly of Coalesce, joined the band and heavily contributed to the band more optimistic approach.

The reaction to ‘Something To Write Home About’ was unbelievable, as it transformed Vagrant from a struggling independent label to one of the leading label within the scene, that would go on to sign bands such as Saves The Day, Alkaline Trio and Dashboard Confessional. As a result of the success, the band toured for three years, including support slows alongside Green Day and Weezer, as well as fellow emo bands, Hot Rod Circuit, The Anniversary and Jebediah.

However the inclusion of keyboards left fans dejected and displeased. Rob Pope at the time said:

"Some of them have been ‘What the hell are you doing with keyboards in the band? You’re ruining your band.’ and other people have been like ‘Wow, that really adds a lot. It really sounds great,"

As a result of the success of ‘Something To Write Home About’, the band released a split EP with The Anniversary (1999) and a b-sides and rarities collection called ‘Eudora’ (2001). In addition to this, the bands former label, Doghouse, re-released and re-mastered ‘Four Minute Mile’ and combined the ‘Woodson’ and ‘Red letter Day’ EPs on to one collection.

"Action and Action" from Something To Write Home About

In late 2001 the band began to record what would become ‘On A Wire’ with Scott Litt, who brought a more constructive approach and with very little to distract the band. Rob Pope said

"We ended up doing this one with Scott Litt because he approached us; he heard the demos and he really liked them. We really concentrated on arrangements - just putting across what needs to come across and not overplaying. It was cool because we were recording in a house in Connecticut, and we didn’t really know anybody around there, so there weren’t a lot of distractions."

During this time, the band was frustrated and tired from extensive touring. Nevertheless ‘On A Wire’ was a more mature effort, both lyrically and musically. James Dewees noted that the band wanted to experiment and write slower songs:

“We want to experiment with writing slower songs with acoustic guitars or organ or string parts or keyboards instead of the soft-then-loud-then-scream songs with the typical punk-rock-flourish ending!”

There was a split response to ‘On A Wire’ with most critics admiring its mature, structured approach. Whilst fans felt the songs did not fit well into the bands energetic live show.

"Overdue" from On A Wire

When it came to writing the follow-up 'Guilt Show', personal relationships within the band and privately, both affected and influenced the writing of the record.

Whilst touring ‘Guilt Show’ inner tensions within the band grew, due to various personal issues. By March 2005 the band decided to call it quits and go there separate ways.

"The One You Want" from Gulit Show

In the years that followed, each member went on to concentrate on their own projects. Matt Pryor continue work with his acoustic group, The New Amsterdams, which he had originally formed in 2000. After The Get Up Kids split, They released 3 records; 2005’s ‘Story Like A Scar’, 2006’s ‘Killed or Cured’ and 2008’s ‘At Foot At My Rival’. In addition to this, Pryor formed a children’s band, The Terrible Two’s before releasing a solo record, ‘Confidence Man’ in June 2008 on Vagrant.

Jim Septic went on to form Blackpool Lights, an indie rock band that would release a self-titled EP in 2005, followed by ‘This Town’s Disaster’ the following year. Whilst James Dewees continued his solo project known as, Reggie and The Full Effect as well as performing touring duties with established bands; New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance. Rob Pope played with several bands; Spoon, White Wale and Koufax, where brother Ryan joined on drums.

By late 2008 rumours; fuelled by Dewees, started spreading that the Kansas five-piece would re-uniting. On November 14th, local newspaper The Kansas City Star announced that the band would be playing a local intimate surprise show on the 16th.

Since then the band have played a number of shows including appearances at the Bamboozle festival in New Jersey and Groezrock in Belgium. In addition to this band will play there first (and final) UK shows since 2004, including an intimate performance at The Peel in Kingston. This will be followed up with a US tour in the Autumn and a 10th Anniversary edition of ‘Something To Write Home About’ will be released in September.

Part 2: The Essentials and The Influence

Essential Playlist:

Ten Minutes
Man of Conviction
A Red Letter Day
Martyr Me
Action and Action
Stay Gone
Anne Arbour
Close To Me (The Cure Cover)
The One You Want
I’m A Loner Dottie, A Rebel
The Dark Night of the Soul
Lion and the Lamb
Wish You Were Here
A Newfound Interest in Massachutes
Is There A Way Out
Out Of Reach
I’ll Catch You
Listen to The Essential Guide To: The Get Up Kids on Spotify

Where To Start: Something To Write Home About

The so-called breakthrough album from 1999 has all the characteristics that The Get Up Kids are now known for. It is a record filled with pop-hooks with emotional sentiment. Songs such as ‘Holiday’ and ‘Action and Action’ providing the hooks, whilst ‘Out of Reach’ and ‘I’ll Catch You’ being examples of Kansas five-piece at there most emotional. The aforementioned have gone to become classics, along with ‘Ten Minutes’ and ‘Close To Home’

Paul Savage (from on Something To Write Home About:

“I think anyone who reads PT with any regularity will know about my love for The Get Up Kids. It's safe to say that without that band - and more specifically 'Something To Write Home About' - there would be no website and my musical tastes would be vastly different. My love for the band exploded in about 1998 when that record came out. I can't remember exactly how I stumbled across the band as I don't think I had the internet back then, and even if I did it would have been 56k dial up and slow, slow, slow download speeds. I do remember picking the CD up from my local Virgin or Our Price, probably attracted by the two awesome robots on the cover. I listened, fell in love and remember copying it from CD to tape so I could play it in my banged up Fiat Uno. It was the soundtrack to my summer, my university life and then the beginning (and end) of a couple of relationships.

'Something To Write Home About', a majestic pop record with some of the best songs ever written. I think this record just struck a chord with me as I grew out of my teenage years. 'Ten Minutes', 'Action and Action' and, well, every single song are all just fantastic. When Matt Pryor yells ' how could you do this to me?' early on in this album I just had to yell it back. It's totally unmissable stuff.”

Follow Up With: 'Guilt Show'

The bands last studio outing from 2004 is the bands most upbeat and commercial sounding record, with tracks like ‘The One You Want’ and ‘How Long Is Too Long’ sounding like they wouldn’t be out of place on commercial radio. While ‘Is There A Way Out’ shows the bands more experimental side, with distant-yet-distorted vocals and electronic beeps and strings create an eerie affect.

Sean Reid ( on Guilt Show:

“I was a late comer and didn’t discover them until I picked up a random Vagrant Records sampler ("Another Year On The Streets Volume 2") in 2003. I played that sampler to death, so many great bands on their; Dashboard Cofessional, Alkaline Trio, Hot Rod Circuit, Saves The Day and then this one band I had never heard of, The Get Up Kids. Months later I picked up ‘Guilt Show’ from my only record store in town and alongside Taking Back Sunday’s ‘Tell All Your Friends’, it became the soundtrack to my summer, with it being played repeatedly on my MiniDisc whilst out skateboarding. The mix of rock pop guitars with “emo” lyrics had me hooked and wanting more. I soon picked up their other records and The Get Up Kids quickly became my new favourite band.”

Listen to 'Guilt Show' on Spotify

The Shortcut: ‘Live At The Granada Theatre’

Alternatively the quickest way to be introduced to The Get Up Kids is by listening to their 2005 live album, ‘Live At The Granada Theatre’. The 17 song set spans the bands entire discography from ‘Coming Clean’ (from ‘Four Minute Mile’) to ‘Stay Gone’ from ‘On A Wire’, as well a few numbers from ‘Guilt Show’, ‘Something To Write Home About’ and ‘Woodson’.

Listen 'Live At The Granada Theatre' on Spotify.

Me and The Get Up Kids: Andrew Kelham (Rock Sound and Alternative Press writer)

"For me, loving The Get Up Kids is part of loving something wider. My memories of that band are inextricably linked with the things that surrounded me at the time I discovered them. Flyers outside shows pointing you to the next great reason to stay in debt, fanzines that were printed on cheap stock but filled with great stories, distro tables by the merch, being able to talk to anyone in the room knowing you had something in common and Punk Planet (still the best periodical I have ever read).

I will always remember a friend who worked in a second hand clothes store telling me about a new band called Alkaline Trio, the guy at Green River Records in Reading who always scoffed at my purchases (while pointing out classic releases from Screaming Trees and Fugazi) and the moment I picked up the Vagrant compilation 'Another Year On The Streets Volume 1'. Track 5 was TGUK and the rest, as they say, was history."

Me and The Get Up Kids: Kevin Douch (Big Scary Monster Records):

"The Get Up Kids are my all-time favourite band. Numero uno. Top dog. I remember first discovering emo a decade ago and not knowing where to turn to feed my new obsession, I opened the pages of Kerrang and flicked to the album reviews page where a rather odd drawing of a couple of robots caught my eye. I don't remember a word of what it said, but two days later my auction ended on eBay and a $2 copy of the CD was on its way to me from the US. Baring in mind that at this point my internet connection could only work (painfully slowly) when my mum wasn't gassing on the phone and that streaming music was but a glimmer in the eye, I'd still not heard a single song. Little did I know that this album would go on to be the most consistently listened to over the next 10 years, let alone a defining point in both the development of my personal music taste, and the musical course of my as yet unborn record label.

It was the beginning of a beautiful love affair which spanned the length of their recorded lifetime (first moving backwards, and then forwards with the ensuing new albums) and now plays a vital role in my iPod's soundtrack. If I'm in a good mood, I stick The Get Up Kids on and sing along. If I'm in a bad mood, I stick The Get Up Kids on and cheer myself up. If I'm in a reflective mood, I stick The Get Up Kids on and lose myself in thought. If it's a sunny day, if it's pouring with rain, if I'm angry or if I just want to listen to something I love, it's the same result.

I don't really know what else to say. I could gush on for days telling you how much I love this band and spend weeks trying to put together my top five songs (for the record, the top 10 would definitely feature 'Mass Pike', 'I'm A Loner Dottie A Rebel', 'Anne Arbour', 'Alec Eiffel' and 'Don't Hate Me' - although my head spins if trying to put them into an order), but instead of boring you to tears, I'm off to listen through the back catalogue and daydream about the forthcoming UK shows. It's good to have them back. Long live The Get Up Kids!"

Part 3: Discography

1996 - Burned Bridges/I'm Giving Up On This One (Split with Coalesce)
1997 - Post Marked Stamps No. 4 (split with Braid)
1997 - Woodson EP
1997 - Four Minute Mile
1999 - Red Letter Day EP
1999 - Something to Write Home About
1999 - Central Standard Time/Vasil + Bluey (Split with The Anniversary)
2001 - Devil in the Woods (Split with Rocket From The Crypt)
2001 - Eudora
2002 - On A Wire
2004 - Guilt Show
2005 - Live! @ The Granada Theater

The Get Up Kids start their UK tour this Sunday.

August 16 - Kingston Peel
August 17 - Birmingham Academy 2
August 18 - Manchester Academy 2
August 19 - Camden Electric Ballroom

The 10th Anniversary edition of 'Something To Write Home About' is released on September 7th on Vagrant Records.


Official Website

Sean Reid (Thanks to Paul from Punktastic, Kevin from Big Scary Monsters Records and Andrew Kelham for contributing)

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