Interview: The Get Up Kids - 16/08/08
The band spoke to Alter The Press! about their recent shows in the US, Bamboozle, how the reunion came together, the re-release of 'Something To Write Home About', today's music scene, 'emo', the future of The Get Up Kids and more.
Alter The Press: You've been back together as a band since late 2008, how does it feel?
Matt Pryor: We are having a good time.
James Dewees: We are taking it real slow. There is no pressure on anybody to get anything done.
Matt: I get nervous sometimes because we haven't been together like, for an extended period of time yet, and this is the only the beginning. Everyone seems to be in a good head space, which is positive, and everyone is happy to be back.
ATP: What would you say has changed?
Matt: We are older and fatter!
James: Less teeth, another wife, divorced, remarried, lost four more teeth, gained about 40 pounds! That's how it feels to be back!
ATP: How about back on the road?
Matt: This is the first time; the shows at the beginning of the year weren’t really a tour. It was just three shows in a row. They went really well but there are more things which I have to be aware of. At the Troubadour show, it was really fun and I wanted to just keep going but the next day at Bamboozle, I couldn't hear myself and thought I'd lost my voice.
ATP: Whose decision was it for the reunion?
Matt: It was a collective decision really.
James: I remember speaking to Matt in early 2008 and we were making plans. I was out with My Chemical Romance, Rob with Spoons, so it was a question of when it would all work out and it ended up working out in November.
ATP: (to James) Prior to the reunion, on the "last" Reggie And The Full Effect tour, you were dropping a few hints, was that a mistake or intentional?
James: It was a total mistake! I was told that Matt told some kids so I could do it, Matt said he didn't tell anybody. Some kid told me, and I was just a dumbass for believing some stupid kid! It was just a kid saying, 'Matt has said it, confirm it!' and I was just like 'Oh god, I've opened my freakin' mouth again!'
ATP: On your Twitter page, you posted pictures of you in the studio. Were they you recording, working on new material or just rehearsing?
Matt: The pictures from the studio were just rehearsals. We haven't firmed up that decision yet, to do anything new, we'll see how well we get along by the end of this tour before we make a decision to do anything else.
ATP: Were these UK shows something you planned when you reformed?
Matt: Yes. It worked out really well this year, that James was off tour and so was Robbie. We intended it to be 2 weeks on and off etc. I think we would have come earlier in the year, if we had known how the fall was going to prep up. We wanted this two week tour so we can stick our toe in and see if anyone gave a shit about us in Europe/UK.
ATP: How has the response been so far?
Matt: All the UK shows are sold out but since we've been back, the response has been positive I think. I haven't really followed up on it.
James: It seems like we are playing all of our songs but everyone has such separate lives now with our families and everything. We don't really follow the scene like we used to but all the kids have been happy.
ATP: How was the reaction playing Bamboozle this year?
Matt: Festivals are weird and hard anyway. I felt old there. I felt like an obligatory old timer band.
James: We were there really for the bands. They were all like 'Oh my god! We are stoked!'
Matt: The reviews were really positive on our end. I took the first Bamboozle (Left in California) pretty hard as I didn't have my festival legs yet, from playing the clubs, to playing that.
James: When you are used to playing clubs, and you get that club interaction where kids are three feet away to you, instead of thirty feet away from you, it's definitely a big thing for us as a band; who plays with the kids. It's a lot of fun to be that up, close and personal. It makes it fun. It makes it better.
Matt: Having the intimacy back and forth makes it interesting. Granted, I love playing for half an hour at 5:30 in the middle of the day and going back to the hotel, it's awesome.
ATP: 'Something To Write Home About' has been given a lot of praise over the years. Ten years on, if there was something you could go back and change, what would it be?
Matt: I would change all the keys of the songs and tune everything down. It's hard to sing like that sometimes.
ATP: Is there a meaning behind the robot artwork?
Matt: Not a thing. We said to our friend Travis that we needed artwork by tomorrow. We said: ‘Make us a drawing, really simple and fast.’ He made this really elaborate big painting which was great.
ATP: With regards to the re-release of the 'STWHA', was this something you wanted to do for a while?
Matt: No. It's really an excuse to do the reunion. We have this b-reel footage of old bootlegs and shit with it too. We spoke about putting out 'Eudora' as a DVD, but I think we didn't like it or something, I don't know really. Watching a DVD of yourself is really awkward.
ATP: Was this something you worked close with Vagrant Records?
Matt: We worked close with them, but it wasn't like a creative collaboration or anything. It was just us saying, 'What can we do for a re-issue?' Originally, it was going to be a DVD and a nice book, with photos from the sessions to make it really classy, but apparently it was too expensive. It comes with a booklet which is an extension of the original booklet with a ton of photos and stuff. I wanted to do a nice book with hand written lyric sheets though.
ATP: At the time when you wrote the album, who were you're main influences?
Matt: At the time, we were listening to, Jimmy Eat World's 'Clarity', Wilco's 'Summerteeth', Radiohead's 'OK Computer'. I bought the 'Clarity' and 'Summerteeth' vinyl on the same day.
ATP: How does it feel for artists like Pete Wentz (Fall Out Boy) saying they wouldn't be a band if it wasn't for The Get Up Kids?
James: Pete Wentz likes the band. He's just a dude really. It's like anyone else saying it; him, a kid outside etc.
Matt: It has about the same merit.
ATP: What is your take on the music scene that The Get Up Kids are affiliated with?
Matt: I don't think that scene exists anymore. We get lumped into being called an 'emo' band and whatever that is now, it doesn't have any relevance to us. If it's musical influence, work ethic, I see it.
Jim Suptic: When we started, we didn’t think we would make any money. It's like punk rock, just playing basements.
Matt: It's like anything that becomes popular, it becomes part of the machine and now, there are honest bands out that think they need to sound a certain way to make money. It's like after Green Day got huge, it’s just what happens and it just becomes insincere.
Jim: It's like listening to a Kelly Clarkson pop song, and I will hear a part that sounds like Jimmy Eat World.
Matt: I never liked the term 'emo' and always fought against wanting to be called that. Now it's like, we are not emo, that is. Now we can step away from it.
ATP: 'Emo' is described as bands like My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy who are pop-rock.
James: They are popular radio, that's what 'emo' bands have evolved into now. Major labels are going to towns like Joplin, Missouri to find the next 'emo' band.
Matt: We are the Mudhoney of 'emo'.
ATP: Are there any new bands that have caught your attention?
Matt: Bon Iver and the new Phoenix record.
James: I just bought Madame Butterfly by Puccini (opera) and I like that a lot.
ATP: This UK tour has been tagged as 'The Last UK Tour', is this the last time this country will see The Get Up Kids?
ATP: Was there a reason earlier this year, after Bamboozle, that you came to Europe but only played the Grozerock Festival in Belgium?
Matt: They paid us more to do only one show, we were contractually obligated. We wanted to play Cologne, as we always have good shows there, but we couldn't as it was in the radius where we couldn't play but, we knew we were coming back anyway.
ATP: The US tour coming up, did you hand pick the support yourselves?
Matt: I did the routing but I said I wanted Kevin (Devine) to come out with us and The Life and Times. I haven't heard the bands who are on the west coast with us though. Youth Group, from Australia, are playing, who are good too.
ATP: What is the future after the US tour?
Matt: We are playing the Soundwave Festival in Australia, which My Chemical Romance are playing too, so James is doing two sets.
James: I'm probably going to have nine keyboards in Australia.
Matt: We may go to Japan but I don't know, as Robbie has commitments with Spoons and James with My Chemical Romance, but at the moment, we are just having fun and not taking it all seriously. I think it got really old when I had to take everything seriously and make it all business.
ATP: Will members having commitments with other bands prioritize over The Get Up Kids?
Matt: The one thing which I don’t like is that it's kind of frustrating sometimes, having to deal with other bands schedules to do our schedule, but I really like that this isn't the only thing all five of us do. It makes it a lot less like work and more like fun. I think that it's really positive.
The 10th Anniversary re-issue of 'Something To Write Home About' is out 7th September on Vagrant Records.
- Jon Ableson/Sean Reid