When Missouri’s The Get Up Kids broke up in 2005, they stepped away from a clear path ahead. The Kansas City punk-pop group’s first two albums, 1997’s Four Minute Mile and 1999’s Something To Write Home About, were tight, propulsive and deceptively well-crafted slices of emotionally charged rock, led by singer/guitarist Matt Pryor’s wounded wail. And those albums were massively influential.
Pete Wentz, the bass player for the popular emo band Fall Out Boy, once said that his group wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for The Get Up Kids. Mark Hoppus of Blink 182 proposed to his wife with “I’ll Catch You,” the final track on Something To Write Home About, as the soundtrack. And various other emotive pop-punk bands cite the band as an influence.
As influential as they were, though, The Get Up Kids weren’t able to gain the commercial foothold that Fall Out Boy and Blink 182 achieved. After selling more than 100,000 copies of their second album, the band moved into more mellow territory on subsequent releases. Fans reacted negatively, and the band broke up acrimoniously after 2004’s Guilt Show, its fourth album.
So there are several reasons why their new album, Problems, is such a surprise. The fact that it exists at all is something of a minor miracle. The Get Up Kids reunited initially in 2009, but their first post-reunion album, 2011’s There Are Rules, was largely ignored by their fans, even as the band continued to draw audiences to live shows.
“When the band got back together in 2009, it was like, ‘We don’t hate each other anymore, so let’s do this again,’” Pryor tells Free Times. “Then when the tour went well, we decided to put out a new record. And it kind of didn’t go anywhere.”
It took almost eight years before the band was willing to try to hit the studio again.
“It got to a point where we wanted to see if we had anything to say, or if we had any songs to sing,” Pryor says. “We went into it knowing if we didn’t love it, we could always just be a festival band and play the old hits, and that’s fine, too.”
Luckily, the band found new inspiration by combining their old sound with Pryor’s new, more mature lyrical perspective. Musically, Problems sounds like it could’ve followed Something To Write Home About in the early 2000s. Pryor and Jim Suptic’s guitars roar just as loudly as they once did (though there are some acoustic six-strings layered in the mix), and the rhythm section of Rob Pope (bass), Ryan Pope (drums) and James Dewees (keyboards) has plenty of power.
“We were pretty confident going into this that if people had given up on us after the first two records because it got too weird, that they’d find something on this record that they would like,” Pryor offers.
The only difference now is that their frontman is 40, not in his early 20s.
“I think it’s a similar perspective written by a person at a different point in their life,” Pryor says of the new songs. “Going into this record I was very much thinking about singing about big themes: love, loss, heartbreak, although less so, and personal reflection, but as an adult, not the 20-year-old who’s bummed out that his girlfriend moved away to go to college.”
After a moment of thought, Pryor adds with a laugh, “I’m writing now as the 40-year-old whose daughter is going to be going to college soon.”
A decade into their reunion, Pryor says the band has been able to get along because they’ve kept their touring schedule manageable and their priorities straight.
“We started this when we were teenagers,” he says. “Back then, there was nothing else; there was only this. We did that for the better part of ten years, and ultimately that left us needing to get away from each other and have lives. I don’t think you can be a well-rounded person and be completely defined by your job. Family’s important, hobbies are important, friends are important, and now we look at this as one aspect of our lives. We have families, we have other responsibilities.”
And there won’t be any more touring ‘til they drop for the once-indefatigable Get Up Kids.
“If we’re going to have any longevity, we now know that, even though we could go 200 dates in a row back in the day, we need to keep it to two to three weeks and take a break,” Pryor reasons. “It keeps us from going nuts or killing each other.”
What: The Get Up Kids
Where: New Brookland Tavern, 122 State St.
When: Friday, July 19, 7:30 p.m.
Price: $26 ($22 advance)
With: Great Grandpa
More: 803-791-4413, newbrooklandtavern.com