The Get Up Kids arrived as fresh-faced teenagers in the mid-90s with unpretentious lyrics and stuck-in-the-head-for-years hooks. The band drew considerable underground buzz with the 1997 debut Four Minute Mile, but broke out into the mainstream with the widely (and justifiably) adored follow-up in 1999, Something To Write Home About. In its review, Rolling Stone wrote that the album showed the band with confidence and successfully “balanced its earnest romanticism between lurching punk and yearning pop.”
The band continued to release new music until a hiatus starting in 2011. But this year, The Get Up Kids returned with the stunning full-length, Problems, a showcase of maturity that holds true to their roots while exploring unexpected places. The band that was once renowned for its ability to encapsulate the raw emotion and vulnerability of youth, is now targeting adulthood with the same cunning lyricism, energy, and musicianship.
Calling in from a restaurant during a tour stop in Dallas, the band’s frontman Matt Pryor spoke to Pittsburgh City Paper ahead of their performance at the Rex Theater on December 13 about their new album, the 20-year anniversary of Something To Write Home About, and his love of the Pittsburgh band Homeless Gospel Choir.
You're playing here on Friday the 13th. Are you superstitious?
I hadn’t even noticed that. I’m sure it’ll be fine. The last time I played that place I lost my voice, so it can’t be any worse than that.
You’re promoting a new album called Problems. Do you feel this album is a new start for you? A reset for the band?
Yes, that’s kind of how we envisioned it, especially creatively speaking. We kind of felt that we had reached a point where we could just be ourselves. We’ve done a lot of experimenting over the last 20 years with the records that we’ve put out. And you know one of them worked really well, and some of them worked less than others. But this one felt very much like, "Let's take those kids that we were 20 years ago, combined with all of the experience and experimenting we’ve done since then, and really harness that."
Do you think that the time away from The Get Up Kids affected your songwriting?
Yeah. I think all of the experiences, the time away, the time together, the time with family, the time playing in other bands — it was all culminating with what we are doing now. I think it’s pretty cool.
What stands out about Problems for you?
I’m pretty excited about the whole thing. I think collectively our favorite song is called “Salina.” It’s very much like a step forward. It’s kind of a new: I don’t know how to describe it. It feels kind of like an evolution into something different from what we have done in the past.
Something To Write Home About came out 20 years ago. Are you worried that the new album is going to get overlooked with this strong album in your catalog?
No. I mean when you have something… [Problems] has been out for over six months now, so if you like the band, you probably would’ve heard it by now. So talking about the 20-year anniversary of STWHA, I’m super proud of that record, too. And I celebrate that one as well.
Regarding STWHA, why do you think it’s held up so well?
I think the record is kind of a ripper. I think the songs are good and it rocks. You know it’s a punk rock record in a lot of ways, but then also the lyrics are really honest and really vulnerable and really like, you know, a time, a snapshot of where I was in my life at the time, which I think a lot of people can relate to.
Given that everyone has been doing these social media challenges, and you have a seminal record that came out 20 years ago. I wonder if you could impart advice to the 20-year younger version of you. What would you say to yourself?
Save your money!
What can you tell us about Pittsburgh? This will be your seventh concert in our city.
We’ve been coming there since ’97 and ’98. … We used to play Club Laga back in the day, which is an interesting load-in if I recall. I love Pittsburgh … There aren't very many unique cities in this country. But, it's kind of the same way that New Orleans is kind of like no other city in the U.S., you know what I mean? It’s just a very unique and interesting city. I love the terrain of it, the kind of working-class spirt of it. I appreciate that spirit a lot. And you got the Homeless Gospel Choir!