“My wife saw us play last year and she said, ‘You know, there’s something that works when you guys are together – but you guys are assholes to each other’. And we are,” laughs The Get Up Kids’ Matt Pryor.
“That phrase, ‘We’re loyal, like brothers’ [from the song ‘Red Letter Day’]; we are. Watching my sons fight and get along, it’s like us. We fight a lot, but ultimately we’re on the same page – and hopefully, something good comes out of it.”
Indeed, with ‘Kicker’, the group’s new oh-so-short four-song EP, something very good has come out of this relationship. Something so good, in fact, that plans are being concocted that puts the future of the group on solid foundations after a seven-year absence from recording material.
Pryor’s certainly upbeat. He’s currently at home, sitting on his porch, having taken his kids to school and spent some time in the gym earlier in the day. And even upbeat doesn’t quite cover his mood; he’s bubbling with excitement; excited for people to hear ‘Kicker’ and excited for people to hear what comes next for The Get Up Kids.
Seven years is a long time to be away from recording, but when Pryor says ‘Kicker’ “comes out swinging”, he’s not wrong. Sure to appeal to fans old and new, it’s a charged EP filled with big sing-along choruses and easy on the ear indie-rock melodies. A throwback to the group’s earlier sound, it makes for a triumphant return, wrapped up in the image of the ‘sport’ (well, pastime) of foosball.
“The EP has a dual meaning,” considers Pryor. “Yes, we like foosball, but it’s also a kicker of an EP; four fast songs, and also like a new beginning – like kicking off a new chapter.”
Burned by the experience of self-releasing 2011’s ‘There Are Rules’ – and bummed about the response – The Get Up Kids took some downtime. This time away turned into a “malaise”, as band members concentrated on other stuff, such as going back to school or raising a family.
Then, last summer, Pryor came to a realisation. Having just done a solo tour – and with the five members of The Get Up Kids (completed by Jim Suptic, James Dewees, Rob and Ryan Pope) with a free diary – they decided to hit the studio and see what happens.
“It was like ‘Why am I putting so much effort into this other stuff? Why don’t I just double down on Get Up Kids stuff?’
“No matter what I do it’s always going to be Matt Pryor (of The Get up Kids), so I might as well lean into that. Once that decision was made, it was just about making it happen. It was a lot of nagging,” he laughs.
Ever eager to experiment (“We’re not Madonna though,” attests Pryor), the group set themselves a challenge: to see what The Get Up Kids of twenty years ago – the ones who made ‘Something To Write Home About’ and ‘Four Minute Mile’ – would make today. With ‘Kicker’, such ambition came about accidentally, but with an album in the works, and tentatively pencilled in for early next year, they’ve deliberately decided to push this idea to the limit.
“I’m still trying to get my head around it,” confesses Pryor. “The only way that I’ve come up with explaining it is in the lyrics. I couldn’t write a song about how I miss my girlfriend now that I’m forty-one, but I can write a song about how a friend of mine passed away. It’s a similarly raw subject to talk about, so it’s trying to find the things thematically in life that can be a modern, grown-up version of what we did when we were twenty – without it being derivative.”
Perhaps one of the reasons for this new-found optimism can be seen in the shifting musical landscape in which the Get Up Kids of 2018 find themselves in. In 2011, the emo revival wasn’t on anybody’s radar. Seven years later it has been and gone – and seen a whole raft of bands embrace a DIY way of life and a debt of gratitude to The Get Up Kids’ early sound.
Now the group are in a position to reclaim their legacy – something which Pryor seems to have made peace with. Modern Baseball, for example, described opening for The Get Up Kids at Riot Fest as a bucket list moment. Frank Turner, meanwhile, told Pryor that his first band used to cover The Get Up Kids. Such comments have led Pryor to come to terms with the group’s influential history – reconciling and reclaiming it from the alienation felt in the mid-late 2000s.
“I feel more comfortable now with what people tell me is our musical legacy than I did ten years ago,” Pryor says. “If someone’s like, ‘[The Get Up Kids] were a big influence on me’, and if I can really listen to them and be like, ‘Wow, they are really fucking good, I wanna be influenced by them,’ then that’s something I can be proud of.”
This sense of acceptance – comfortableness even – translates to the group’s internal relationships. With five passionate characters working behind the scenes, it’s unsurprising that conflicts would arise. Pryor admits this is the happiest he’s been in the band for a long time, and it sounds like the lines of communication are better than ever.
“We have a weird sort of common language that only the five of us and maybe three other people speak – inside jokes and a sort of shorthand page where we can communicate with each other without saying anything.
“But at the same time, we’re all incredibly stubborn people, so there’s a certain kind of Voltron magic when you get the five of us together, but sometimes you have to fight for it.”
Where things have changed, however, is in knowing what people’s strengths are, and in using them, says Pryor. “We all now have enough outside experience to be like… if I bring a song in, I’ll look at Rob and Ryan and say, ‘You two need to work out how we’re going to fuck this up’. That’s something we didn’t do so well in the past.”
And this is what, in essence, makes ‘Kicker’ so exciting. The four songs are marked by the talents and songwriting skills of the five Get Up Kids; the chaotic effervescence of ‘Maybe’, the glorious layered pop of ‘I’m Sorry’ or the timeless charm of ‘Better This Way’. “We have to take that piece of coal, put it into The Get Up Kids machine and turn it into a diamond – hopefully – rather than another shitty piece of coal. But each of us has to put our mark on it,” comments Pryor.
‘Kicker’ is, quintessentially, a classic Get Up Kids record, brimming with the urgency and drive of youth, but coloured by twenty years of experience. It’s also another pitch-perfect EP and one that could take things full circle for a band that continues to evolve.
“My hope is that the people who have written us off because they didn’t like what we tried in the last 15 years, will hear the EP and be like, ‘Oh… I’m intrigued’,” says Pryor. “And, when they hear the record, they’ll be like ‘Shit… let’s go back and listen to those weird records’.”
Like a sleeping giant fighting history and expectation but waking from its slumber following the wilderness years, ‘Kicker’ is a real throwback to the trophy-laden glory days. On this strength alone, expect a full-blown title challenge when the full-length drops next year…