Editor's note: In its origins, the TASTE OF CHAOS tour was frequently deemed “Winter Warped” by both fans and organizers. The 2006 road show took place in the late winter and early spring, featuring lineups populated by some of the most diverse voices in the scene, including bands like My Chemical Romance, the Used, Underoath, Killswitch Engage, Deftones, Atreyu, Avenged Sevenfold and 30 Seconds To Mars. For the next few weeks, we are going to go back in our time capsules to revisit some of the names that not only cemented TOC as a formidable adjunct to Warped Tour's summer mania, but as a festival of great merit curated on its own aesthetic terms.
As the reactivated TOC begins its next chapter with a touring lineup of Dashboard Confessional, Taking Back Sunday, Saosin and many others, we'll be starting this weekly special “Taste Of Tuesday,” where we'll look back at the bands participating at the point of their original zeitgeist. This week, we’re rewinding to 2004, when THE GET UP KIDS barreled into our interview with no holds barred. The ceiling-shattering emo rockers talked divorce, social commentary and business troubles—and, of course, wasted no time playing nice.
On their ambitious new disc, THE GET UP KIDS dare to grow up within a genre that perpetuates arrested development
Story: Cara Lynn Shultz // Photos: Jayme Thornton
The Kids are all right. But you might not know it by listening to the Get Up Kids’ fourth album, Guilt Show. Musically, it’s a tightly wrapped package of brisk guitars, lilting piano riffs and singer/lyricist Matt Pryor’s melodic, plaintive whine.
Lyrically, well, that’s another story. Brimming with stinging lyrics that point to betrayal, self-reliance and bitterness, it’s a heartbreaking ode to lost love, written at one of the most difficult points in the Kids’ personal lives. It’s also the best record of their career.
What started almost a decade ago in a high school in Eudora, Kansas, has become a five-man force that’s been credited with kicking open the door for emo (much to their chagrin); churning out side projects (the New Amsterdams, Reggie And The Full Effect) that are almost as successful as the band itself; and sparking countless copycat acts.
“If emo-rock is remembered for all these brand-new, upstart bands that get signed to Drive-Thru Records, then, yeah, that would bum me out a little bit,” says bassist Rob Pope, “since we have been pigeonholed into that whole thing.”
But the Get Up Kids are redefining the whole thing, this genre that seems to rely on arrested development. (“That’s all the more reason to not want to be associated with it,” Pryor says.) Recorded at their own Black Lodge studio in Eudora, Guilt Show continues the momentum started with 2002’s On A Wire. This time out, the Kids—Pryor, Pope, guitarist Jim Suptic, keyboardist James Dewees and drummer Ryan Pope—tackle more mature subject matter, from politics to Rob’s divorce from his long-time love. Welcome the Grown Up Kids.
AP: What was the songwriting process for this record?
MATT PRYOR: We wrote 18 [songs] for this record. My personal life is great. It was great at the time of the record. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, but I don’t think that would translate into a good song. Elvis Costello said that when you run out of things in your own life, you have to start singing about other people’s relationships. So that’s what I did. There’s hardly anything on this record that’s about me at all.
ROB POPE: We had a lot of those songs written going into it, in demos and ready to go. I think the theme and maybe the overall tonality changed a lot [after Pope’s divorce]. It made everyone step back and go, “Wow. Okay.” It’s a big thing.
A breakup alone is a big thing.
POPE: Yeah, exactly. And some of my favorite records are breakup records, which are great. I don’t know if it breathes new life into the band by any means, but to me it felt like that. Everyone was really willing to work and push forward with this thing that we created a long time ago. The band is definitely a main priority at this point.
Did [the divorce] change the dynamic of the band?
POPE: It didn’t change drastically by any means. Not like it was D-Day! But I think I really made everyone realize that we really need to do something. Life’s a weird fucking thing. It’s not always fun, so we should probably get on with it. Obviously, everyone wanted to make a kickass record, but that sent [the recording] into high gear.
Songs like “Never Be Alone” are loaded with this imagery of tarnished rings and promises broken. Were there times when you were like, “Matt, how did you know exactly what I was going through?”
POPE: It wasn’t like, “Exactly!” It was like, “Damn it, Matt!” I was just like, “Are you going to write the whole fucking record about this?” It got to the point where, to me, it was almost humorous, really, [but] at the same time, very, very poignant. Matt and I are really good friends, and, obviously, he could see what was going on. Matt’s a really great lyricist; he’s got a wife and a kid, and there’s a lot of inspiration from other things than that. There’s lots going on in the world besides this thing.
Like social commentary. You have a political song (“Holy Roman”) on this record, which is a departure for you guys.
PRYOR: It’s something I’ve never done before, so in that sense, it’s a departure. I decided to keep them vague because I don’t feel that our band is something that should be used as a soapbox. But I think that the theme of betrayal that bleeds through the whole record can be translated into some political stuff.
So you’re not going to be raging against the machine on the next record?
PRYOR: Well, we are on that anti-Bush compilation [Fat Wreck Chords’ Rock Against Bush]. But our stance on all things political is that we would like to encourage people to vote and take part in a process regardless of how they are going to vote. We’re not trying to tell people how they should vote.
“I’ve been called “emo” since ’95. ’t’s not like you’re going to hurt my feelings calling me that today. Music without emotion would be a jingle.”
Are you concerned with how your fan base will react to such a mature record?
PRYOR: A lot of people thought of the last record [On A Wire] as a failure. I think some people wanted us to make Something To Write Home About: Part 2, and we didn’t. So they were disappointed, but you know what? Fuck them.
POPE: After our second record, we realized how big of a fan base [we have, so] it’s hard not to think, “Are people going to actually like this?” But at the same time, we never wrote songs for anybody else. We don’t feel like we have to write songs like that anymore. With the last record, we took a chance, and a lot of people got it and a lot of people didn’t. We’re not as willing to repeat ourselves. There are other bands that do that.
How do you feel about being considered this iconic band of the emo scene, with a lot of bands copying what you’ve done?
PRYOR: I’ve been called “emo” since ’95. ’t’s not like you’re going to hurt my feelings calling me that today. Music without emotion would be a jingle. But that’s an argument I’ve been making since ’95.”
POPE: We’ve seen a lot of those bands, and they’re almost starstruck by us. But those bands are bigger than we are, which is flattering. We didn’t start this band to be hugely successful and do what they’re doing. I don’t really have any animosity towards the people that are doing that—even if they’re completely ripping us off. There are kids out there that still like it, which is fine. [But] I haven’t really paid attention to a lot of the new bands that are coming out, because a lot of it seems so formulated, and there’s so many of them, it’s hard to keep track.
Why did you fold your Heroes And Villains imprint?
PRYOR: We sold [it] to Vagrant. We didn’t really like being involved in other band’s careers, because Vagrant was running everything, [and] the only time we would ever get involved was when somebody was upset. So, it was just a bunch of fighting all the time. It was a good idea that didn’t really pan out. We had other things going on and Vagrant had other things going on, and the little imprint thing got lost in the shuffle. It wasn’t fair to the bands that were on it, and I didn’t like having to feel responsibility for them.
POPE: We sold it to buy the studio. And the studio is fantastic. It’s called the Black Lodge; it’s a Twin Peaks reference. It’s really turned into a home base. We did the whole new record [there, and] we just started work yesterday on a new New Amsterdams record. It’s in the middle of nowhere, right on Main Street downtown. The building itself is a great old building, not like you would find in a lot of other cities.
How important is the Midwest to the identity of the Get Up Kids?
PRYOR: The Midwest is very tied [into our identity]. It’s how we treat people and how we do things; we’re very independently minded. We’d rather do things our own way and have to trudge through the mud than take any handouts from anyone. No one is going to give you a break, so you need to make your own break. Our first tours were basically me asking people for numbers of kids in other cities and cold calling [to see] if they’d let us play in their basement for whatever money came in the door.
So tell on everyone. What’s everyone’s role in the band?
POPE: Matt’s like Uncle Grandpa Emo. Ryan is definitely the baby of the band. He’s the little baby.
Are you saying that ’cause he’s your little brother?
POPE: Partially. And ’cause I’m right. He just never got caught [growing up]. Jim’s… Oh, no… Do I have to do this? Do I have to start naming names?
Nah, you can be nice.
POPE: Okay. Everyone loves each other. We’re one big, happy, dysfunctional family.
So what do you hope people walk away from Guilt Show thinking?
POPE: We’ve been around a long time. We’re not a new band, [but] I hope people approach it in a fresh way, like if they were listening to a brand-new band they’ve never heard, and not going, “I want them to sound like that.”
So, do you feel in some ways, it is a brand new Get Up Kids?
POPE: Definitely. Completely. alt