For most fans of the genre, the Get Up Kids are an integral part of how they would define "emo." But, for most of their existence, the band — which will hit Triple Rock on Tuesday as part of their 20th anniversary tour — hated that association.
Recently though, with the advent of the Emo Revival (more info about that here), their lead singer Matt Pryor has found something to love about being lumped in with the genre. Following a short split, the band reunited in 2011 to release their fifth album, There Are Rules.
City Pages talked with Matt on the phone over the holiday weekend, and he had a lot to say about the band’s history, place in the scene, and the revival acts he loves most.
City Pages: When was the first time you played in Minneapolis?
Matt Pryor: The first time we played in Minneapolis was in 1997 in a record store that I’ve forgotten the name of. The one thing I really remember about that show is we asked for water and they gave a case of water called H30, which was water with caffeine in it ... I hadn’t it before, or since.
CP: When you were first playing back in ‘95, what bands were you getting compared to?
MP: When our first seven inch came out, which was in '96, the only thing anyone ever really talked about, the term emo was being thrown around. And the only real frame of reference for that, if you didn’t sound like you were from D.C., was Sunny Day Real Estate, because they kind of pre-date us.
For me it was like I don’t sound like that guy when I sing, but being in the punk rock, hardcore scene it was such a new phenomenon for anybody to actually sing instead of just scream at people, that I think that’s how we’d get described. Then once the whole kind of Midwestern, Braid and Promise Ring and Mineral stuff [began], we kind of got lumped in with them.
CP: Would you say you were a part of that scene? In previous interviews, you’ve talked about how you really bristled at the term emo for a while.
MP: Well, yeah, 'cause it was a derogatory term. It was always something where the sentence would start with the fucking words, like, “fucking emo kids.” We wanted to be an indie-rock band. We were listening to Weezer and Archers of Loaf and didn’t know what this meant. It’s such an absurd term. I mean, if music isn’t emotional then it’s probably not very good.
CP: In middle school we would debate what the term actually meant because we didn’t think it could just be "emotional." We thought that was dumb that it had to be more complicated than that.
MP: No, it’s not more complicated than that. It’s kind of interesting now as the whole marketing of band has evolved that it means something different to different people. I just went to see Frank Iero, from My Chemical Romance, who’s a good friend of mine, and I took my kids to see him last night and for them emo is a positive, badge of honor kind of thing. And I’m like “No it’s not.” But then I start to sound like Henry Rollins talking about punk in the 1980s.
I’ve come to accept you can’t control what people call you, but of those bands you’re talking about we got to be really good friends with the guys in Braid. They took us on our first tour and we really learned how to tour from them. But, for the most part, we always had this sort of, we used to call our band the Kansas Embassy because we felt like we were on foreign land when all five of us weren’t in the band. So, we never really felt part of a quote-unquote “scene”, even though everyone seems to think that we did.
CP: Yeah a lot of times when people talk about mid-'90s emo, they really view you guys as a group that helped build the genre.
MP: We were really just in it for us. More power to those other bands, they’re all friends, and they’re all good bands. There was just never a scene in Kansas City. The kids on the East Coast talk about the punk scene in New Jersey but we didn’t have that, we didn’t grow up with that — we just had a handful of people.
CP: How did you guys run into the folks from [current tour openers] Into It. Over It.?
MP: I did an acoustic tour called Where’s the Band? every year or so. It was usually me, and Chris from Saves the Day, and Anthony from Bayside, and sometimes others. We all had the same booking agent and he wanted Evan [Weiss of Into It. Over It.] on the tour so we could all kind of test him out.
CP: You don't seem like someone interested in testing anyone too harshly
MP: I have very particular opinions on how stuff is supposed to be done. And so do the rest of the guys on that tour. If you really think about, you’ve got five lead singers in one band. We just wanted to find out if he was an idiot or not. He was good guy, great taste in music, looked cool. We ended up doing more acoustic shows together and I just started seeing him all the time.
CP: Into It. Over It. is a pretty prominent part of the Emo Revival along with Modern Baseball, Snowing, and others. Are you more accepting of the term now that it’s inspired all of these great bands in the last half a decade?
MP: Yeah, actually. I gotta be careful with that 'cause I don’t want to sound like I’m shitting on anybody else’s band. But regardless of the music that they make, which I think is good, I really like the aesthetic that they have. When I met Evan, he was a part of the post Warped Tour wave, which was where you had kids getting signed to major labels, people who hadn’t really worked for anything that they had, and I really like bands like IO OI and Modern Baseball because they’re just like, “We’re like to tour, we’re into that." They just like playing music.
CP: I know in that POZ interview that you did a couple years back, you really thought for a while before you quit for that year that people were just doing it to get a demo, then get on Warped Tour and signed by a label. Do you think that bands like Modern Baseball and Into It. Over It. inspired you to get back to making music?
MP: Yeah. Taking a break from the music industry, it almost bankrupted me, but it’s probably one of the best things I could’ve done emotionally, not to use the emo term again. It makes me happy when those bands say we were an influence.
It didn’t make me super happy when these younger guys I couldn’t relate to did, because all they wanted to talk about was the music industry. Like, Evan really gets excited about Record Store Day not playing the fourth stage on Warped Tour at noon. And there’s nothing wrong with Warped Tour, I shit on them a lot but I really have nothing against them.
CP: What other bands that we haven’t talked about that are a part of the revival that maybe haven’t gotten the same shake as Modern Baseball or Snowing would you recommend?
MP: PUP, there’s a band called Restorations that’s really good, and I don’t know if they’re really a part of it but definitely this band called Beach Slang. Rozwell Kid is on tour with us, and then there’s also this great band called the Hotelier.
CP: If you had to pick a couple of turning points, what would you pick?
MP: From '97-2002, we probably toured 200-250 shows a year. That’s when our most popular records came out and every time we came back there was more people. It coincided with the Vagrant revolution of 2000 where Dashboard blew up and I can remember being, kind of, annoyed by that?
And looking back, I was being a selfish prick. But I remember thinking, “We’re not a Vagrant band, we’re our band, that’s it.” Around the same time, I stopped paying attention to what kind of scene we were in, because it didn’t matter.
The Get Up Kids
With: Into It. Over It., Rozwell Kid
When: 7 p.m. Tue., Dec. 1.
Where: Triple Rock Social Club.
Tickets: $22-$25; more info here.
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