By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun
9:50 AM EST, January 16, 2013
During the sweltering months of this past summer, Matt Pryor realized he was completely burnt out from writing and touring as a singer-songwriter.
This breaking-point (or as he facetiously describes it, his "come-to-Jesus moment") makes sense when you remember he and his most famous band — pop-punk pioneers the Get Up Kids — released their debut album, "Four Minute Mile," in 1997.
So Pryor, a 34-year-old stay-at-home dad living in Lawrence, Kansas, explored his other interests. He loves cooking and grows his own food, so he worked the line at a "hippie food truck." His friends own an organic farm, so Pryor made $8 per hour picking vegetables. It didn't take long for him to come to his senses.
"Making music is my career," said Pryor, who headlines the Ottobar on Sunday. "I've been doing it for 18 years now. I do not want to be a farmer. That [expletive] is hard."
To say songwriting comes easier to Pryor would be an understatement. He's released five albums with the Get Up Kids, six records as the alt-country-leaning New Amsterdams and three solo albums. He was a main player on two Reggie and the Full Effect records. He even released two children's albums under the moniker the Terrible Twos.
While Pryor says he's never at a loss for new material, he admits the life that comes with raising two boys and a girl — all under the age of 11 — with his wife can impede the process.
"As you can hear, my life at home is a bit chaotic," said Pryor after shooing the kids to "go play with the Wii." "If I didn't make myself sit down and write when I have time, it'd be very easy to get wrapped up in home life. It's hard enough [to write] as it is."
Although he seriously considered an extended break from music, it was a new project that snapped him out of his funk. Jonathan Lullo, co-owner of the vinyl-specializing label Clifton Motel, reassured the self-doubting Pryor that fans were still interested in new material. Lullo wanted to release the electronic-pop songs Pryor was writing with his friends under the name Lasorda.
"I said, 'OK, let's try to find a way to still keep the wheels moving without being gone nine months out of the year," said Pryor, a primary songwriter of the project.
Lasorda, a group of seven friends that includes lead singer Suzannah Johannes and fun.'s Nate Harold, released its debut album last month. That same month, Pryor released his third solo album, "Still, There's a Light," which began as a digital-only Kickstarter project. Pryor, once again, was busy with music.
He knows any and all of his material will be compared to the Get Up Kids, the mid-Western forefathers to bands such as Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance. Although the Get Up Kids reunited in 2009 and released a new album ("There are Rules") in 2011, Pryor says there are no current plans for another record.
"The only reason [the reunion] happened was an initial feeling that we had spent enough time away from each other to find each other tolerable again," Pryor said. "We're all kind of alphas in a weird way. If we're not all firing on the same page then we're all fighting each other."
That doesn't stop Pryor from working with members of his old band. James Dewees — the Get Up Kids' keyboardist, former Reggie and the Full Effect frontman and touring member of My Chemical Romance — sold Pryor, who hadn't played a show since March, on a five-date tour with a practical reason.
"He goes, 'Hey, do you want to go play some shows and make some extra money for Christmas?'" Pryor said. "I said, 'That sounds great.'"
The duo will perform side-by-side on Sunday, as the Ravens AFC Championship game plays on TVs around the venue, Pryor said. They are open to requests, and are well aware hardcore fans will be there to hear Get Up Kids songs. Reflecting on how his career will be remembered, Pryor knows he'll always be associated with his former band. He still stands by those songs, which makes it easier to not fret over his legacy.
"As long as I'm happy with it all, I don't really care," Pryor said. "Part of what works for me is that I write songs that I like. That was the Get Up Kids philosophy. Not everyone was going to like them, but you can't argue that they're dishonest."
If you go
Matt Pryor performs Sunday at the Ottobar, 2549 N. Howard St. in Charles Village. James Dewees and Into It. Over It. will also perform. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $13. Call 410-662-0069 or go to theottobar.com.
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