It's difficult for a band to return from a long hiatus, harder still to overcome the divisions that contributed to a break-up. Just ask the Get Up Kids, the Kansas City, Mo., quintet that imploded after touring their 2004 album Guilt Show. The Kids' dissolution was well documented, so it's natural to wonder what's kept them together after their 2009 reformation.
“We get away from each other,” says Kids' frontman Matt Pryor. “It was a weird transition, going from guys who spend every waking minute together, to having wives and families and other priorities. There are growing pains associated with that. I try to be aware that I don't have to hang out with them every day. We don't have to agree on every band and every movie, and that's okay. We spend time apart, so when we're writing, recording and touring, we're more likely to enjoy each other's company. That's the big one, that and to let shit go that doesn't matter. It's called the ‘don't-be-a-dick' rule. Don't be a dick and everybody'll get along.”
After a four year hiatus that saw the individual Kids continue or start projects (Reggie and the Full Effect, Blackpool Lights, the New Amsterdams) and pursue solo careers (Pryor's Confidence Man), the Kids reunited to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of Something to Write Home About, their most successful album. As they relaxed backstage at an early festival show in Belgium, the quintet (vocalist/guitarist Pryor, guitarist/vocalist Jim Suptic, bassist Rob Pope, keyboardist James Dewees, drummer Ryan Pope) talked about writing new material.
“We were going to get together in a room with no pre-written material and just bounce ideas off each other and go with our initial gut instinct,” Pryor says. “That was the way we used to write on our first album. It felt really comfortable and natural. It wasn't like any one person [was] spearheading it, it was literally all five of us having creative input.”
The writing and recording sessions convinced the Kids to stay together and ultimately yielded last year's Simple Science EP and the full length There Are Rules, which was released in January to somewhat mixed reviews. The lukewarm reaction didn't surprise Pryor at all.
“It was actually more positive than I expected,” Pryor says with a laugh. “Our first two records, that people seem to all agree on, never got good reviews when they came out, but now in hindsight people like them. That's kind of the case for our work. If you're willing to go with us on this journey, you'll probably dig it. If you're not willing to embrace the idea of someone evolving creatively, there's nothing I can do for you. If we tried to write at 34 like we were 18, it would sound contrived and stupid.”
There Are Rules is a departure for the Kids, but they maintain enough key elements to bridge the gap between the new songs and their existing catalog. And while the new songs are distinct in presentation, the Kids attack the old songs with the manic energy of a decade ago.
“They're basically the same,” Pryor says. “It's like your favorite jacket. You put your clothes away for the winter, then you pull them out when it gets cold again, and you're like ‘Oh, I love this jacket.' It just feels normal.”
More than the physical sound of There Are Rules, the album feels different to Pryor, and that may ultimately determine the permanence of the Get Up Kids' new phase.
“We're not playing the game of the music industry, we're not trying to get on the radio, we're just trying to challenge ourselves creatively,” Pryor says. “Acknowledging that we can do whatever we want as long as we like it is really freeing creatively. That came up a lot. It was strange and different for us, and we were like, ‘Fuck it, man, make it weird. Go with it.'”