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Cover story: The Get Up Kids grow up


Somewhere along the way, The Get Up Kids grew up.

Kansas City’s biggest indie exports have outgrown the post-punk emo sound they practically pioneered in the late 1990s. They’ve matured, reconciling the petty differences that catalyzed their collapse in 2005.

After a three-and-a-half-year hiatus, the Kids have a new full-length album, a 31-date national tour and a don’t-give-a-damn attitude.

In many ways, this isn’t the same band that forged an indelible imprint on Kansas City’s music scene and the emo genre. They’ve sought to shed that image for years, even apologizing in interviews for the movement and the bands who cite them as an influence, including Fallout Boy and Blink-182. The Get Up Kids also have canned the frenetic melodies and throbbing-heart lyrics of their bestselling full-length record, 1999’s “Something to Write Home About.”

For their first full-length album in seven years, the Kids favored unapologetically experimental pop. The alt-rock quintet shook the shackles of their longtime label, Los Angeles-based Vagrant Records, to release “There Are Rules” last week on their own Quality Hill Records.

Time away from the spotlight diffused the glamour and the pressure to succeed. Frontman Matt Pryor, for example, is more family oriented now. During a recent phone interview, he sat his kids in front of a television in his Lawrence home and microwaved a bag of frozen Brussels sprouts.

“We were very free to do whatever the hell we wanted,” Pryor said. “We’re not doing this because we have to. We’re doing this because we like it. Consequences be damned.”

Case in point: “There Are Rules” is heaped with “weird shit,” Pryor said, like effects pedals, heavy synthesizers and complicated instrumentation. One track, “Pararelevant,” contains 45 seconds of reversed vocal gibberish. Just because, Pryor said.

But aside from a more mature sound and a few avant-garde additions, said longtime Get Up Kids producer Ed Rose, “There Are Rules” gives “the same basic vibe.”

“They’ve done a good job of keeping each release very different but staying within the scope of the band,” Rose said. “If you like the stuff from 10 years ago, you’ll like this stuff, too.”

It’s true that they’re the same Kids at heart. Except, members say, they’ve ditched the drama that led to their breakup.

“We were just really sick of each other,” Pryor said. “We didn’t know how to pause.”

The band reached burnout after nearly a decade together and nonstop national and world touring with acts like Weezer, Green Day and Dashboard Confessional. Members announced their split and played a final farewell show to a sold-out Uptown Theater during the summer of 2005.

In the years that followed members played in other acts. Pryor continued gigging in a side band he’d started, the New Amsterdams, and founded a children’s music project called The Terrible Twos. Bassist Rob Pope joined Spoon after he and his brother, drummer Ryan Pope, briefly played in Koufax, an indie rock band from Toledo, Ohio. Guitarist Jim Suptic formed local rock trio Blackpool Lights and co-launched a record label called Curb Appeal, which folded in 2008. Keyboardist James Dewees began playing with My Chemical Romance, with whom he’ll tour instead of The Get Up Kids during their current national circuit.

The reunion seed was planted in 2008 when The Get Up Kids assembled to resolve business matters and discovered something, Pryor said: They were getting along. They decided to play a surprise comeback show to commemorate the 10th anniversary of “Something to Write Home About.”

The band performed its signature album from start to finish, plus a six-song encore, at a sold-out RecordBar. Thriving on that show’s success, The Get Up Kids decided to tour that year and record new music, Pryor said.

The reasons they disbanded had dissolved. They’d needed a break from each other and the demands of life on the road. Pryor said they figured they could return to the carefree days of making music together.

“We made the leap to, ‘Let’s try writing again and see what happens,’ ” Pryor said. “If it goes well, we’ll keep at it. If it sucks, we’ll scrap it.”

Pryor said fatherhood has helped him handle conflicts.

“If I’m pissed at someone, I’ll tell them,” Pryor said. “In the past, if I’m really pissed at you, I’ll storm out of here, we’ll all get drunk and well up and not deal with it in a productive manner.”

Now that members have learned how to get along, their performances are better.

“We’re bad at faking a good time for the sake of entertaining people,” Pryor said. “If we’re mad at each other, we suck live.”

Since they first reunited in 2008, Pryor said the Kids have encountered a mostly warm reception at packed shows around the country. Reviews of the new album, however, have been lukewarm. Pitchfork described it as “just-all-right,” and The A.V. Club deemed the songwriting “undercooked.” As for fans, Pryor conceded that the band might have alienated some by evolving the sound.

“We disappoint people every time we put out a record,” Pryor said. “People feel very attached to some of our stuff, especially our older stuff. They get mad at us and aren’t afraid to tell us that. I can’t please them. I gotta do this because I like it. If I was doing this for the sake of making a living, it would be totally disingenuous.”

But many fans have stuck around, guitarist Jim Suptic said — and they’ve grown up, too.

“A lot of people want us to play earlier because they have babysitters to get back to,” Suptic said. “Bars used to hate our band when we played because we had such a young fan base. Now the bars love us.”

With this record, the Kids have even drawn new admirers. Bill Belzer, who performed with Pryor in the New Amsterdams, said he appreciates the band’s music more.

“I always rooted for them,” Belzer said. “And I have come to really love the writing in that band more and more as they progressed. I fucking love this record.”

The Get Up Kids are scheduled to wrap their tour March 13 at the Bottleneck in Lawrence. After that, the band’s future is unclear. Pryor and Suptic alluded to the possibility of recording more music. Despite some of the band members’ projects with more famous acts, an undeniable history fuses The Get Up Kids.

“We have a lot of shared experiences that no one else can possibly relate to,” Pryor said. “So many highs and lows, traveling to different continents together. The petty shit doesn’t matter anymore. That’s why we started playing together in the first place.”

The Get Up Kids: A History

 October 1995: Matt Pryor, Jim Suptic and Rob Pope form the band. Ryan Pope and James Dewees join in 1996 and 1999, respectively, completing the current lineup.

September 1997: Debut album “Four Minute Mile” comes out on New York-based Doghouse Records.

September 1999: Sophomore studio album “Something to Write Home About” is released through Vagrant Records.

May 2002: A third studio album, “On a Wire,” drops on Vagrant.

March 2004: Vagrant releases “Guilt Show,” the band’s fourth studio album.

July 2005: A sold-out farewell show at Uptown Theater begins The Get Up Kids’ “retirement.”

November 2008: The band plays a sold-out reunion show at RecordBar.

January 2011: A fifth full-length album, “There Are Rules,” comes out on the band’s own Quality Hill Records.


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