As the primary songwriter behind seminal emo-rock band the Get Up Kids, Matt Pryor has always had a knack for observing relationship drama — his own and that of people around him — and channeling it into angsty music that resonates most deeply with the teenage demographic.
Now that the band itself is well past its '90s heyday and its members are entering middle age, Pryor is still using other people's relationships as musical inspiration. But now, instead of watching high school couples break up, he's seeing married couples get divorced.
"Here's the thing: I'm 42 years old, and if I wrote songs with the same content as when I was 18, that would make me a douchebag," he says. "I have to write about where I'm at in life. These themes of love and loss and longing don't change as you get older. The subject matter might be different, but it's not like you turn 40 and you don't feel heartbreak anymore."
In other words, the Get Up Kids' music still has the same emotional core. But some aspects of life in the Kansas City-based band have changed over the years. There was a time when writing, recording, and touring were Pryor's whole world, but now he's a family man with three children and hobbies like gardening and cooking.
"I love growing vegetables, cooking them, and feeding the family," he says.
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Though the group went through a long period of inactivity, Pryor was working on solo material all the while. His bandmates have been busy as well: Bassist Rob Pope is a full-time member of Spoon; keyboardist James Dewees toured with his own solo project, Reggie and the Full Effect, and with My Chemical Romance before the band split; guitarist Jim Suptic works for a nonprofit; and drummer Ryan Pope owns a coffee roasting company and a bar.
"This isn't anyone's sole purpose anymore," Pryor says.
It's remarkable, then, that they all got together to write and record a new album — and the process was drama-free enough to knock it out in 19 days.
"It was like, Hey, let's get together and write some songs. If they're good, we'll put them out. If nobody was feeling 110 percent about it, we were going to just not fuck with it, but we were all stoked with what we were coming up with," Pryor says.
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The result is Problems, the band's first full-length effort since 2011's There Are Rules and the followup to last year's short-but-sweet EP, Kicker. They're embarking on a world tour in support of Problems, but taking it at an easy pace, with weeks-long breaks between legs rather than going out for a single six-week stretch and, inevitably, getting at each other's throats.
"You know that phrase, Work smarter, not harder? It's like that," he says. "Let's do things that make sense; let's do things that are fun. Let's not want to kill each other by the end of the tour... Any touring situation is a pressure cooker of personalities. You're in these tight spaces with a lot of other people, often with less-than-ideal sleep schedules. It's not sustainable, especially when you're getting taken away from your family, so we try to do it in manageable chunks."
Sleep schedules? Getting along? This much is clear: The Get Up Kids are all grown up.