To have the opportunity to sit down with an artist one-on-one when
they come to your hometown is such an experience. But what's even
better is when that artist calls it home, too. This week I had the
opportunity to sit down with one of the most influential, big time
artists of my generation: Matt Pryor. The interview took
place in a little coffee shop in Lawrence Kansas, a place that we
both call "home".
Matt has been involved in the music industry for over 10 years.
Many people recognize him from his punk band The Get Up Kids,
who were around since the 90's. The Kids have toured with huge acts
like Jimmy Eat World, Weezer, and Green Day.
They were one of the few bands that truly made it big and called
Kansas their home. Since the official ending of the Kids' reign
last year, Pryor has thrown himself full-time into his new project:
The New Amsterdams. This new band has a rather different
sound than his previous emotional punk band, yet the New Amsterdams
seem to be winning over crowds. When I sat down with him, we delved
into many topics, and hit even more tangents:
HM: So, of course I have to say this, you're home, a place
where, being a touring artist, you don't get to be much. When you
play shows here, is it any different for you than if you were say
in New York? Is it a little more special?
Matt Pryor: No, it's just more hectic. Because it's a lot
more that I don't know anybody there so it's more like just going
to work and here I hang out with my friends, my mom, my in-laws,
my family. I like playing here and that my friends come to support
what I do, but it's just too hectic and stressful.
HM: You spent a decade with the Get Up Kids, which is a large
chunk of your life to have spent in the industry. Yet, you still remain.
Is this something that basically you'll do until you die?
Matt: I would like to continue making music until I can't
anymore... I even now don't particularly like touring that much. As
long as I keep trying to do something different and trying to challenge
myself in what I write, then hopefully it will stay relevant. It was
like that in The Get Up Kids, I didn't want to be 30 years old and
jumping around like a teenager and still singing the songs I wrote
when I was a teenager.
HM: The New Amsterdams is so different than the Get Up Kids,
yet I'm sure you will always have that name tied to you. How do you
break free of the image that everyone has of you from your prior work?
Matt: I don't think it's that big of a deal, I actually get
afforded a lot of extra footing because of my work with The Get Up
Kids that a band starting from scratch wouldn't. I don't mind the
shadow of it; I would eventually like it to be kind of all encompassing.
Because we don't play stuff like the Get Up Kids stuff at all and
I want us to be able to play for any kind of audience.
HM: Along the same lines of the last question, the differences
between the two bands, was this music, this style, just something
that was always inside of you, that maybe couldn't come out with the
Get Up Kids?
Matt: I got really into the Wilco era of singer/songwriter
stuff when I was touring with the Get Up Kids in 1998 and I really
wanted to try and do something like that. I needed another outlet
because the Get Up Kids writing process was a slow animal at best
and I'd write a lot. There were 5 song writers in that band, I just
couldn't have written enough. I needed something else to get these
songs out that I had in me, because they were never going to make
HM: There aren't a lot of bands from the Midwest that are
really majorly touring like you, so sometimes you guys probably represent
us out there. Do you ever find yourselves relating with or getting
along better with other bands from the Midwest? Do you think that
audiences on either coast might automatically place you in a category,
when they hear where you're from?
Matt: I haven't noticed that lately, but that was certainly
an issue several years ago. I tend to get along with people who have
that "Midwest sensibility". But mostly I tend to get along
with other people in bands that are more like crew guys, guys that
are just hanging out, not making a big deal out of things. I get along
with people in the music industry that realize that what we do is
somewhat frivolous and we're lucky to be doing it.
HM: Story Like A Scar was just released in April, how
has the industry response been? Any different from the other three?
Matt: It's kind of mixed, it seems to have a similar reaction
that On A Wire had with the Get Up Kids. There are people who
like and there are people who just hate it. It's a document where
we got this band together and those were the first songs we wrote,
threw them on tape and threw it out there. It's sort of a whirlwind
romance where everything's happening so fast and it's all so awesome.
Now there's a document of it. I hope that eventually the people who
didn't like will come back around to it...
"It's an escapist thing for me; I'd rather it be an escapist
thing for everyone else. It's something to listen to so you don't
have to think about anything else". That was Matt's final comment
about his music; it's down-to-earth and honest, just like the entire
interview was. Maybe it was because he felt he could relate with me
more and not feel like he had to romanticize everything, which sometimes
happens with other artists. Or maybe that's just how he is. Either
way it was a refreshing and informative look into the mind of a man
that I've been listening to ever since Junior High, back when I first
discovered this genre they call "punk". If it's his past
that brings you to his shows, so be it. But, do him a favor, really
listen. Listen to what he has to say, escape into the sound of The
New Amsterdams, it won't be hard, because like Matt said "you
don't have to think about anything else".
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