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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 it.

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".

-Rachel Fredrickson

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