As major players during the second wave of emo—the era of the genre that finally matched the earlier emotional intensity with melodic hooks—The Get Up Kids influenced a slew of younger bands that have gone on to greater commercial success. All sorts of factors determine whether a band gets big or not, but the Get Ups didn’t do themselves any favors when they abandoned their anthemic sound on 2002’s subdued On A Wire and then broke up a few years later. But now the group—singer-guitarist Matt Pryor, guitarist Jim Suptic, bassist Rob Pope, keyboardist James Dewees, and drummer Ryan Pope—has reconvened around the 10th anniversary of the release of its high-water mark, Something To Write Home About, which just received the deluxe-reissue treatment. Pryor spoke with The A.V. Club ahead of their appearance Tuesday, Nov. 3, at 9:30 Club about getting older and apologizing for the past.
The A.V. Club: In July 2005, Alternative Press ran an oral history of the band in which the writer talked about your breakup representing the “sad but necessary end of an era,” referring to mid-’90s emo. Why did your breakup feel necessary at the time?
Matt Pryor: Honestly, hindsight being 20/20, the end of the era really needed to just be like a three-year break from each other. But none of us were healthy or wise enough to know that that was the case. It had been basically 10 solid years of a really long touring schedule, and a lot of things that weren’t really personality conflicts that got escalated into personality conflicts, and just stuff like that. And I think there’s an era of the kind of scene that we came up in that doesn’t seem to really—if it does exist anymore, I don’t know what it exists in.
AVC: What changed to make you guys want to get back together?
MP: Everyone has gone on to do other projects and other things and kind of grown up a little bit. I’ve become significantly more comfortable with, you know, this is what I do. Part of the problem that I quit the band in the first place was I was having a bit of a midlife freak-out: I don’t want to tour; I don’t want to be away from my family; I don’t want to be in smoky nightclubs and theaters every night of my life. And I’ve since then really come to terms with all the things everybody was always telling me before, which was like, “Yeah, you’re gone for a month at a time, but then you’re off for like four months.” It’s just like, okay, so I should just enjoy the time that I have home. Everybody’s just a little bit older; I mean, we started this band when we were in our teens. We needed to get some kind of real life into us. [Laughs.] You know, other than just the band.
AVC: When you played the first reunion show in Kansas City last November, did it feel like old times?
MP: Oh yeah. Honestly, I was more scared about the first time that we practiced than the show. It felt like just a regular show. I’ve never left a musical experience and come back to it like that before—there’s the riding-the-bike analogy, and that was strangely true.
AVC: So is the band fully functional again?
MP: Uh, as much as it can be. I mean, we don’t consider this to just be a one-off, reunion-tour kind of thing. I don’t know what the future holds necessarily, because we’re working around everyone else’s schedule: Spoon’s [for whom Rob Pope plays bass] got a new record coming out at some point; My Chemical Romance, who James plays with, is putting out a new record at some point, so we’re just kind of taking it easy.
AVC: Have you started talking about making a new record?
MP: We’ve talked about some—it’s like conceptualizing some things, but nothing is concrete. Also, it has to be the kind of thing where we don’t want to tarnish what we had done, you know what I mean? We don’t want to come back and do something shitty.
AVC: When you put out On A Wire, it was quite a departure from your previous work. Why did you decide to make such a drastic change in your sound?
MP: Going back to that AP article, the Something To Write Home About sound, it was necessary that that end for us. It was a necessary ending because we were so sick of it. We were like, “This has become formulaic for us.” If we did another record that sounded just like that one, it would be totally dishonest and fake, and we’d only be doing it for potential commercial reasons or whatever. So it was like, this is the stuff that we like, this is the stuff that, you know, we’re growing up and we’re listening to, and we hope that the fans would follow us. And some of them did and some of them didn’t.
AVC: After playing The Bamboozle earlier this year, Jim apologized for The Get Up Kids’ influence on the current state of emo. Do you share Jim’s opinion?
MP: I don’t feel I have to apologize for anything, but what I took from his quote and his sentiment, what I know is his sentiment, is that what everyone calls emo now and what emo is as a marketable term really has nothing to do with us. There are no kids in emo bands anymore who want to go play house parties and book their own tour and drive around in a shitty van for weeks at a time. They all seem to want to be famous, just like regular pop stars. I mean, whatever we are, we came up with a very DIY ethic, and I don’t think the commercialized version of whatever emo is really has that. You know why I think that story had legs in the first place, is I think everyone was waiting for somebody to say that. It’s something that we’ve always said to each other—we’re driving in the van and somebody comes on and you’re like, “Oh, sorry, that one’s my fault.” It’s just not who we are. If you’re going to call us the same thing, maybe we should be like “pre-emo” or something.