The Get Up Kids, a veteran indie rock act that first formed in 1995 and then reunited in 2008 after a three-year hiatus, put out an album right after reuniting. But when it came time to following that record up, the group took a whopping eight years.
“We put out a record in 2011 and did a year and a half worth of touring. We went all over the world touring that record,” says singer-guitarist Matt Pryor in a recent phone interview. The band performs with Hembree and Sontalk at 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 12, at the Grog Shop
. “When we got done, we realized we needed to take a break, which is what we should have done instead of breaking the band up in 2005 in the first place. We took about a four-year break. [Guitarist] Jim [Suptic] went back to school and [drummer] Ryan [Pope] moved to Paris for a couple of years. [Bassist] Rob [Pope] started playing with Spoon. I started doing solo records. A couple of years ago, we wanted to try it again. From there, it takes time to write a record and record a record and release a record.”
As the group started to write the tracks for what would be become its latest album, Problems
, it relied more on its instinct than it had on previous releases.
“The biggest difference with this record is that we didn’t handicap ourselves,” says Pryor. “We didn’t care if we had done something like this before. If it sounded cool and sounded like us, we went with it. For the last couple of records, we just wanted to try something different. We still tried something different this time around but not just for the sake of being different.”
Produced by Peter Katis (Kurt Vile, the National), the album features the band’s signature anthemic choruses and sing-along-ready melodies as it adroitly balances pop and punk elements.
“He’s fantastic,” Pryor says of Katis. “It was the best experience we’ve had making a record. Besides having a really great ear, he’s a really smart and kind and funny person to hang out with. He helped us shape the record into what it is.”
The group recorded at an isolated studio in Bridgeport, CT.
“It’s like a house with a recording studio,” Pryor says of the space. “But it’s good to have studios that are isolated like that. You’re not distracted at all. It’s literally the only thing you can work on.”
One album, highlight, “Lou Barlow,” references the indie rock musician who’s had a successful solo career and played with Dinosaur Jr. and Sebadoh.
“It’s not really about Lou Barlow,” says Pryor when asked about the tune. “He’s just in it. It’s a stupid little thing I made up. Once you put Lou Barlow in a song, you can’t really take him out. It’s like Chekov’s Lou Barlow. Once you introduce Lou Barlow, it has to pay off in the third act.”
The band even includes a scraggy looking Barlow in the song’s funny music video. In the video, Barlow struggles to talk his way into a Get Up Kids show, arguing with a doorman that since one of the songs on the album is named after him, he should be able to attend the sold-out gig.
“I never met him until we did the video shoot,” Pryor says of Barlow. “I wasn’t expecting him to be as cool as he was. Everyone said he was a curmudgeon, and I thought we could bond over being curmudgeons. He was really nice and giving. As he says in the press release, he acted the shit out of the part.”
The piano-based ballad “Common Ground” provides a pleasant change of pace and represents another album highlight.
“That song started as this riff that I had, and we just built the song in our practice space,” says Pryor. “It’s this collection of parts that I then went back and wrote lyrics to. When we were at the studio in Connecticut, the kids from Mates of State live two towns over. They came over to hang out. I asked Kori [Gardner] to sing on the record. She was way into it. We asked them if they had any ideas for the song. She came up with ‘na, na, na’ part. That’s not something I would have thought of, but it’s my favorite part of the song now.”
For the live show, Pryor says the new tunes fit well with the old ones.
“From what people tell me, they like the way the new songs flow with the old songs in the set,” he says. “They’ve said that it doesn’t feel like an abrasive change of pace but feels very natural. If we maintain that, that’s a win.”
The Get Up Kids, Hembree, Sontalk, 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 12, the Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $23 ADV, $26 DOS, grogshop.gs
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