Matt Pryor (Get Up Kids, New Amsterdams, Terrible Two’s)


Singer-Songwriter is critical of older work, writes songs with his kids

Having a family can change a man’s perspective on his career. It can redefine his style. It can open a sense of artistic awareness that harbors into self-critique and reshaping.

Matt Pryor once fronted one of the first and biggest “emo” groups of the mid-90’s for ten years. Along his front-and-center stage presence, Pryor started a side project under the name The New Amsterdams.

After six full length releases from The New Amsterdams, Pryor released Confidence Man this past month under his name, a separate release from The New Amsterdams name that retreats back to the stripped down persona of early New Amsterdams’ releases, but stands as Pryor’s first true solo album.

His daughter Lily is shown on the front cover of the album. “That picture was taken in Central Park,” he says with a smile.

Besides his new solo project, Pryor has also released the second album under the persona The Terrible Two’s, who’s line-up is that of The New Amsterdams, alongside of the release of Confidence Man. “I write songs for my kids,” he says. “There’s been a very positive response. I’ve never heard any one of my records as many times as I have heard those because [my kids] listen to it in the house. It’s like background noise now. They put it on and I don’t even notice it. It’s kind of a test market.”

Pryor cites a lack of music for his kids, or kids their age. He says growing up that he listened to his mom’s Motown and pop records. He says music was never segregated as far as what was for kids and wasn’t for kids. “The only reason it’s for kids is because the lyrics are silly,” he says. “It’s been described to me that its music about kids than for kids. [My kids] write songs and I finish them for them. It wasn’t really thought out. I kept telling people I was going to do it, and then there was this anticipation.”

Pryor also confessed a great distaste for the Miley Cyrus phenomenon. “I don’t agree with the Hanna Montana thing or the Bratz thing,” he says. “I don’t think it’s appropriate or necessary. I come at it as a parent of three kids. I came at doing [The Terrible Two’s] with a punk rock mentality.” Pryor tries to do his Terrible Two’s shows at a low cost. He’s performed not only at clubs, but also at a children’s museum and an elementary school. He says his performance at Lollapalooza this year went well also.

Alongside The Terrible Twos’ Jerzy the Giant release, Pryor is also retreating to his stripped simple antics under just his name.

Confidence Man is about going back and refining something without re-creating the same record twice. Pryor says it’s about going back to a man and his guitar. “I liked Para Toda Vida, but it was an experiment that I didn’t quite get right,” he says. “I thought the vocals could have been stronger and some songs seemed incomplete. I wanted to try to do something in that vein [of Para Toda Vida], and do something I was a hundred percent about.”

Pryor compared his conceptual idea to George Lucas redoing the Star Wars Trilogy. “I would never do that. It’s like a tattoo. That’s the moment. I got it then, but I look back and it’s kind of like, for me, as an ‘artist,’ I critique myself. “

Four Minute Mile, by Pryor’s former band The Get Up Kids, has the possibility to go down (and for some, already has) as one of the seminal albums of the early 90’s. Pryor has a bit of distaste for his own creation. “I hate Four Minute Mile . I think that record sounds absolutely atrocious,” he says seriously, but with an undertone laugh. “The songs are good, but the recording is really, really bad.” He pauses. “Maybe it’s not the recording. I think maybe it was my performance too. My vocals sounded bad, and I was just learning how to sing. The first few songs on Something to Write Home About , I even feel like I was stretching out of range.”

Pryor does understand that the recordings were a testament for the time, and is surprised about the “lo-fi” status that comes with talks of early “emo” records, or records in that vein. “That wasn’t the point,” he says laughing, but still serious. “That’s the point now, but it’s not what we were trying to do. We were in this high-quality studio.”

Pryor says that if things were done differently, the albums may have not had the same impact.

Pryor is still shelling out old favorites from across his career on his solo tour supporting Confidence Man. Older New Amsterdams songs such as “My Old Man Had a Pistol” or “Worse for the Wear,” even reaching deep for “Every Double Life” off of his first New Amsterdams release Never You Mind. He may also be playing “Out of Reach” or “I’ll Catch You,” but don’t expect him to play “Valentine” (the song was retired after Rob Pope’s divorce, TGUK’s bass player) or “Campfire Kansas” (which wasn’t written or sang by him on On a Wire).

For a while in his career, Pryor was frustrated with some of his favorite tunes versus fan favorites. “We wrote ‘Don’t Hate Me’ in an hour, and I can’t figure out why people get into it,” he laughs. “A lot of times the songs that I hate are the ones that a lot of people like, and the ones that I like, people are like, ‘heh.’ If I think of it from a fan’s perspective, then I know they want to hear some older stuff. I’ll play new things, but I’m not going to force feed [newer songs].”

Pryor also has taken out Chris Conley for part of his tour and Kevin Devine for another part of it. “Chris tells me I’m the elder,” he laughs. “I think of Kevin and Chris as peers. If something I did made it easier at some point [for them], then that’s great. The fact is, Chris and I have been through sort of the same things with our bands.”

Pryor is referring to the backlash of critical distaste for The Get Up Kids’ On a Wire and Conley’s band’s release In Reverie. He says that both he and Conley get asked to play songs off both records, but it sometimes seems bitter sweet. “It’s like ‘thanks, could have used the praise earlier.’”

Pryor is going to keep up his simplicity as well. “I think simple is not bad,” he says. “On the last New Amsterdams record, the songs are simple, but I had the other members build on top of it. There’s a song [on that record] called “Drunk or Dead” that is just one chord progression and then there’s all these other things on top of it. It’s great playing with those guys because I can say, ‘This song has one part, I don’t feel like writing anymore parts to it.’ If I played acoustically though, it would be dull.”

Pryor compares this process, but not his music, to U2’s “With or Without You,” where there’s only one part that builds outward. “I’m a simple songwriter. I don’t like writing bridges either.”

Pryor has gotten a great response from the tour thus far, and while he understands the high position his musical career and self image is seen as, he says he is just as simple as the songs he produces. “Someone telling me that I’m influential, doesn’t change anything,” he says. “I’m still going to get up and get breakfast. I still have to drive to the next town. I still have to change diapers. I appreciate it and take it as a compliment though.”


2 Responses to “Matt Pryor (Get Up Kids, New Amsterdams, Terrible Two’s)”

  1. Get Up Kids, The - 09.14.09 - Punk Rock Feed! Says:

    […] the last time we had talked, we discussed the impact and recordings of the early Get Up Kids records, including STWHA. You said […]

  2. varundbest Says:

    Cool! I just came to your blog via Google and I seriously loved it! The effort you do in posting here is seriously fantastic and I am pleased about it. Keep going buddy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: