The Get Up Kids revisits signature '90s sound

"Got your full attention over hours of speculation / We're not running backwards," sings Matt Pryor, on the opening track of his band's 1999 EP, "Red Letter Day." "Don't you know that we love reunion shows / This is not a swan song, but it goes / If we had known what we know now / We'd still be around."


It's safe to assume that this lyrical irony is not lost on The Get Up Kids. "Red Letter Day" barely prefaced the group's 1999 full-length release, "Something to Write Home About." For those younger than 22 or older than 32, this is an album widely regarded as influential to today's breed of emo and pop-punk acts, and it cemented The Get Up Kids as strongholds in the late-'90s independent music game.

Subsequent albums saw a marked change in style as The Get Up Kids " comprised of Pryor, brothers Rob and Ryan Pope, Jim Suptic and James Dewees " went the aging artists' way, trading Moog riffs, floor-sleeping and high-school heartache for measured emotion, tour buses and band tension.

"You're kind of damned if you do, damned if you don't," Pryor said. "Make the same record over and over again, and they go, 'Oh, I don't know. They just keep making the same record over and over again.' If you try something different, they're like, 'Oh, I like their old way better.' Fuck it, then."

The group disbanded in 2005, and its members moved on to focus on various musical projects: Dewees had Reggie and the Full Effect; Pryor his New Amsterdams; and then there's White Whale, Spoon, Roman Numerals, New Found Glory and Terrible Twos. No Kid has been musically idle for the last few years.

It came as something of a surprise, then, when the band played a reunion show in November 2008. Another followed in March of this year, then April and May.

Marking the 10-year anniversary of "Something to Write Home About," Vagrant Records has reissued the album with DVD bonus features, and the Kids are currently entrenched in a full-fledged tour, begging the question: Is this an elaborate exercise in nostalgia, or is this GUK: The Next Generation?

 "Ultimately, the whole reissue thing is just an excuse to get back together," Pryor said. "We've decided that we enjoy each other's company again and want to play music, and we felt like we needed a reason, which we don't, but why not? What the hell?"

He reiterated that the signature album is "just one chapter" of the Kids' career ""I do think that record is good, but it's not the only good thing we ever did. Or will continue to do," he said " and hesitated to acknowledge their influence on today's devolved scene. In a July interview with UK's The Guardian, Suptic went so far as to apologize for any perceived influence, saying that if The Get Up Kids had inspired the new, not-very-good, glam-rock bands who claimed to idolize them, that maybe the Kids weren't very good to begin with.

"I can say this from a work ethic and goal-oriented perspective only, because I don't know any of those bands," Pryor said. "I don't know how into music they are, as opposed to just being into success. The scene we came up in was very DIY. It was almost like we did it because we had to; it was in us, and we would have played for free because we needed to play. I feel like a lot of stuff now is more about Top 40 mentality, selling more records to teenagers.

"If we had a musical influence on that scene, or on some of those bands, that doesn't necessarily mean we have anything to do with that sort of "¦ business is what I'll call it. It's not a scene. It's a business. It doesn't really have anything to do with us."

Despite the group's apparent detachment from " or rather, lack of preference for " that era of its career, the current tour focuses on the material from "Something to Write Home About." Not averse to reliving their glory days, The Get Up Kids will perform 8 p.m. Thursday at the Diamond Ballroom, ready to party like it's 1999.

Interspersed with the career-spanning set list, however, are a number of new songs. To date, the band has written and recorded nine tracks at Ed Rose's Black Lodge Recording in Eudora, Kan., but plans for those tunes are unclear.

"We're really leaning toward not doing the traditional album cycle," Pryor said. "Honestly, one of the things keeping this fresh for us is that it's not our only priority. We want to do something different; we're just not sure what that is, exactly. We're keeping it light. None of us are in the position where we have to do this; none of us need this to make a living.

"We're trying to get into the right mentality, that when the five of us get together and make music, it seems to work really well. We're going to focus on that and not overthink it to death, so to speak. It seems to be working so far."

The Get Up Kids with Youth Group and Pretty and Nice perform at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Diamond Ballroom, 8001 S. Eastern. "Becky Carman

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