ATH Interviews: Matt Pryor
Austin Town Hall caught up with Matt Pryor before his solo show at Stubb’s on Saturday night to talk about The Get Up Kids, Reggie and the Full Effect, family and the current state of music. Interview after the jump.
ATH: What’s it been like writing and recording on your own for the first time?
MP: I’ve always written and recorded on my own, but it’s been expanded upon by any number of bands or myself in the past. This record to me is kind of like how i do demos, just more thought out. It’s not just one take and you’re done. One guitar and one vocals is usually how I do demos for a living. This is the first time I’ve just let those be the nexus.
ATH: Did you bring anybody in to help you do any instruments? It was all you?
MP: Yes. I had a friend of mine mix it at the end of the process because he has better recording equipment than I do. But that took like 4 hours.
ATH: So you did this all at your house?
MP: Yup. I have a little studio in my garage. Borrowed a bass from a friend of mine… threw down some bass lines.
ATH: Can we expect more solo stuff from you in the future? Or is this just a one-time deal?
MP: It’s going pretty well and I enjoy it, so probably. I very much enjoy playing solo stuff, but at the same time playing with a band scratches a whole different pitch. I can’t see exclusively doing one or the other.
ATH: The New Amsterdams are going on a hiatus for the rest of the year. What can we expect from The New Ams in 2009?
MP: We’re going to start writing and recording. I think I’m going to do some more solo stuff in the spring, touring wise. I don’t know how we’re going to do this. We may end up doing it as “Matt Pryor and the New Amsterdams” or just the “New Amsterdams”. It can be really confusing having so many different band names.
ATH: You wear a lot of hats it seems like.
MP: You have no idea. [Laughter]
ATH: Can we expect any lineup changes with the New Amsterdams? Are you going to bring in any new people?
MP: I think the foundation of it is pretty solid… as far as the rhythm section and the guitar player. We have a pedal steel player that plays with us a lot. He can’t really tour because he has a real job. But he’s a really influential creative element in the band. There’s a couple of other guys we’ve been talking about playing with. Since the solo stuff is so stripped down, I want the New Amsterdams to just get bigger. Be like, there’s no way I could play this song acoustic. It’s got strings and horns and vloppensteihls and saws and stuff.
ATH: You split up with the Get Up Kids due to wanting to spend less time on the road and more time with your family. Do you think the music scene today gives you more of an opportunity to do that than say, 10 years ago?
MP: Initially I just wanted to take a break, you know. It wasn’t really what everyone else wanted to do. I don’t like touring. I like playing music. I certainly enjoy being here, seeing my friends, playing a song. I don’t like driving all day, living in hotels, I don’t like being away from my family. It’s taken me this long to come to terms with this is what I have to do to make this work. So I’m doing things bringing my son and wife out with us for a little while. We go camping. Tomorrow we’re gonna go to Barton Springs.
ATH: So the Terrible Two’s is an excuse for all of us old Get Up Kids fans to listen to something besides Barney and the Telletubbies?
MP: Seems to be. Although, it’s slowly developing a life of it’s own. There’s a whole subculture of what they call “Kindie Rock”. A lot of people say “Hey, Thanks… this is NOT crap”. That’s the bar. The bar is so low for this kind of stuff, most of it totally unlistenable. With the exception of They Might Be Giants, Dan Zanes, a handful of others. Actually at shows like this (and I do this) … I get to go to the bar and have a couple of beers on Saturday. And I know the kids are gonna have fun. And they’re in a safe place, and it’s gonna be a good time. I hang out with my other parent friends.
ATH: With Austin being a big music town, we’re curious about life in Lawerence. Would you say that Lawerence gave you the initial support and send-off to make it big with your bands, or would you say that it’s “just where you live”?
MP: Well, it really started in Kansas City. We couldn’t sell out a phone booth in Kansas City. We never got any love in Kansas City until we started touring and word started trickling back to Kansas City. We could draw on our first tour, 200 people in New York but we couldn’t draw anyone but our parents in Kansas City. There’s a good music scene there, and there’s a great music scene in Lawerence. But it is kind of incestous and it’s very jealous. Like if 1 person is getting some kind of success people start to get jealous. And that’s just the way it’s always been. But currently Lawerence has a whole crop of new bands. It’s a college town, so you know new people come in every 4 years. We’ll get a bunch of new, really good bands. But i’d say no to your original question.
ATH: Care to expand a little more on the evolution of Matt Pryor? As a songwriter.
MP: I started off as punk rock kid. Listend to a lot of Fugazi. Tried my hand at some fast Epitath style punk rock stuff. Screaming Weasel. That kind of stuff. Then we started the Get Up Kids. We started it becasue we were into bands like Jimmy Eat World, this band from Kansas City called Boy’s Life. That really shakes how we sounded initially. Then we toured the world, saw lots of stuff, drank a lot, wrote a bunch of songs. Then the New Amsterdams, which is a lot of fun. And people either like it or they don’t. And then we stripped everything down to it’s barest essentials, and we’re having a really good time on the road. That’s my synopsis.
ATH: The New Amsterdams played ACL Fest back in 2005. How was that experience?
MP: It was great. It was 108 degrees. It was right after Katrina. Our group was getting worried driving down, worried about Hurricane Ruth. I had to assure them that there was no way that Hurricane was getting to the middle of the state. All I know is that Tito’s Vodka was one of the sponsors, and it was flowing like water behind the stage. And it was so hot, I felt like I was sweating Vodka. I think I litterally… I mean I wasn’t drunk. But it was like “Don’t hug me, you’ll get drunk”.
ATH: Would you do it again?
ATH: Where do you get your inspiration for your songwriting. The songs about heartbreak and love lost?
MP: My thing with songwriting… I love my wife and I love my kids. And that doesn’t make for a very good record. I just think about happy stuff. But heartbreaking songs, I have to observe what everyone else is doing. I’ve seen some people go through some pretty heinous breakups through the past year.
ATH: What about the song “Dear Lover”?
MP: Yeah, that’s about James Dewees ex-wife
ATH: Here’s the Reggie Question. He’s playing up the road at Emo’s. Same night, same time. What are you feelings about playing the same night as an old friend?
MP: Actually, he was over here earlier. And I assumed that they would stagger the shows. Like we would go on earlier than he would, or vice-versa. But we both go on at 11. So it’s like I’m actually competeing. And that’s weird. If we didn’t know each other, people would like Reggie and people would like my solo stuff. There’s not a whole lot of crossover there. But I wanted to go sing with him. And now we can’t do that, which kind of sucks. We hung out for a while though. I hadn’t seen James in a year a half. So it was good to see him. He kind of looks like Macho Man Randy Savage.
ATH: Do you like the new direction he’s going in? The screamo-metal stuff?
MP: It’s not really my forte. I like some of it, and I like some of the record. But it’s not what I listen to generally. But I think the songs are strong. I think the performances on the record are really good. Cory, the guitar player on the record is amazing. I don’t know how he can scream like that for an hour live. Like I said, he’s good at that. He’s a talented person. It’s a good record. He did tell me that l2 other Reggie records are done.
ATH: What do you think of lot of these newer MTV, pop-y bands like Fall Out Boy, Hello Goodbye, Sander.
MP: You know, I heard that band Paramore for the 1st time in Abilene, on our way to Dallas. And this stuff really doesn’t have anything to do with me.
ATH: Did they say they were influenced by you?
MP: It comes up. I don’t know if they did. I don’t know if they know who they’re influenced by, anyways. The Fall Out Boy thing comes up constantly. I was just on tour with Chris Conley from Saves the Day and we were just talking about that. He was talkign about how Fall Out Boy started as a Saves the Day cover band, and they’ve actually confirmed this. I get asked all the time, because if you look up The Get Up Kids in wikipedia, it brings up that dude from Fall Out Boy saying they would have never been a band if it wasn’t for the Get Up Kids. So I get that asked in interviews all of time, but I’ve heard like 3 of their songs. I don’t really know anything about that band at all. I don’t think it has anything to do with what we started doing. We were kind of a punk band that could sing. We did everything DIY. We made our own music, we booked our own tours. And Vagrant was an indie label then, and they’re kind of an indie label now. It doesn’t have anythign to do with being on the radio, or being a manufactured band or being in a magazine or anything like that. It was very punk rock, so it’s kind of weird for me to hear “you really influenced this band”.
MP: On the flipside of that, on the solo tour in Omaha, there was this guy with this long beard, long hair, acoustic guitar. Really pretty, really lonesome country ballads. And he was all “Get Up Kids is my favorite band in the whole world”. I’ll take that one. That’s cool. I’ll take Say Anything. I like that band.
ATH: What can you not leave home without?
MP: Insulin. I’m a diabetic.
ATH: What do you have to have in Austin?
MP: Lone Star beer.
And there you have it, folks. Matt Pryor the family man. Be sure to look for some New Amsterdams stuff in 2009, and check out Matt’s new album if you haven’t already.