But in April ’08, when most of the act reconvened in Lawrence, Kan., to sort out minor business matters over drinks, the spark of friendship struck again. Today, the Kids are back to the old status quo with regular touring and another album.
Guitarist/vocalist Matt Pryor swiftly draws a line between the unhappy group that broke up and the quintet playing nowadays. “It’s like starting a new band again almost. We’re getting along better now than probably we ever have,” he says. “I can’t even compare, honestly. It’s like coming out of a depression. It was like that when we got back together just to do the reunion shows, and the bond has gotten stronger with making the new record and moving forward.”
The time they spent—and will spend—apart is the primary reason that things have looked up.
"The secret to longevity in doing anything with a group is to get away from them from time to time and have a life outside of this entity,” says Pryor. One example of this: The Kids completed There Are Rules, album No. 5, in August 2010, but avoided rehearsing again until December. The record itself took eight months to assemble, but that was spread over 14 months. In the spirit of their 1997 debut Four Minute Mile, Pryor says that Rules’ material came from a “a bunch of a guys throwing ideas at a wall” instead of a single player bringing fleshed-out songs to everyone else.
That idea-coated wall must be an unusual-looking thing. Rules is a departure not only from the straightforward rock & roll of 2004’s Guilt Show, but also the Kids’ style in whole.
“This record, we weren’t afraid [of asking], ‘Is that too weird?’” he says. What makes it strange, explains the frontman, are tracks like the especially aggressive “When It Dies” and “Shatter Your Lung,” a guitar-free “straight-up pop song” (its gaudy synth line immediately identifies it as a major departure). Shades of skittish dance-punk also ring prominently, but The Get Up Kids smartly imbue the entire work with the vibrant melancholy present on past successes.
Pryor is well aware of the expectations placed on the band—after all, their early work’s perceptive, raw rock heavily colored what’s now known as “emo”—and he’s resolved to ignore them. “You have to walk into [making an album] just not giving a fuck about it,” he says. “It sounds confrontational, but we can’t make Four Minute Mile again. It’s a document of that place in time, and then we move forward. Some people just don’t get that.”
As another indicator of the group connecting with their forceful side, they’ve opted to issue Rules on Quality Hill Records, their own label. There have been other changes in the Kids’ world, too, like aiming for the idea of “maximum impact” during both Rules and live performances. “[It’s like,] there’s no guitar in the front half of this song, so that when it does kick in at the end, it really kicks you in the face,” adds Pryor. “You take something away in order to really push it later.”
For as well thought out as these changes sound, they’ve come from a gradual process. Neither a new record nor nationwide touring were initially in the cards; at first, it was a lone reunion date. “It’s interesting, though, because we get lumped in with bands that have broken up and gotten back together, and I almost wish we hadn’t broken up at all,” says Pryor. “I don’t think of us as a reunited band anymore. I think of us as just a band.”