Get Up Kids Grow Up
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: December 10, 2002
w/ Hey Mercedes
Saturday, Dec. 14
8 p.m., $15, all ages
13th and Martha
Get Up Kids aren't kidding around as much these days.
latest CD, On A Wire, is a purposeful departure from the
band's trademark open-hearted punk pop that has garnered them the
reputation as one of the reigning kings of emo. It's a style of
music keyboardist James Dewees says the band has begun to grow out
of, at least from a songrwriting standpoint.
first two records were what you can hear on MTV right now,"
he said from the band's just-purchased Eudora, Kan., studio -- formerly
known as Red House and now renamed Black Lodge -- where he's recording
some tracks with Get Up Kids vocalist Matt Pryor. "We still
play all of our songs live, but there are only so many chords you
can put into a three-chord song so many times. You can only sing
about having a broken heart for so long."
On a Wire, produced by Nirvana/Replacements/R.E.M. studio
veteran Scott Litt, explores more mature territory, both lyrically
and musically. The usual hook-filled Superchunk-influenced punk
the band's fans have grown up with has been replaced with flowing
acoustic arrangements, slower melodies and a much more smooth approach
that would be right at home on adult-oriented alternative FM.
Dewees is a late comer
to the band, which formed in Kansas City back in mid-'90s. Also
a member of the metalcore outfit Coalesce, he met the Get Up Kids
when the bands played together. "We used to be the two little
kids bands from Kansas City," he said, adding that his first
contributions appeared on the band's Red Letter Day EP and
1999's Something to Write Home About LP.
Needless to say, On
A Wire's more comfortable approach has resulted in its share
of criticism from those who expected The Get Up Kids to stay the
emo path. "People were hesitant at first about it," Dewees
said. "They wanted their fast songs with high-pitched, whiney
vocals. The said 'We don't want harmonies and keyboard parts that
you can actually hear. We don't want production. We want a ghetto
sound.' Then they listened to it and said, 'Yeah, that's pretty
"This is the best
time in the world for emo music," he added. "It's just
that we don't really want to write music like that anymore. We want
to experiment with writing slower songs with acoustic guitars or
organ or string parts or keyboards instead of the soft-then-loud-then-scream
songs with the typical punk-rock-flourish ending."
A self-described songwriting
geek with a degree in music composition from the University of Missouri,
Dewees said when the new songs are stripped down to the basics,
they really aren't much different than the old Get Up Kids songs.
"They fit the same formula; they're just not played on a Les
Paul with Marshall half stacks. We're playing with hollow-body Gretsches
"We had to move
forward," he added. "When we got a manager, then tour
manager, then business manager, everything got more professional,
and there's an attitude that comes with that. We were never the
type of band that had to be woken up in the hotel room to be put
on the bus."
can only sing about having a broken heart for so long."
we're not out of town then we're practicing every day of the
week. Being in a band is our job."
the break-through success of Something to Write Home About,
the band found itself living on the road for a few years, performing
with pop-punk giants like Green Day and Weezer and quickly growing
their reputation as one of the Midwest's hottest bands. Dewees said
they never got tired of touring, they just began to notice that
part of their lives was missing.
a break," he said. "Everyone in the band is married except
for Ryan (Pope) and hadn't seen their families for months. Matt's
wife was pregnant and he wanted to get home. And we all had bills
and taxes and crap that is kind of hard to take care of when you're
The band finally hit
a wall, and when Incubus asked them to go on tour with them they
finally had to say "no."
"We just couldn't
do it," Dewees said. "The timing was all wrong. We needed
a break." The pause in touring allowed Dewees to finally go
on the road with yet another of his bands, Reggie and the Full Effect,
as well as tour with his comrades in Coalesce. Matt Pryor even squeezed
in a tour with his other band, The New Amsterdams.
"Fact is, we never
really took a break," Dewees said. "If we're not out of
town then we're practicing every day of the week. Being in a band
is our job, and if you're not playing, you're sitting around on
your ass being bored. You can only see so many bands in bars before
you want to get back up on stage. Playing live is how we pay the
The Get Up Kids are also
reentering their Black Lodge Studio in the spring to record a new
CD that Dewees said continues in the same direction as On A Wire.
"We took eight steps
forward with that record, so we're taking four steps back with the
next one," he said. "It'll be the same style of writing,
but this one is a little heavier. We like this new direction. The
band is really pushing for the long haul. We're going to see how
far we can go, and we can write whatever we want to now."
Published in The Omaha Weekly Dec. 11, 2002. Copyright © 2002 Tim
McMahan. All rights reserved.