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Get Up Kids looking fierce...

The Get Up Kids Grow Up

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: December 10, 2002

The Get Up Kids
w/ Hey Mercedes
Saturday, Dec. 14
8 p.m., $15, all ages
Sokol Auditorium

13th and Martha

The Get Up Kids aren't kidding around as much these days.

Their 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.

"Our 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."



Instead, 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 good.'

"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 these days.

"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."

On A Wire CD Art

"You can only sing about having a broken heart for so long."



Get Up Kids crowd a porch

"If we're not out of town then we're practicing every day of the week. Being in a band is our job."


With 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.

"Everyone wanted 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 on tour."

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 bills."

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."

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Published in The Omaha Weekly Dec. 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.