Lawrence Musician Matt Pryor On His New Album, Leaving Music And Dealing With Death

Feb 16, 2017

Lawrence musician Matt Pryor.
Credit Fally Afani

If you went out in the late 1990s and early 2000s, you probably heard Matt Pryor in venues around town.

He was the lead singer of the indie pop-punk band, The Get Up Kids, and he was also the front man for its spin-off, The New Amsterdams.

Now, the Lawrence-based musician is making solo records, and his new album, Memento Mori, takes a different turn.

The songs are gentle and introspective. And, as he told host Gina Kaufmann on KCUR’s Central Standard, many of the songs are about death and dying.

The album came about after his stepfather, his grandmother and a very close family friend passed away.

“It was just like, uhhh,” he said. “I was like, I need at least one song that’s a positive spin on death. It sounds weird to say ‘a positive spin on death,’ but that’s kind of what it’s supposed to be.”

That one song, “I Won’t Be Afraid” is about how death is a part of life.

“But then, the last line of the song says that it’s kind of a lie and I’m terrified of it,” he said.

Pryor grew up in Brookside and started playing music when he was 15. Performing with his first band at the Rhumba Box, a local all-ages club, taught him how to put on a show.

The Get Up Kids started in 1995, when Pryor and his bandmates were in their late teens.

“We were willing to go anywhere, and do anything, sleep on any floor — some really gross floors — just to play,” he said. “And the fact that it became a job was sort of an accident. We started doing it as just something to do over the summer, and everyone was going to go back to school.”

According to Pryor, The Get Up Kids are still getting together from time to time to work on some new material and to play shows at festivals.

In 2012, he quit the music industry. He was really burned out, he said; The Get Up Kids had just done a world tour (which he described as “straining”), and he wanted to be home.

“I was at a point in my life where I was just like, ‘I don’t like this, I want to do something with my hands; I want to follow some other passion,'” he said.

That turned out to be a stint on a food truck, then he worked on a friend’s farm.

“I was like, I’ll come and pick radishes and listen to the radio all day,” he said. “It was awesome.”

Pryor has three kids, who inspired another band: The Terrible Twos, which, as its name suggests, plays music for kids.

His 14-year-old daughter, an aspiring singer-songwriter, performs on his new album. She’s also going on tour with him.

“I’d love it if my whole family could sell the house and buy an RV and just go on the road for a year. One day, we’ll make that happen,” he said.

That’s not the only difference from his early days with The Get Up Kids. On his new album, he has a song, “A Small Explosion” where he sings about gears that no longer grind.

It’s about getting older, he said, and how we have to create an explosion to not be so complacent.

“I was literally thinking about your body breaking down as you get older, and having to drink more water and stretch more, and take ibuprofen and take better care of yourself,” he said.

“Grumpy old man Pryor, curmudgeon,” he joked. “But I’m really happy.”

Jen Chen is associate producer for KCUR's Central Standard. Reach out to her at jen@kcur.org.