Earlier this year, Get Up Kids frontman Matt Pryor released his fifth solo album, Memento Mori, through Equal Vision Records. Memento Mori is a haunting studio effort that channels a melancholy tone, addressing themes of death and loss. Lyrically inspired through his own personal experiences of losing several loved ones within a short period of time, Pryor creates a dreary yet enticing narrative to commemorate the lives of those who have been tragically taken away too soon. In contrast to the darkness that has been presented within this release, standalone singles like “Small Explosion,” “Risk” and “I’m Not Afraid” evoke a positive angle to Memento Mori with uplifting messages conveyed for listeners to take advantage of the time that we have left in this world.
Currently, Pryor is on the road supporting his latest effort with Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano, where they will be making their return the to Tri-State Area this month. During their second run of shows, I had the opportunity to chat with Matt Pryor about his solo tour, his new album, Memento Mori, in addition to his return to Asbury Park since performing with Andriano on the “Where’s The Band?” tour last year.
So far, you’ve been on the road supporting your latest solo effort, Memento Mori, with Alkaline Trio’s Dan Andriano. How have the shows been so far?
The first leg was great. Last month [February], we’ve done four shows to second leg, and today is our first day off. So far, the first leg was cool, and the second leg might be even better.
Right on! Belting out a good amount of new material from this record, how do these songs translate in a live, concert setting?
Well, I guess the only way to really gauge that is… people after the show have been buying the record. I actually haven’t been playing a ton of it just because… I mean, the record is so sad. I don’t know if you really want to go out on a Friday night with your buddies and drink beers and then listen to me crying about death for an hour (laughs). I’ve been trying to mix it up—I play like three or four songs from the record a night. I try to kind of focus on the more uplifting ones.
Gotcha. Have you been playing a good mix of solo songs, Get Up Kids or New Amsterdams tunes on this tour for the most part?
Yeah, I don’t really do a ton of Get Up Kids stuff just because The Get Up Kids are still a band. Some of these places… like we’ve played Columbus, Ohio, last night and The Get Up Kids were just there in October, so I try to play songs that we didn’t play or we don’t usually play. It can get real redundant otherwise.
Totally understandable. Now, Memento Mori is a record that addresses several personally rooted themes including grief, loss and the idea of mortality. How does this album sort of reflect where your life is at right now?
It’s actually kind of not where my head is right now. It is where my head was… I guess it’s going on a year and half ago. It was right after my stepfather died, my grandmother died and a good friend of our family all died within six months of each other. And I really think about this kind of stuff, you know?
Honestly, I still think about those things all of the time, but I am in a pretty positive headspace right now. Being on tour with Dan [Andriano], and I have my daughter, Lily, out with me—she’s performing on this tour as well. On the flip side of the record, having so much to do with death that it’s also got a lot to do with taking advantage of the time that you have, and not putting things off, do you know what I mean? The ultimate goal was to bring the whole family on tour, but we got to work our way up to it.
That would be really cool to see the whole family on the road. Would they be joining you on stage, or simply tag along for the ride?
So far, that’s only my daughter that performs with me. They all play instruments… at least the kids do. My wife has a good singing voice, but she doesn’t think that she does.
Very cool. Moving forward, “I Won’t Be Afraid” is an uplifting yet honest track that recognizes that death is a part of life. What are some other standalone tracks that do you think summarize the album perfectly?
It’s kind of like two ideas. Songs like “Small Explosion” and “Risk” and “Is This Home?” are all about trying to take advantage of life, and figuring out who are you are, and where you want to be. But songs like “Virginia,” “Mary” and “Where is Juan Carlos?” are all about remembering the people in my life that have died in the last few years. So yeah, it’s kind of about celebrating those who passed, then at the same time, trying to enjoy the life that we still have.
I know this time last year, both you and Adriano were a part of the “Where’s The Band?” tour. In a sense, would you consider your show at the Wonder Bar as somewhat of a make-up date, for what transpired at the House Of Independents show last year?
No, that show is what it is. Dan and I both played great at that show (laughs), as did Anthony [Raneri] and Andy Jackson. Chris [Conley] was just dealing with what he was dealing with.
I love going to Asbury [Park], and I’m sure you won’t be the last person to ask me about this. I’ve spoken to Chris since then, and he seems fine. But I don’t think Dan and I have to redeem ourselves for it (laughs), we killed it that night. Especially under the circumstances, I think we did a really good show (laughs).
After the end of the “Where’s The Band?” tour, did it make you look at touring as an acoustic act in a different way?
Well, it was kind of an experiment to do the “round-robin songwriter’s circle” thing. We sort of made this assumptions like, “If you’re a fan of me or Dan Andriano, then you’re automatically a fan of Anthony Raneri or Chris Conley,” but that isn’t necessarily true. There’s a lot of crossover, but it’s not 100 percent. Plus, for something like [the “Where’s The Band? tour] you need to have it be maybe a seated environment that’s advertised as, “An evening with…” and not just an “acoustic punk rock show.”
I think it can be done. I think we kind of assumed that we would slide into it, but I think it didn’t really work. Plus, you got to give people time to go to the bathroom and to get a beer. If we’re just playing solid for two and a half hours, then they don’t have that opportunity to do so, do you know what I mean?
Totally. On one final note, once you complete your second run of shows with Dan Adriano, what are some of your future plans for the rest of the year?
We’re working on some new Get Up Kids stuff. We’re hoping to—knock on wood— get to South America for the first time this fall, and then maybe play some shows around. [Get Up Kids guitarist] Jim Suptic and I, and Josh Berwanger in The Anniversary have started a new side project. We just recorded our first EP for it, so hopefully that will come out. It’s fun… it’s straight-up pop punk, and we all sing, so it’s good.
Matt Pryor is currently on the road with Alkaline Trio’s Dan Adriano supporting his latest solo effort, Memento Mori. Pryor will be playing at Underground Arts in Philadelphia on April 17, The Wonder Bar in Asbury Park on April 18, St. Vitus in Brooklyn on April 21, and at the Amityville Music Hall in Amityville on April 22. Matt Pryor’s new solo album, Memento Mori, is available now on Equal Vision Records. For more information, go to facebook.com/mattpryorsongs.