It seems like Matt Pryor has been nonstop for a very long time now. Well-known for being the key component of veteran emo band The Get Up Kids, Pryor has gone on to form The New Amsterdams, Terrible Twos, and more recently, put out three solo full-lengths. At his home in Lawrence, Kansas, he cooks, farms, records a weekly podcast, and raises a family. As of this past December, Matt can add yet another endeavor to his respectable list of projects. Pryor and five friends, most with roots in the Lawrence music scene, released a self-titled record as Lasorda
on December 11th. It's a laid back indie-pop album that reflects a cathartic Pryor winding down from the past couple of years' constant touring and the eclectic talents of the musicians involved. We had the great pleasure of speaking to Matt about writing and recording the record, his podcast, and what's next for him.
Stream the entire album while reading the interview:
Could you give us a sort of "Who's who" for Lasorda? Who is playing what instrument?
The keyboards are all done by Dustin Kinsey who has played in The New Amsterdams with me for a while. He toured with The Get Up Kids playing keyboards and he has been in, like every band that came out of Lawrence, Kansas at some point. The drummer was a guy named Josh Adams. He used to play with a local band called Ghosty. The guitar player is a guy named Mike Strandberg, who plays with Kevin Devine. The singer is a girl named Suzannah Johannes, who is a fantastic singer/songwriter in her own right here in Lawrence, Kansas, and the bass was done by Nate Harold, who now plays with fun. That's it. Six people who were all never in the same room at the same time.
Was it difficult for everyone to be available to make the record?
It was in between Get Up Kids tours and it was when fun was writing and recording their record that they are blowing up on now. We worked around tour schedules, so it took several, several months to make. And not like we were working on it for several months, but starting it, and then picking it up again. Partially because I wrote all the lyrics after the record was recorded, so I needed time to do that.
So when you said that the six of you were never in the same room, you meant not just before the making of this record, but during the process?
Yeah, it was literally like some of the guys would be there for the first half, and then some of the guys would be there for the mixing. It was always me and Dustin, primarily, and Nick, the guy who recorded it. Mike the guitar player lives in New York and he's never even met Nate or Suzy.
Was this recorded at Black Lodge?
So, Suzannah, you said, was a local musician from the Lawrence area. Had you met her before or seen her perform? Is that how you knew her?
I had heard her and several of the guys in the band had played on some of her records. It started off as sort of, "Hey, we should have her come in and sing on some of it." Then it was like, "Wow, she sounds awesome!" So we just had her sing on the whole fuckin' thing. That's the thing I've always wanted to try - writing for someone else. And it worked out.
I noticed that the lyrics were almost unmistakably Matt Pryor lyrics, but the imagery comes through a little bit differently with the way she [Suzannah] delivers them.
I think she interpreted the stuff in a really cool way. She's singing the melodies and lyrics that I wrote, but it's just a totally different feel, you know?
So you said you wrote the lyrics after the record was recorded?
Yeah. A lot of the basic ideas, initial thoughts, were Dustin's riffs or whatever and we would jam on those for a while and I would sing gibberish to establish a melody and decide where the changes needed to be and we recorded the songs with that template. That was in April. Then over the summer, I would take my kids to the pool with my big stereo headphones on and write lyrics to the record.
So since you knew you would have Suzannah singing, when you wrote lyrics and melodies did you have her in mind at all?
I didn't really have her in mind. She's got a pretty broad range, she can sing really low and really high. So I guess I was just writing it for me to sing. I honestly didn't know what was going to come out when she showed up. I figured in a worst-case scenario, if it didn't work, I knew I could sing it. I would come in and lay down a scratch track of vocals, and then Suzy came in and sang along to that, then we just took mine out for a lot of it.
So you guys have never played this stuff live together?
It's kind of the way pop records get made. It's not going to have a live band feel, but everybody's a good enough player in their own right that they could just be there right in the pocket, you know what I mean? It's interesting. Josh, the drummer, couldn't be there for the first couple of days, so we built these drum loops that we were writing three songs to. Then he came in, and he was this human metronome, laying down the same beats. Crazy. I've never seen anybody do that before.
By the sound of it, I'd say you chose the right musicians.
For me, it was kind of a catharsis. I was in a really dark head space and I was not enjoying playing music and not enjoying being on the road and stuff. I was talking to Dustin like, "We should put together a band that's all people that we like to hang out with but who are really good players." And, this is what came out of it.
Did you work with everyone individually? You, personally.
Yeah, it was mainly me and Nick Day, the guy who recorded it, and Dustin was kind of in and out a lot of the times. It was me and Dustin who kind of formed it, then everybody else would kind of come and go. Nate offered a lot of opinions once the songs were arranged as far as instrumentation and mixing and stuff like that. Everybody had their strong suits. I think the only person that was there 100 percent of the time was Nick, the engineer, the producer. That's because he's the only one who knows how to work the board.
So now that the record is out, are there any further plans with it? A tour?
Many planets would have to align for us to tour. We did a couple of remixes for Spotify, and Nate did another one, but it is what it is. It's just a cool record, we're kinda leaving it at that.
As far as you yourself doing things: After that last Get Up Kids record, you had two solo records, then this, and now I hear you're going out on tour with James [Dewees]?
Yeah. I leave tomorrow actually.
So what will you be playing?
The shows we're doing, we're celebrating our whole cannon of work. So we're playing Reggie stuff, we're playing New Amsterdams stuff, my solo stuff, scattered Get Up Kids songs, and there's one new song we're going to play in the set. Then, random covers and I guess a certain element of someone yelling something to us and us trying it and fucking up. It'll just be fun.
And you're doing a podcast now? How is that?
One of the things I've liked about doing the podcast is that it's something that has a deadline every week. It's not so much like doing a record where the record comes out and you kind of like, front-load it with press and touring and compact all the work into a six month period. This is just sort of like, "Okay, this is what you have to do every week. You have a deadline every week." I've never had that before so it's kind of fun.
Can you tell us a little more about the podcast? What can the people expect to hear?
It's called "Nothing To Write Home About"
. It's similar to a lot of stand-up comedians and generally funny people like Marc Maron and Kevin Smith and Jay Mohr, or even Adam Carolla and Joe Rogan who have these sort of conversational podcasts. I'm just talking to people in music, whether it's a songwriter, or a roadie, or a promoter, or a drummer. I've been a touring musician for 16 years now, and some of the stories that people tell back stage are some of the funniest shit you'll hear. So far I've really only been interviewing my friends, but it's really just kind of an open exchange talking about music and tour stories and funny shit. It's fun. It's totally fun.
Any episodes you're really excited for?
I'm going to try and do some fun stuff on this tour, but I'm doing one where I'm interviewing all four members of Braid who I've toured with a bunch back in the 90s to see if they have different memories of the same event. I think that'll be really interesting.
is out now on Clifton Motel Records
. You can catch Matt Pryor on tour with long-time band-mate James Dewees (Reggie and the Full Effect, The Get Up Kids) as they come to The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, this Friday the 18th. To check up on all things Pryor, including Lasorda, visit Matt's podcast and webpage at NTWHA.com