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There are certain musicians Matt Pryor has gone to bat for who don't seem like much of a stretch. Over various interviews, the singer/songwriter and front man of folk/indie-rock outfit the New Amsterdams and pivotal indie/OG emo band the Get Up Kids has voiced his love for Weezer, Christie Front Drive, Bon Iver, Fugazi and Jimmy Eat World. One name you probably wouldn't expect to add to that list is Miley Cyrus, but in a recent newspaper article covering the current incarnation of the Where's the Band? (WTB) tour, Pryor expressed his partiality for "Party In the USA," a song that was the subject of an in-van discussion during a past tour. "We celebrate all pop music, but when people aren't schooled in the beauty that is pop music, we have to win them over," says Pryor, who swings between good-natured, informative and mildly agitated during this interview.
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He clarifies that the culprit who didn't appreciate Cyrus' signature song was a WTB tour manager. "He's a hardcore kid from Long Island and only likes hardcore. But then we got him fist-pumping," he says. "It's cool."
Evidently, Billy Ray's progeny is the kind of thing leaders of notable bands discuss when they share a van for long periods of time. Where's the Band? was originally conceived in 2008 as a way for a few front men to play extensive acoustic sets without having the rest of their bands waiting in the wings. This edition is its fourth.
Traditionally, the tour has included Pryor, Bayside's Anthony Raneri, Saves the Day's Chris Conley and Thrice's Dustin Kensrue as the WTB concept was devised by a booking agent all four had in common. This year, the Early November's Ace Enders and Into It. Over It.'s Evan Weiss were added to the mix.
WTB shows consist of the guitarists doing individual sets, with everyone occasionally teaming up for a group encore or a cover song of some sort. In the past, they've tackled Jawbreaker's "Boxcar," NOFX's "Linoleum" and Darlene Love's "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Now, they're trying to figure out "Rainbow Connection" from The Muppet Movie.
The continued success of Where's the Band? represents the apex of a long-gestating trend in punk, emo and post-hardcore circles. Since the early 2000s, the front men of several bands—among other non-WTB names, Against Me!, Alkaline Trio, Avail, the Lawrence Arms and Lagwagon—have embarked on acoustic tours or released solo acoustic records. Hot Water Music's Chuck Ragan has even developed the ongoing Revival Tour as a collaborative acoustic revue for various punk players.
When asked why he thinks this proliferation of side projects is happening, Pryor's response is simultaneously playful and hostile. "Well, we get together every year at the International Punk Rock Lead Singers Convention, and we decide what genre of music we'll attempt to tackle next," he says. "Everyone gets their marching orders, and we go out and do it."
Pressed for more of his opinion, he says, "I just started doing it for myself. I have no idea why anybody else did it. I don't really care."
The Lawrence, Kansas-based Pryor has been making acoustic-based records since 2000 as part of the New Amsterdams. His attraction to acoustic music stems from the variety of factors you'd figure. "I had been listening to a lot of Steve Earle at the time, and I was trying to emulate what he does: just a very simple, somewhat-country singer/songwriter with good lyrics," Pryor says, and to a certain degree, he believes he's still emulating Earle.
"I like being loud sometimes, but I like being quiet sometimes," he continues. "I like the simplicity of it. I like having complete control over what I'm doing and not having to take in anybody else's opinion."
Where's the Band? scratches those itches for Pryor. The tour allows him to play his work (the latest of which can be found on the tender, hooky May Day) with little hassle while potentially netting new fans who are interested in what kind of acoustic music the other guitarists are making. But Pryor's own reasons for touring with WTB emphasize simple pleasures, such as indulging in "Party In the USA" with some friends. "I like all the people," he says. "It's a fun group of guys to hang out with."
This article appeared in print as "Matt Pryor Ditches His Band Again: The Get Up Kids singer gears up for the fourth Where's the Band? tour."
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