Exclusive Premiere: Get Up Kids' Frontman Matt Pryor's New Album 'Memento Mori'

Fally Afani
Matt Pryor

Matt Pryor was "thinking a lot about death" while writing songs for his fifth solo album, Memento Mori -- which comes out Friday (Feb. 17) and is premiered exclusively below -- and he's well aware that's necessarily the most inviting topic.

"I kept describing it to people like, 'I'm writing this really depressing album," The Get Up Kids frontman tells Billboard. "My booking agent had the best line; 'Does that mean the songs aren't good, or it's sad?' I said, 'I think sad.'"

Pryor had good reason to strike a dark tone on the gentle, spare 10-song set. During 2015 he lost his stepfather, his grandmother (the namesake for the closing track, "Virginia") and a 27-year-old family friend. "That just got me thinking about [death] and about life and about my own family," Pryor recalls. "I wanted to write some songs to honor those people. I definitely wanted it to sound quiet, and somber. Some of it's less somber than others, but as I was writing I thought it's a good record to listen to as it's raining, if you're just, like, reading a book and you're in your window seat and it's raining. That's how I picture it. It's not a good record to get you pumped."

Pryor recorded the self-produced Memento Mori mostly at his house in Lawrence, Kan., and is releasing initial vinyl copies in clear and light blue colors. He kicks off a tour to support the album with on Feb. 16 in Jacksonville, Fla., on a co-bill with Alkaline Trio's Dan Andriano; Pryor's 14-year-old daughter Lily, who's virtually schooled, is accompanying him to sing and play bass.

Memento Mori and other members' activities will keep the Get Up Kids back on ice for awhile. Bassist Rob Pope will be with Spoon to support its upcoming album Hot Thoughts (Mar. 17), while keyboardist James Dewees will be touring with Reggie and the Full Effect.

Nevertheless, the group -- which celebrated its 20th anniversary during 2015 -- is starting to circle around the idea of making a follow-up to 2011's There Are Rules. "The Get Up Kids has always been a slow-moving beast, now further complicated by everyone's other projects," says Pryor, who also plays in The New Amsterdams, Lassorda and the children's project Terrible Twos. "My plan was to start working on a new album this summer, but I'm not sure now. It's hard to get everybody in the same room to work on new material, so I don't know what's going on just yet." He is, however, looking forward to spending time on the road with Andriano. 

"We've recorded some songs together that we'll probably play, but we're trying to figure out how we want the evening to go," Pryor says. "We played in Denver the other night and we both got on stage together and just traded songs off and on for almost two hours. It was great but we realized if we do that people don't have time to go get another beer and pee. You need an intermission or something, so we're working all that out."

Listen to Memento Mori below.


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