The Amazing Side

"I have 20 songs already written for my next album, and I'm just getting started," Matthew Pryor says. Seems like the front man and founder of the New Amsterdams is off to a good start...except when you take into account the fact that he hates his own songs. Wait, really?

"Of course I do. It's like when you hear a song on the radio. The first couple of times, you think, 'Wow, this is a great song.' Six months later when they've played it to death, you're like, 'Man, I'm so fucking sick of this song!' My trick is, I have to come back around to it."

On the New Amsterdams' latest CD, Story Like a Scar, Pryor only came back around to nine songs of acoustic rock. Most of the songs are slow to mid-tempo, serene but still obviously rock-based, with only echoes of his days in the emo group Get Up Kids in the late 1990s.

"I just want to write stuff that I would enjoy listening to if I was the audience," he says. "The idea is to have my music be as diverse as possible without sounding schizophrenic.

"Having people know my music from when I was with Get Up Kids, that's a blessing and a curse at the same time. If people enjoy the Get Up Kid stuff and remember me for that, that's great because I'm really proud of the work I did with that band. But at the same time, I hope that people would be interested in what I'm doing now. It's not for everybody, I know that. If they like it, cool. If they like the older stuff, that's fine, too. I'm proud of the older stuff, but I can't write angsty punk-rock emo songs anymore because I'm not 18 anymore. If I did that now, it would be this forced, trite stuff. I have to write about what's in me now."

Only to some extent, however; Pryor says that while he puts a lot of effort and emotion into his songs, fans shouldn't assume they're a window into his private life, not even seemingly personal ones such as "Turn Out the Lights" ("I was lost until I found you/Turn out the lights/I'll stay if you want me to").

"I think people confuse the singer with the song," he explains. "That's natural, and I understand it. But I'm not my songs, and I'm really not whatever you think about my songs. If I'm very, very angry one day, I can write a very, very angry song. But then, for me, it's done. It was just a temporary mood and it's over. The song, however, stays the same, and 10 years later, people hear it and think that's still who I am.

"It's like, just because I write a song about the day I found out my girlfriend was cheating on me with my brother, that doesn't mean anything. Really. It's just a song. Maybe I was talking about my experience or maybe something I heard about or something I saw happen to someone else. Don't go around thinking my girlfriend and my brother got something going."

Still, Pryor's personal life does leak into his music. A new father, Pryor has launched a children's music project, The Terrible Twos, and his daughter Lilian and son Elliott act as resident critics. (Ebert, eat your heart out; Lilian reportedly complained to her father that his song about dinosaurs needed a volcano in it.) Those might be the only two critics Pryor readily listens to. "I don't pay reviews--or reviewers, for that matter--too much attention. I usually read the article and if it's negative, then I just assume they're idiots," he laughs. "I'm fine with someone who actually doesn't like my music saying so, as long as they articulate it well. As long as it isn't just venomous and hateful.

"Is this just some kid out in nowhere with nothing else to do but blog about music that he hasn't even heard? That, I don't think anyone takes very seriously. I think if you have a real job doing this, I might listen a little bit, but even then, not really. I'm my most vocal critic anyway...Believe me, that 13-year-old blogger in the middle of nowhere doesn't have anything on me when it comes to criticizing my music."

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Olivia Flores Alvarez

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