I caught up with Rob Pope, The Get Up Kids' bass player on September 2, 2000. The band had just finished rocking the 328 Performance Hall in Nashville, TN on the second night of their Napster-sponsored Heroes&Villans/Vagrant Rock Extravaganza Tour. Along with The Get Up Kids, the tour featured The Anniversary and Koufax. The Lawrence, KS-based indie rock band gained a great deal of notoriety in the past several years, touring with such acts as Jimmy Eat World, Mineral, and MxPx, and are now one of the most popular and recognizable names in the genre.
Luke: Napster is sponsoring this tour. How did you get hooked up with them?
Rob: They were interested in doing it, and we're Napster supporters. It helps small bands like us, and I honestly don't think it hurts anybody's record sales. I could go either way on the issue, but until there is an absolute ruling on Napster, we have to look at it with the "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" mindset. It's cool when we play a brand new song live and three days later there are kids that know all the words. Napster really only helps our band. I think people want product more than anything. They want to have the artwork to the record, and everything that goes along with buying the record. I don't think it is going to hurt our record sales, but even if it does, there are going to be more people listening to our band.
Luke: So if Joe College Kid went and downloaded your entire new record and burned it onto a CD for his personal use, not making a profit off of it in any way, you wouldn't have a problem with that?
Rob: No, not at all. People are always going to do that. People did that before Napster. Someone would get a hold of a friend's advanced copy of a record and dub it out, or something like that. It still means more people are listening to our band and more people are coming to our shows, and ultimately, more people are buying our records. It doesn't really hurt our band, and it is a good thing, I think. It is kind of exciting, actually. I mean, I understand people's perspective of music being artwork that you can't give away for free, because someone needs to make money. The thing is, people are still making money. Metallica is making millions and millions and millions of dollars. That band got big on people passing around their demo tapes. People went to their shows, and they got a record deal. So, they are very hypocritical, I think.
Luke: A lot of indie rock bands go through big changes in their sound, but I feel like you can get an old Get Up Kids (GUK) record, and compare it to new GUK record, and both have the same feel. You have added keys and tweaked some things, but fundamentally, to me, it is still close to what you have been doing since the start. Is that accurate?
Rob: We don't really look at it that way. We don't set out to play any certain style. We just write the songs we know how to write, and that is it. We don't sit around and say, "Ooh, let's make our next record sound like Joe Cocker." That would be killer, but we are not going to purposely write a record that is 100% different.
Luke: I know that this is only the second show of the tour, but are shows like this, where 800 kids show up and most of them know the words, becoming more and more common for you?
Rob: The last time we played Nashville there were 75 people there. This is a big deal for us in Nashville. Really, honestly, we haven't been on tour for almost a year in the states, but these shows are a lot bigger.
Luke: How has the foreign response been? You did what Japan, Europe…
Rob: We did all of Europe and England, then England alone, Japan, and Australia. We did really well in Japan, we are a tiny, tiny band in Australia, and we did all right in Europe. So it has been good. Japan was pretty crazy for us. We had kids following us to our hotel rooms. It was indie rock BeatleMania. We had 14-year old, little Japanese girls freaking out, screaming just to see us. It was weird for us. Each of us had our own hotel room, not that they were like hotel rooms here in the U.S., they were a lot smaller, but we are used to just finding our place to sleep on the floor.
Luke: Did you guys play Rome at all? I have heard bad stories about American bands in Rome.
Rob: We played Rome. We went to the club, we took a taxi to the Coliseum and went down and saw all of that stuff. The Vatican was closed that day, so we couldn't go there, so we took a taxi straight back to the club and stayed there. Everyone there was telling us not to walk around. We didn't really stick out there, but as soon as we utter a word, it's bad news.
Luke: What is the big GUK influence that no one would see as an influence?
Rob: Public Enemy. We were all pretty much into them growing up, and it doesn't show through in out music, so no one would think it, hence the question.
Luke: So I've been to Kansas a couple of times…
Rob: Oh really, what did you do? There is Kansas City, Lawrence, Topeka, and after that it is pretty much flat for 8 hours until you get to Colorado.
Luke: I drove through. I've seen the Royals play. I'm a pretty big baseball fan.
Rob: Yeah, Kaufman Stadium. Nice place, good fountains there. How are the Royals doing this year? I haven't kept track. They started off doing really well; tons of people were going to games, then people got shot.
Luke: What? People got shot? When was this? This season?
Rob: Yeah, this season. Everyone was freaking out about it. I want to say it was in June. Kaufman Stadium is right off the highway, and this guy drove by and shot a gun out the window at the stadium and two people in General Admission got shot.
Luke: Are the GUK big sports fans in general?
Rob: No, that is a farce. We didn't even think about it. Our EP has basketball players on it, the first full-length has the track runners, so then we were like, NO MORE SPORTS! I mean, we like sports; we just don't keep up with it. I like college basketball a lot, but I've still never been to a game. I'll watch it on TV, but that is about it.
Luke: What is the future plan for this band?
Rob: We are on this tour right now, so we'll finish this tour and then not go on tour for a while. Matt is getting married in November. We are just going to chill and write a new record and spend a lot of our time recording. We want to record something like 30 songs. We are going to record a ton of songs, demo a ton of songs, and eventually record for a record. We're looking to do it in a mellow sort of process. We want to just do it slow, record at home. We might go to Chicago to drums and bass, because there's not really a decent studio around Kansas. We might just record everything else in a house or something.
Luke: You've seen the world, more or less, what do you see as big issues or problems in America versus the rest of the world?
Rob: Handguns. Handguns are a bad thing. I am really anti handguns. It is ridiculous that anyone can walk into a pawnshop and lie about their name and get a gun. I have a friend that works at a pawnshop and he gave me the rundown on what they have to do if someone wants to buy a handgun. There are so many loopholes in this country that any moron in the world can be walking around with a handgun. Even beyond going to a pawnshop, you can find them illegally on the streets. Look at the death rates in England, where it is illegal, and then look at the death rates here. It is just ridiculous.
Luke: What is the best band you have toured with?
Rob: At the Drive In.
Luke: If you could have the ultimate GUK tour, who would be on it?
Rob: The Beatles would headline, The Who would play right before them, Led Zeppelin, The Beach Boys, Weezer, then umm… There's too many. It would be a festival tour. It would be awesome, I would love to see something like that.
Luke: Any parting comments for the e-readers out there?
Rob: Everybody in tie-dyes… it's the new Gap slogan.