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Interview: Abandon Kansas Loves You

Abandon Kansas Website

Abandon Kansas is a band that can best be defined by their tireless work ethic. They’ve averaged well over 200 live shows per year over the last two years, but you couldn’t tell that from talking to them.

Instead of being the road hardened, standoffish, workingman’s rock group that one would expect from a band that spends that much time away from home, the members of AK are four of the nicest, most engaging musicians you could ever meet. This definitely comes through in their music, as they serve up a meticulously composed, often dance-y brand of alternative rock that is extremely approachable. They’re currently touring nationwide in support of their new album Ad Astra Per Aspera, which was released this past March on Gotee Records.

Lead singer and guitarist Jeremy Spring was kind enough to sit down for an interview during their tour stop Wednesday night at New Brookland Tavern in West Columbia, discussing the band’s new album, their recent lineup change, and showing much love for his home state of Kansas.

What’s different about the new album [Ad Astra Per Aspera] from the last one you guys had [We’re All Going Somewhere EP]?

The biggest difference, I think, is how much time we had to spend on it. We did the EP in 12 days and then we did this full-length record in seven weeks. There was just a lot more thought that went into it. We wrote the songs for a year; then we had like 25 song ideas. We had probably 18 full songs done when we came into studio, then we picked the best 10 to go on the record. When we made the EP, we just had six ideas and those were the six songs that went on the record. It was like we  just signed and put that out right away. The record was just a lot more though out I guess; it was a concept record…Our guitar player Brad did the artwork, so that was different. We ended up working with the same producer, same mixer, but other than that everything feels a little different.

Ad Astra Per Aspera…is there any significance behind that title phrase?

It means “to the stars, through difficulty” [in Latin]. It’s the Kansas state motto, which is where we’re from. The whole record’s kind of a concept I guess of stars, the sky and heaven. The opening track is “Heaven Come My Way” and it encompasses the whole concept. Throughout the record you’ll hear references to the sky and the stars; even the cover art is kind of a blown out of proportion version of the Kansas state seal. It really is a concept record about where we’re from – I think it turned out cool.

You guys have had a lineup change since you put out the EP – you have a new bass player. How’s that been? Have the band dynamics changed at all?

It’s been awesome. Nothing against Nick, our old bass player; he left right before we started recording – kind of a stressful time for someone to leave, you know? It’s like right before you’re about to have this kid, somebody walks out on the family. So Chet came came in and tried out for our band – we were still in kind of a trial mode – but we thought, “Why not? Let’s have him play on the record.” He was coming up with good ideas and two weeks after we met him we pushed record on the new record. He started touring with us last fall and it’s been a cool fit. Chet’s a super-nice guy and he brings a lot to the table with songwriting and stuff – he’s just a great dude.

Within the last year you guys started abandonkansaslovesyou.com. How’s that been going?

Yeah, the website. I guess we felt the need to make a central location to connect with our fans. We have Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pure Volume, iTunes…it’s all spread out. So we wanted to have a place where people can come and find the most info about us without having to worry about a bunch of other social networking things. That’s been a cool way to just connect with people.

You guys played something like 200 dates over the last year. What do you guys have planned for this tour? Will it be as chocked?

We’re about seven weeks in right now to the record release tour. We’ve got three more, then we get four days at home and then we have another three week tour; then we’re playing festivals this summer and we’ve got some tours this fall. Our first two years on the road, when we were independent, we were doing close to 300 dates a year. Last year was more like 230 and then this year we’ll probably land closer to 200. We’re just trying to condense it down to where we’re touring on purpose; not just out there playing shows for no reason.

You did the Living Room Tour at the end of last year. How did that experiment treat you?

Yeah, that was cool. I just rented a car – got in a car by myself – which I probably won’t do again; I kind of lost my mind. I was out for four weeks, just me. It’s crazy man, it was 25 days and I did like 48 shows. There were a ton of two-a-days. The concept was just…play in a fan’s living room; they brought their friends and family over and packed like 20 to 30 people in the room. I told a lot of stories about the songs and played a bunch of acoustic versions and some covers. I really got a chance to connect with our core fan base and actually hang out, not just be at a loud concert together – it was really cool. This tour, now that we’re coming back through some of the cities that I played, we’re seeing a lot of people come back out. I’m planning on doing it every year.

What are the highest profile shows you have left on this tour?

Hmm…the whole last week. We’re from Kansas, so Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri will be really big. We have a lot of radio stations there that play our stuff. Showbread and The Wedding will be opening those dates; I think it’ll be a really strong finish. We’re finishing with a big hometown show, so that’ll be cool.

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