Between 2005 and 2015, Abandon Kansas recorded a series of acclaimed EPs and LPs while maintaining a nonstop touring schedule. The group quietly folded the same year it released its third full-length album, alligator, as the members pursued a variety of other musical and personal pursuits.
Abandon Kansas will play its first reunion show on Friday, Dec. 28, at Wave on a bill that also includes Old News, Me Like Bees and Faintheart. The show is open to all ages and begins at 5 p.m.
Jeremy Spring of Abandon Kansas recently stopped by the KMUW studios to discuss the group's history and why now was the right time to play its old material once more.
Am I correct that the show this Friday is the first in a number of years?
We had a new record come out in 2015, but we never toured it. We did an acoustic run. This is the first time with the full band onstage in five years.
What happened in that time?
We all got married, had kids, moved to Nashville, different places, came off the road a little bit. I have all this merchandise. I recently moved and realized how many tubs of merch I have. It started a conversation of, "Do we give this away? How do we get rid of this? Have a sale online?" We started talking about how our schedules were going to line up for once over the holiday break this year.
I just kept thinking, "Where are we going to do a reunion show?" Then Wave popped up. Out of nowhere. Jared Parson [from Wave] is a guy I went to high school with, we've been going to shows together forever. To see that space get started … it seemed like, "Wow! We could have really used that in 2010." We had to jump on that opportunity.
For people who don't know let's get a little bit of history about where and when Abandon Kansas first came into being.
A few of us went to Friends University. I went to Friends on a football scholarship. I know that's hard to believe looking at me. I was a kicker, so maybe that's more believable! [Laughs.] I got dumped out of a relationship in college and needed an outlet, so I started a band. It was a joke. My roommate in college, who was an athlete as well, was, like, "Wouldn't it be funny if it was A Band In Kansas? Cause it would be confusing."
It really was.
Over the phone, booking the band, [clubs] would not get the joke. We'd show up and the marquee would have four words: A Band In Kansas or just Kansas and that's definitely not who they booked. Outside of Friends University we just played local shows, things like that, and then we hit the road in 2007 fulltime. We played 200-300 shows a year from 2007-2011. We toured full-time, U.S. and a little bit internationally. We got to go to South America, got to go to Europe.
[We] did the DIY thing. We signed with a small independent label outside of Tennessee and just kind of grew it from there. Honestly, Wichita is our hometown, it's a place we've played a lot, but it's not even in our top 20 markets. To see the ticket sales and to see people respond to this reunion show has been really encouraging because it felt like nobody knew we were doing much back when we really were.
At that time, in 2007, there were a lot of bands that were making their way out.
At that time there wasn't necessarily a great hub for all-ages shows. We'd have to play at a bar downtown for 21-plus or we'd play in the suburbs at a church that happened to have a venue. We couldn't get everybody in the same place at the same time. That's what made me so excited about Wave. For the first time, we can do an all-ages show with college kids who aren't 21 yet and high school kids who want to come out. Everybody can show up in the same room.
The time we're talking about is right at the end of the Eagles Lodge on North Broadway and Headway Skate Park. You could rent the room at the Eagles Lodge, throw a show, but it wasn't a venue in the traditional sense.
It was an amazing experience. We'd play for free just trying to pack this place out. Touring bands would come through and have a blast. The walls would be sweating.
You mentioned that Wichita wasn't your top market. So what was?
Our Number One place was Albania. I don't know how that works. Tirana, Albania. We played a citywide festival there, and they used one of our songs for a promo. I think because it had an "Oh" part. There was no language barrier. We showed up and that song had charted on their pop radio. It was a blip. It was our "Big in Japan" moment. [Laughs.]
Southern California: Orange County, L.A., San Bernardino, Portland, Seattle. Minneapolis was awesome to us, as was Chicago. We never really went to Boston or New York, but the South was very good to us. There was always a mix of the big markets: We'd play these big markets and then these little cities like Muskogee, Okla., where 200 kids would show up for a $5 show. We played on a lot of shows with hardcore and metal bands. It worked to our advantage because people were happy to hear some singing, have a break.
It sounds like you hit that point a lot of bands do: How do you get to that next level? There's a lot of sacrifice.
There's the internal dialogue that the band has and then there's reality. It felt like we couldn't get to the next level without sacrificing a significant amount of creative input. There are artists who are lucky enough that they can do their thing, it's embraced, and they can move forward and make a living out of that. Then there's a lot of us that have to meet in the middle. We were working with a label that had the wrong idea. That soured us. We went independent again, and when you're fronting everything for your music, everything gets tight. It's a small pie and so many hands are in it. People start getting real about life. It became impractical. We were chasing something that was not as fair to the people around us.
Spending all that time in a van and occasionally an airplane with other guys you get to know each other on a level that maybe your spouses do, but not very many other people do.
That is a great point. It's more intimate than marriage. At least when you're with your spouse or your family you get up and go to work and leave for some bit of it. When you're on the road for hundreds of days a year, you eat every meal together. You not only eat it together, you earned the money to pay for it together. You talk about it together. You plan it together. You sleep next to each other each night. You work at the show. You push in all your belongings into this venue you've never been to and drag them all out together and Tetris everything back up. It's beyond family.
The patience there for annoyances there has to be extreme. Of course, we ran into stuff but we never had drama on the road. People have asked me before about the sacrifice of music. I always say the same thing: Band's wouldn't do it [if it wasn't worth it]. It's one of the best times ever to get into the same room with people who know you that well and still like you and still want to be around you, have seen literally your dirty laundry, literally and metaphorically.
When we've been getting together for these rehearsals for this show, it's the safest space. I don't know how else to describe it. All the inside jokes are there. It's this language, a set of 1,000 experiences that only we've been through. To share that, it's so valuable. It is the most up time. Being with my bandmates is the most up time. That's why you go into debt to continue doing it. It just answers so many questions on so many levels. It has felt great to have these funny text threads going and to have all these inside jokes fired up again. That's been the funnest part.
When you look back on the body of songs that you have, is there one that maybe wasn't written about being in the band or about you and your bandmates but really encapsulates the experience of this group?
It gets me all in the feels, honestly, think [about that]. You write songs, and I think any artist would say this: They come to you and you uncover them. Then, years later, they reveal themselves to you fully. It doesn't mean the same thing to you as it does people who listen. You start hearing how they relate to it, and you start assigning meaning. Some of the songs have come back to me, and I'll look at them and look at what seat in the van I wrote that lyric from and really think about stuff.
There's one song that we have called "Marching Around Me" that is just talking about how love is like an army that's marching around you and you can't escape it. Just that feeling of being trapped but also secure. I think our band always kind of gravitated towards that lyric and that mindset. It just felt helpless … we played music, and we couldn't help not play music. It doesn't always make sense. Our love relationship with each other and with music, with our fans, the whole process, it felt bigger than us. Like we were along for the ride, too, even though it was supposed to be our thing. I think "Marching Around Me" has always been an anthem for why we do what we do and trying to bring people into that same circle. But also feeling a part of something much bigger than us.