Interview: Abandon Kansas
March 8, 2011Posted by on
CMZ’s Cara Fisher recently spoke with Jeremy Spring of Abandon Kansas about their new album Ad Astra Per Aspera, their trip to Ecuador, & touring.
CMZ: First off, tell me about the concept of your upcoming record?
Jeremy: Well, Ad Astra Per Aspera, and I know that’s a mouthful to say…
CMZ: …that’s why I didn’t say it. [laughs]
Jeremy: Yeah, you probably didn’t say it; you just have me say it, right? [laughs]
CMZ: That’s right.
Jeremy: It’s the Kansas state motto, and Kansas is where were from. And that’s not the whole reason why we named it that, but we have the Kansas state flag on our merch table- like this old tattered flag from the ‘80’s- and that phrase is written on the state seal. We had already had some songs written, like I had already written this one song that was kind of space-feel that kind of had to do with stars. And then we just kind of took the concept and ran with it, because Ad Astra Per Aspera means “to the stars through difficulty.” So we kind of took that mental image of if you wanna get to the stars then you’ve gotta go through some stuff. I guess that looks different for everybody, but with stars being whatever you’re aiming for and life being that whole storm you have to go through to get there. So almost all of the songs, not all ten, but eight of the ten have some reference to the sky or the stars or heaven or that whole idea there. And then the artwork that Brad did was actually kind of an exaggerated depiction of the state seal.
CMZ: What’s the story behind “Heaven Come My Way?”
Jeremy: “Heaven Come My Way” is an interesting song because when we tracked this record… well the last EP that we did, we put out a year and a half ago; we had twelve days to do that. We had signed to Gotee, went straight into the studio, did the six songs we had and hit the road right away and we had no time to really think it through. With this record, we spent three weeks in June and then three weeks in August, and then we had a five-week tour in between. That was the first time we’ve ever really gotten to split up the recording process like that. So we came with like eighteen songs in June, ended up recording ten of them and figured out, okay, what is this record missing, and “Heaven Come My Way” was part of that second batch when we came back in August. We brought two or three more songs and said, “What do you guys think about this?” And it ended up being the first single, the first track on the record. It ended up being a real strong song. But having the concept in mind and having all the other songs in mind, I thought, Okay, I want one song right at the front that’s just like, here’s where we’re taking this. Just kind of like a good preview of the lyrics and the music of the record, kind of as an in-your-face… I mean, the opening line is bold and I wanted that to kind of set the tone for the whole project.
CMZ: What’s “The Golden State” about?
Jeremy: Oh boy. “The Golden State”… there’s been some interesting interpretations online. It’s kind of a confusing song. In the middle of this record, I kind of dove into some metaphorical territory. I haven’t done a whole lot of that lyrically. I’ve been more direct and conversational lyrically usually. But “The Golden State” and “A Conversation with the Sky” really took it to a different place in my headspace. “The Golden State” was really just about a girl that I kind of had a thing for and it really never developed more than anything past a crush. She was from California, so I called her “California” and she called me “Kansas.” When we were out there on tour, California was having the forest fires coming up over the hills and the fire threat level was like red; I just kind of took that mental image of Hollywood being made of plastic and it would burn really fast. I know that sounds kind of dark, but I just took that mental image and ran with that analogy for that relationship; how it wasn’t built on anything that would last. There was no real foundation there. It wasn’t love, it was just infatuation, and that’s why it fizzled really fast. So yeah, “The Golden State” is kind of just an extreme metaphor for that. It has nothing to do with I think people in California should burn or anything like that. Nothing violent.
CMZ: The song “Liar” on your new record was on one of your previous records under the title “Minutes.” Why did you decide to include it on the new record?
Jeremy: Good question. You’re right, the song “Minutes,” …well it’s on several releases. We put it out on our very first EP ever and it came out on the full-length, “You Build A Wall, I’ll Build A Ladder,” and then it was on an acoustic EP that we put out as well. I’ve always had a really good response to that song. The reason we brought it to this record, we felt like (even though we’ve been a band four or five years) in a lot of ways this is like our first release. It’s our first full-length on a label; it’s our first CD going to stores. We wanted to have our ten best songs on the record, and we felt like that was a strong song from the past. And we felt like our fan base wouldn’t totally turn their backs on us by releasing it again. We wanted to give that song a shot to be heard by a lot more people, rather than just the few thousand people who bought the first record back when it came out. I don’t think we’d ever do that again, but with this record being what it is, and being kind of a big step, we wanted to put our best foot forward and have some strong songs. So that’s why it made the cut. I’m sure some fans will be like, “What?! We got ripped off! I’ve already heard this song!” But for the most part, I don’t think people own that song yet or probably haven’t heard it yet. Hopefully, people dig the new version; it’s a lot different. Tim Skipper from House of Heroes sings on it and the music is super different from the last version, just the same lyrics and melody.
CMZ: You did a solo acoustic tour at the end of last year. Were you performing Abandon Kansas stuff?
Jeremy: I did kind of a hybrid. I did mostly Abandon Kansas songs; I did some worship songs; I did some Christmas songs; I did some covers from some bands I enjoy. I did a cover from The Killers; I did a cover from Gungor; I did a cover of some old love songs kind of thing. I really just had a big collection of songs, and just kind of went with the flow of the crowd. I mean, I was playing in living rooms- 20 to 25 people packed in somebody’s college dorm room or living room or something. It was kind of different every night. I went with what the crowd was responding to. Some nights I’d play a worship song and there would be a cool response and just kind of a cool spirit in the room, so I’d keep going. But other nights people were wanting to just chill and laugh, and so I told a lot of tour stories and only played a couple of songs. It was just kind of different every night. But I did talk a lot more than I do. Because when the band plays live, it’s kind of like it’s a rock and roll show, you don’t want to hear a guy talk the whole time. I kind of took the storyteller’s approach to the acoustic tour, and told a lot of long stories about the songs and about the band and just stuff about my life. So it was a cool way for me to connect with our fan base in a way I don’t usually get to. They got to hear things from my perspective and with it being just me playing I was able to hang out a lot more and answer a lot more questions. It was really cool.
CMZ: I heard you traveled to Ecuador last year? What did you do while down there?
Jeremy: Yeah, we went to Ecuador back in March. That was a year ago now; that’s crazy. Isn’t that wild? Time flies. Hopefully we get to go to Africa this year to meet the kids we sponsor as a band. We’ve been working with Compassion International for three years now. We’ve always been reppin’ it from our table and from the stage and stuff. But they wanted to take us down there to see what they actually do. That way we could give a real account of what they’re doing with people’s money and what they’re doing with their ministry. It was just wild to see. I mean, Ecuador is a third world country and there’s a lot of poverty, but what was more surprising was how effective Compassion is down there and just seeing what they’re doing with these kids. It was just wild for us to see that. And Brian, our drummer, sponsors a kid from Ecuador, his name is Darwin, and he got to meet him in person, which is super rare. I guess this kid Darwin is like eight, so I don’t think it really meant a whole lot to him- he didn’t realize what was going on. But his dad came with him and they came up from their village (we were in the capital city) and they came from down south Ecuador and drove six hours to meet us. And they had never left their village before that, even the dad hadn’t. They make this road trip and Compassion paid for it to get them up there to have lunch with Brian. We played soccer outside and that was just like a huge deal for them and to be part of that was really awesome. We came back with a whole different attitude about Compassion and being advocates for them and we were just really inspired.
CMZ: Any upcoming tour plans? Or are you on tour right now?
Jeremy: We’re home right now. The record comes out [March 8]. And then we leave; we have a two-month headlining tour. We’re calling it the Ad Astra Per Aspera tour; it’s just a record release tour. We’re getting a lot of our good friends that are opening up the show. It’s nine weeks from coast to coast. Then we get home in mid-May. We’ve got a couple things lined up for the summer and then we’re picking back up with some festivals in the summer and the fall and then we’ll be heading back out on the road in the fall. It’ll be a busy year for sure.