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Fun Well Done: Big Water and Abandoncy help carry the torch for screamo and noise rock in Kansas City

The members of Big Water and Abandoncy. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.
On a chilly February evening, Kansas City rock bands Big Water and Abandoncy have convened at a member’s house on the city’s East side. Both trios are sitting on their own couch in the living room and have been killing time before our interview by watching the new USFL’s (semi-pro football) draft, followed by footage of old Australian football games on YouTube. Big Water’s Matt Perrin is passionate about American football and its many stranger, less popular offshoots, including the now-defunct Arena Football League. As a group, we spent several minutes quizzing Perrin on the Australian game’s rules and as far as I can collect, it’s an odd mashup of American football, soccer, and rugby.

I have to assume that being a semi-professional athlete is something like being a rock musician in 2022: if you’re talented enough, you can make money chasing your passion, but good luck paying the bills with it. (Funny enough, Perrin’s older brother Jon spent time as a Minor League and independent league baseball pitcher.) Over the next hour and a half, we discussed all of the trials and triumphs involved with making screamo and noise rock while living in Kansas City, Missouri.

Both bands got their start in the two years before the pandemic, but both lead vocalists (Perrin of Big Water and Damian Fisher of Abandoncy) had previously played together in a band called Bluehealer – a group that almost single handedly bridged Kansas City’s DIY screamo scene of 10 years ago with the one that currently exists by sharing members of the previous bands of the era.

“Something about Bluehealer: it was such a good learning point, such a big stepping stone into life,” Perrin says. “[It] showed me a lot about being in a band with people, being on tour with people, writing.”

He continues, “Everybody in that band was going through some weird stuff at the time. Sometimes life just works like that where you intersect and tangle and do your thing and go your own separate ways. That was Bluehealer and I loved it for what it was. Our first tour together changed our lives … It was just four people in a van. Nobody gave a fuck.”

Fisher remembers how that Bluehealer tour left town in the middle of a tornado warning and that he received a phone call from his mom begging them to turn around and come home. “The fucking windshield wiper flew off in a torrential downpour 20 minutes into the drive to our first show,” he recalls with a laugh. “Every night was an adventure,” adds Perrin.


Big Water. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

But like all good things, Bluehealer eventually came to an end. The band had dissolved by the end of 2017, leaving room for Big Water and Abandoncy to emerge. Perrin was the last member to join Big Water and inherited some of the songs that had been written for a short-lived project called Fine Dining that included the band’s other two members (Stephen Pellerito on guitar, Morgan Mabrey on bass). Adjusting to Pellerito’s writing style was Perrin’s first and main hurdle when joining the band.

While Bluehealer was grounded in 4/4 time signatures, the music of Big Water contained countless “hiccups” that are innate to Pellerito’s guitar style. Pellerito and Perrin have started a side project recently called Horseboy. To explain this hiccup style, Perrin alluded to a Horseboy song that Pellerito wrote in which the song jumps from 210 beats per minute to 230 to 200 to 210 and finally down to 95.

Similarly, as Abandoncy first convened, Fisher said that the style of drummer Morgan Greenwood took some adjusting to, with its many accents and unorthodox “divisions.” Though the band plays its share of rapturous noise rock parts, many songs are more ornate than those of their contemporaries. Bassist Lincoln Peterson, in wanting to avoid overdoing it with heavy parts, wrote strategically. “I was like, if [Damian] is covering the low end, I don’t wanna be redundant, so I’d do the high end unless it was a breakdown part,” Peterson says.

“In the beginning, we played our instruments opposite than the way we should. I’m gonna make this guitar sound like a bass and this bass sound like a guitar,” Fisher jokes. He says that they’ve now found a middle ground where their transitions are more “cohesively wonky.”

Though both bands are more complex than their predecessor, they do plenty to differentiate themselves. For instance, Big Water allow themselves to get more jocular in their presentation than their peers in Abandoncy. Big Water regularly plays Curb Your Enthusiasm samples between songs during shows and has song titles like “Tour’s Over, I’m Driving My Mustang Home” (inspired by an inside joke in which the band fantasized about driving three separate Ford Mustangs on tour instead of a van after securing a Ford sponsorship. Are they V8? “Fuck yeah,” Perrin says. Are they electric? “Who gives a shit?”)

Despite their goofier exterior, there is still a substantial level of thoughtfulness and emotional catharsis when Perrin is writing Big Water lyrics. Pellerito noted that “Tour’s Over” is actually about your friends or band mates getting canceled. Some of Perrin’s lyrics also have a political slant sometimes. “This past year I’ve really been diving deep into the public infrastructure of Kansas City and how lobbying efforts really deteriorated the city in a shitty way. Just read [Race, Real Estate, and Uneven Development by Kevin Fox Gotham],” he says. Though the song “All Greens On 55th” from the new EP, Park, was partially inspired by a fortuitous drive down 55th Street, it was also inspired by the real-time experience of watching city infrastructure crumble as one drives east.

Abandoncy’s songs, predictably, are a bit less tongue in cheek than Big Water’s. Fisher is currently in a PhD program at UMKC, so the songs on the band’s new LP, Pastel Anguish, freely reference philosophy and literature. He says one of the main influences in his lyric writing for the new album was the weight of the pandemic and how it impacted the health and wellbeing of his family and friends. A young cousin of his lost his life recently in part, he believes, to COVID complications.


Abandoncy. Photo by Aaron Rhodes.

Park and Pastel Anguish, along with a small handful of other releases, are responsible for something of a bright spot for the local DIY rock scene and happen to align closely with the 10 year anniversary of the cult classic Kansas City 4-Way Split. That split, released by The Ghost Is Clear Records (run by Bobby Johnson of Canyons) compiled songs from Battle Royale, Texas Instruments (a.k.a. American Thunder Band), Baitfish, and Regret, The Informer. It’s considered a high-water mark for Kansas City screamo and a compelling cultural document from a fairly tight-knit group of musicians who mostly lived within a few blocks of each other near 39th and Troost Avenue.

Just for fun, I asked the group who they think would be best fit for a 4-Way Split sequel (assuming Big Water and Abandoncy are included). The results were fairly unanimous: if they were to play it conservative, Canyons (a Kansas City institution for over a decade now) and Nerver (Columbia, Missouri ex-pats releasing a new LP soon called Cash). But if they wanted to mix things up a bit, everyone agreed that Midwestern and Flooding (or one of Flooding’s many Community Gym label mates) would make for nice pairings, considering their occasionally abrasive but open-minded nature.

Kansas City’s DIY scene isn’t the same as it was a decade ago when most of these musicians first entered the scene (there are way fewer violent encounters with train hoppers, for instance), but guess what? Change is a constant, idiot.

You can purchase Big Water's Park at You can purchase Abandoncy's Pastel Anguish at


[This article first appeared in issue 6 of Shuttlecock's free monthly print edition. Click here to order a copy online, or pick one up for free at locations around KC/Lawrence/JoCo.]

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