This month sees the release of The Ataris long awaited follow up to the 2003 album â€˜So Long Astoriaâ€™. But with rumours rife that â€˜Welcome The Nightâ€™ is their farewell record, does this spell the end of the Indiana seven-piece? Gigwise caught up with Kris Roe to discuss the present and future of the band.
â€œOh no, thatâ€™s complete rubbishâ€¦â€ replies frontman Kris, slightly surprised. â€œI donâ€™t know where they come up with this stuff.â€ The internet is full of stories suggesting that this is the last album youâ€™ll release as The Ataris, is there any truth to them? â€œIf anything â€˜So Long Astoriaâ€™ would have been the last album because of the changes that were made after it. At the end of the day, those guys wanted to change their lifestyles and it meant that the band came to a close for a while, but John (Collura, bassist) and I just picked up from where we left off and carried on. We donâ€™t want to let anyone down, yâ€™know? We want to continue doing what we love; playing music and travelling, seeing the world. I think we used to take that for granted sometimes.â€
â€˜Those guysâ€™ refers to bassist Mike Davenport and drummer Chris Knapp who both quit the band in late 2004, to be replaced by Sean Hansen and Shane Chikeles, respectively. Also added to the new line-up are guitarist Paul Carabello, cellist Angus Cooke and Bob Hoag on the piano. So, did the band feel under pressure to keep The Ataris moniker even though they are basically a new band? â€œNo, not at all. If anything we wanted to keep the name because it felt like if we didnâ€™t it would have been like giving in to those people who expect us to set boundaries for ourselves. We always had songs that we could never play just because we couldnâ€™t pull it off right with that line-up, but now itâ€™s just taken on a whole new life. Weâ€™re playing songs off the new album and itâ€™s fun againâ€¦ Itâ€™s a new beginning.â€
Where do you think these rumours have surfaced from? â€œI think weâ€™ve been misquoted somewhere. What was said in passing was that we were over it as a band when it came to â€˜So Long Astoriaâ€™ and when we started playing music as the band we are now it felt like a new beginning. Weâ€™re very happy now, itâ€™s the best time weâ€™ve had in a long time.â€
With â€˜Welcome The Nightâ€™ The Ataris have created a new sound for themselves. Itâ€™s a huge step away from the pop/punk of any of their previous albums and something that fans will probably be surprised by. Do they think it might alienate some of their older fans? â€œWell I think that good art and good music should challenge people, it should be daring. I think that if we didnâ€™t do what we felt in our hearts then weâ€™d be doing, not only ourselves but the world, a disservice. At 30 years old, and John at 35, weâ€™re asking people not to put a limit on what they think we can do, I donâ€™t think we should have to write something thatâ€™s the same as when we were 19, I think thatâ€™s kind of shallow and narrow minded.â€
Kris is fine with the idea that not all of their fans will be happy about the new direction theyâ€™ve taken the band in, but says theyâ€™ve had a positive reaction so far. â€œPeople have actually approached us with the attitude of â€˜look man, I listened to your band when I was 20 years old and I quit listening for a while but now, five or six years later, I think youâ€™ve come right back around.â€™ Where Iâ€™m personally at with my music is that Iâ€™ve always believed that thereâ€™s always going to be some people that donâ€™t get it and thatâ€™s fine, but I respect that because thereâ€™s a lot of music that I listened to when I was younger that I donâ€™t listen to now.â€
What do you feel are the stand out tracks? â€œFor me itâ€™s the last song; â€˜Act V, Scene lV: And So It Ends Like It Began.â€™ Someone asked me a question once about how Iâ€™d like to die and that songâ€™s like me writing my own death. Also, Cardiff-By-The-Sea, thatâ€™s a good one, Iâ€™m proud of that.â€ The title of the album is also quite dark, whatâ€™s behind that? â€œThatâ€™s to do with Allen Ginsberg. He did this book where he wrote his poems according to the illustrations of a New York artist named Eric Drooker. It describes modern man as being paralysed by the light of the modern world and it refers to peopleâ€™s obsessions with materialistic things. I got thinking about that and how everyone sets standards for themselves. Everyoneâ€™s looking for this magic place or a better place in their hearts, which for me is represented by the night; â€˜Welcome The Nightâ€™ being welcome to this better place.â€
The â€˜alternativeâ€™ scene seems to be saturated with bands that all look the same right now. Do you feel thereâ€™s too much emphasis on the image rather than the music? â€œOh way too much! And thatâ€™s the last thing that we would want. I want the music to speak for itself, I want people to just close their eyes and pay attention to the songs, and listen to them live and imagine the illustrations that the songs should paint, the stories and the metaphors. That to me is important. I donâ€™t care if youâ€™re black or white skinned, or youâ€™ve got blue hair or blonde hair, itâ€™s all pointless really. But unfortunately there are people that are wrapped up in that. I think the last thing we would want to do is to create music thatâ€™s part of a scene, music doesnâ€™t belong to anyone and it doesnâ€™t just belong to one genre.â€
What does 2007 hold for The Ataris? â€œWeâ€™re going to tour non-stop, weâ€™re going to be in the UK in May and then weâ€™ll be coming back in the summer to do the festivals, it gives us the chance to play with a lot of different bands, and we like that.â€ Are you looking forward to touring? â€œOh yeah, so much. We actually went out last year and played a lot of these songs in front of an audience, it was great, and the response to the new songs was amazing. But Iâ€™m looking forward to a longer tour, usually you go away for about two weeks and youâ€™re just getting the hang of things and getting into work mode again and then you have to go home. So this is good, this is really what weâ€™re looking forward to.â€
With the non-stop promotion machine that is The Ataris the year ahead looks set to be a busy one, and they are certainly well on their way to reclaiming their crown as rocks most hard-working band.