Kris Roe – lead vocals/guitar
Mike Davenport – bass/vocals
John Collura – guitar/vocals
Chris “Kid” Knapp – drums
The Ataris are coming, but don’t expect them to embrace the notion of an impending rock revolution. Although the group dismisses the unfortunate resurgence of the boy/girl band craze, you won’t find them predicting a Nirvana-like reconstruction of the industry. Rather, The Ataris see themselves supporting the return to a world with the straightforward rock vibe that bands like The White Stripes, The Hives and The Vines have been lobbying for.
It’s a noble cause, and certainly we’re all hoping they’re more successful than this latest rash of “The” bands. It almost seems as if the industry puppeteers are content on using The Strokes et al as a conduit to the next wave or as a means of capitalizing on anti-pop sentiment. Yes, Virginia, the Nirvana phenomenon is now a science that will be abused again and again.
But whereas bands like The Vines fall short on substance and suffer from a lack of versatility, you can be assured The Ataris won’t join them. One listen to the group’s latest album So Long, Astoria tells it all. A sound that’s somewhere between Goo and Foo, the disc offers a more lush and deeper look into The Ataris’ souls.
Less concerned with pushing commodity and more interested in producing the best music possible, The Ataris tested its resolve by taking the oft-apprehensive move to the ranks of the major label. After working exclusively with indies – Kung Fu and Fat Wreck – The Ataris signed on with Columbia Records. Early indications have been positive.
“They’re so good to us, and they let us run our band in a punk rock fashion the way we always have,” said Mike Davenport, bassist for The Ataris. “At the same time, they give us the ability to take time making our record, get on the radio and get on MTV, and throw our music out to a wider variety of people.”
Of course, this is the standard promise, and one can only wish that such fairy tales endure and morph into reality. But you don’t have to travel far to find any number of failed attempts. Certainly The Ataris are aware of such pitfalls, but Davenport doesn’t seem daunted.
“The way our band has developed, I don’t think there’s any way we’ll burn out. Oversaturation? Not yet, but talk to me in six months or a year and I’ll let you know. Even if we burned out too quickly in terms of this MTV crowd … I still think we would have our tried and true.”
Regardless of your views on bands making these leaps, one thing can be said in terms of The Ataris’ decision – it has given them the license to spend a good amount of time writing music, and in that sense has changed the entire paradigm in how they approach their art.
Consider that as indie artists, The Ataris had an average of three to four weeks to record their albums. In these developmental stages, the intent was to throw tracks on wax for the sole purpose of spreading the word and hopefully making enough raw cash to pour back into the band. Rarely were these early-stage recordings refined gems that warranted considerable artistic merit. And often, the unpolished work is exactly what many fell in love with.
But compare this to the year and three months The Ataris had to work on So Long, Astoria. By signing on with Columbia, they finally had an opportunity to make an album they could be proud of. Which isn’t to say the group’s five earlier recordings aren’t worthy of mention. Quite the contrary actually, since each has served its purpose.
However, popular logic suggesting that major label deals take a band away from its original goals and intentions of making great music is clearly not the case here. Yes, The Ataris cut some great tracks over the last six years without the help of Columbia. But they weren’t able to focus on the full process or operate as a complete unit until they signed the “deadly deal.” Again, So Long, Astoria serves as tangible proof of concept.
“We hashed out all the songs together and played for six hours a day, and that’s something we never got to do before. Kris would write most of the old songs and basically just show them to us in the studio. But this time we all sat down together and said, ‘No, I don’t like this’ or ‘Yeah, I like this,’ so it was definitely the most focused band album we’ve ever had.”
Yes, they’re going to lose old fans as a result. Pick any Ataris message board, and you’ll find the same-old “Man, the new Ataris sucks; I only like their first 7-inch” bullshit. It seems that bands can do no right when it comes to their efforts to test their limits, evolve musically or achieve success.
Which just goes to show that no matter how early or late you are to the party, at the end of the day you’re just another fickle fan. Just the same, The Ataris will defend ALL of their supporters to the grave. Hopefully in time, the world will finally “hear” the music and not the noise, and will realize The Ataris have compromised nothing to find a place in an industry rampant on turnover.