On Friday, January 28th, 2000 I got the privledge to interview my all time favorite band The Ataris. Im sure everyone has heard of the band before but they are probably the most dedicated band to what they do. In this interview you can see what I mean. It is pretty long and detailed but definately something to read. This interview was conducted by me, Josh Stern, with Kris Roe, the singer and guitarist for The Ataris at Central Skatepark in Clearwater, FL.
How long have you been playing and making music both alone and as a band?
As a band, we have been together for about 3 years and alone I have been writing songs since I was about 14 or 15. I’ve been playing guitar since I was about that age too so for about 10 years I have been playing guitar.
What’s up with your guitar setup?
I am right handed but I play a right-handed guitar, left-handed. Just because that’s how I learned, I wasn’t trying to be weird or anything.
When did you guys meet?
When I moved to Santa Barbara from Indiana, probably about three years ago.
Were you in any bands before The Ataris?
No, this is pretty much my first band, I started this band.
What’s going on with the split with Useless ID?
Well we wanted to help Useless ID get signed to Kung-Fu you know cause’ they need to put something out in the US since they are from Israel. So we figured that the best way to do it was to put out something on our own with them. All of the songs from us are B-Sides and leftovers that didn’t make the records. All the stuff is new.
Is “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” on there?
That’s on there. We are actually re-recording that for our next record too. Our new full-length is going to be out in October on Kung-Fu and it is called “End Is Forever” and the split is called “Let It Burn” and that’s coming out in March.
What happened with Mike on your tour in Canada? I have a bootleg and you said that he was in jail or something.
We got stopped at the border. They totalled hassled us, they gave us what we call a Canadian Handshake. I’ll demonstrate. (gives me a canadian handshake, I pity them). They found a pot seed! Not pot, just a seed. And our bass player had something on his record from like 10 years ago. Pretty much Canada are just dicks no matter what. So he had something on his record from 10 years ago that prevented him from getting into Canada.
Who were your influences?
Our punk influences… we like Lifetime, The Get Up Kids, Jawbreaker, Fifteen, Dillinger Four, Avail. Pretty much bands that stick to the Do It Yourself punk rock ethics that should be in music. And outside of music, I read a lot of books. I like J.D. Salinger, he wrote Catcher In The Rye. And I like this guy Douglas Copeland he wrote a book called “Life After God” and “Generation X” but that’s like writing inspiration. I always love the singer from Jawbreakers lyrics, you can read his lyrics like a book. But we listen to a lot of stuff outside of punk music, we are influenced by a lot of stuff. We try to keep an open mind, that’s the best thing you can do when you write songs.
And girls influence your songs a lot…
Well not really. Yeah actually, I dunno. When it comes to relationships Im pretty much ruined. I’ve had every fucked up relationship with a girl that you could ever imagine. I’ve probably got my heart broken more times then all your friends put together.
But your happy now?
Yah… its good. [girl gives kris gum]. Aww thank you… look a girl is giving me gum, Im really happy.
How do you feel about your success so far?
We’re successful? No… I am really happy. I think that the biggest payback is uh.. [mumbles with gum in mouth]… exactly. No its… showing up to a show and seeing hundreds of kids there singing along to every song and that’s really the greatest feeling you could ever get. Ya know? Next to sex probably, just playin.
Last time I saw you, you said Claire Danes was a bitch?
Yea she’s not too nice. I got to meet her in Santa Barbara. She came up because her boyfriend Ben Lee played a show in Santa Barbara. And I tried to tell her we wrote a song about her and get a picture with her.
It should flatter her ya know?
Yea well… she’s not that nice.
Who gets the most girls in the band?
Probably our drummer. I dunno… I’m a close second.
How do you classify the Ataris sound?
I dunno… gay! I’d say probably emotional power-pop. We try to do something kind of original but I dunno if we pull it off. We just take the best of all of our favorite bands and kinda throw it into one thing. So it is whatever you want it to be.
What’s your favorite Ataris record?
Our new record. I like the new record that isn’t out yet, it is going to be our best record so that’s my favorite one. I’m still writing the lyrics right now.
Why did you choose “Angry Nerd Rock” to be on both full-lengths?
It was a song that I liked a lot off of our first records. I am not personally fond of our first record at all. I don’t like the way it was recorded.
Yea the new one is way better.
Yea we never really sounded like that. Like that band that was on there. We always kinda sounded like our new record. We have always been into more of a direction like “Blue Skies” or the EP “Looking Forward To Failure”. So anyway, we put “Angry Nerd Rock” on there basically just because we didn’t feel that the old version didn’t fit us. We wanted to redo it how it was supposed to sound.
Is there any song like that on your new record?
All of the songs are really brand new. There is this 30 second song that we recorded that we didn’t use for the Short Music cd, we recorded like 3. We are putting it on the split in its 30 second form but we ended up turning it into a full length song. It’s called “Song for a Mixed Tape” and its about making a mixed tape for a girl because you know when you first meet a girl I think the first thing you should do is turn her on to the music you listen to. So there is that song and then “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” and occassionaly there is a kid that knows it like you knew it. its on Joey Cape’s label “My Records” its on his comp he has called “Happy Meals”. Its going to be on our split and then re-recorded for out new record and its way different, its way better now. Like I said, it is one of those songs that didn’t fit us.
Do you remember any shows that totally stick out in your mind?
Yea like the best places we’ve played, and best audiences we have played for are definitely like Salt Lake City, Phoenix, and there are a lot of places that we play in California that are really good. You know but definitely there are certain audiences that we play for that… I just like it when crowds totally dogpile on stage and kinda like the audiences at hardcore shows. I like it when there is audience participation. I like people that be part of the show.
With “Better Way” why did you have such indecisive feelings about the band and touring and the whole routine?
Cause’ uh.. I. Basically that was about a time in my life that I was living in my van and I had just moved out from Indiana to California. And the line “there’s more to life then being in a band” well that is a line that our old drummer Derrek said to me before I decided that that band isn’t what I wanted to be. Like the first record “Line Up” I quit. It was like I didn’t want to be in a band with those people anymore. I quit and I started what the band we are now. Because he said something you know “there’s more to life then being in a band” I was like yea your right ya know “your friends are what will matter in the end.” Yea cuz to me, I went on and started a band with my close friends and that’s what I do now. So I was never really friends with the guys that were in my first band.
How do you feel to know that there are kids all over that are getting inspired by your music. “Don’t ever compromise what you believe” is something that I am always going by.
I’m flattered. I really think that that’s what we are trying to… our next record we’re totally going to get more like that on our lyrics because when some kid comes up to me and tells me that I changed their life or made an impact on something they have done or like, ya know its cool to write songs about girls and we are always going to be known for a couple songs about getting your heart broke or what not, but I think that the songs to me that stick out in my mind are the sings that are like really detailed about your life and and experiences and overcoming your obstacles.
Yea. That song is all about, that is kinda like our anthem lyrically. It is telling you to stick to what you believe and make sure that nobody totally influences you and you don’t always have to follow a crowd, make your own path. Go about it your own way. Say “fuck it” if your friends are all a bunch of drug addicts, let em be drug addicts. Try and tell them whats right, and what you feel is right, but ya know they have that choice just as you do to.
“Don’t give up talking until theres nothing left to say.”
Kung Fu or FAT?
[long pause] No comment. [laughter]. We have one record left on Kung-Fu. That is “End Is Forever” coming out in October. But after that we will probably go to FAT. That is what we are telling everybody. That is where we want to be. No offense to Kung-Fu, we love Kung-Fu and they have done a lot for us. And we cant get any bigger on Kung-Fu. Kung-Fu knows that, we know that, and we don’t want to go to a major label. We have had major labels talk to us but we have turned them down. We try to model our band as a DIY band we book all of our own tours with our friend. We tell him where we want to play and all that. We write everybody personally. Like everybody who writes us a letter I have written to every fuckin person back… ever. I wrote 76 letters in our van, yesterday. So… I don’t fuck around. That is what we are about. We let kids play songs with us, we fuckin let everyone get up on stage, we welcome that shit. When people look at us, the reason we are going to stand out differently then all the other pop bands we are going to be known for that when all the other bands are just good pop bands. We want to fall in a category of our own and that is kinda like what we are trying to grow with.
It makes your fan base soo much stronger.
Yea exactly. People fuckin appreciate that. I just model our band after what I admired in other bands. I still go to shows all the time. When I used to go to shows as a kid the things I remember are the times that I got to get up and sing with Face To Face or the time I got to get up and sing with ALL. Or they put the mic down to you and let you sing. Its like shit like that that just fuckin touches you, Its like wow. Or the time that you told somebody “hey your song really meant something to me” and they fuckin acknowledge that and they told you hey “hey thanks a lot.” I mean I have talked to other bands and they are just like “oh thanks dude” and they just totally don’t care. Its like “what the fuck are you in a band for? Do you just wanna get laid or something?” That’s fine too nonetheless but there is more then that too. Getting laid comes second.
How do you feel about the radio?
I just done like the shit that’s on the radio. I like a lot of stuff that I guess that is pretty radio friendly, I like Blink and I just bought the new Dr. Dre record today. But its like I definitely think that most of the stuff on the radio, its like the radio pretty much makes bands afraid to be themselves anymore. Cause’ you just end up writing a song like, bands like Sugar Ray or Smash Mouth those bands will just blatantly admit that they write songs just for the radio. They write a song so its like a jingle and its catchy and gets in your head and that’s fine too but I like the radio is just sooo…. the radio has lost its fuckin balls. I listened to the radio as a kid when the good bands were on the radio like Queen and Kiss and fuckin like the bands of the 70’s an 80’s.
Now it just sucks.
Do you have a favorite band?
Probably Jawbreaker. Built To Spill (?), this guy named Hayden (?) he is an acoustic songwriter. I like a lot of mellower stuff like heroine rock, stuff that puts you to sleep. Stuff you cant listen to while you are driving at three in the morning because you will be like [gives me a visual of what will happen if you listen to it at 3am while driving].
Do you have a favorite cereal?
Umm… I like nutritious cereal because when you get up in the morning and you are like hung over or something you gotta have something nutritious. Ya know I don’t look like I eat too nutritiously or anything but I try sometimes. But on tour it gets hard. We eat gas station food every night.
Do you like Britney Spears?
I like that Christina Agulera chick better. I think Britney Spears can’t dance very well… I saw her on the music awards and she like had no rhythm at all. She was really nervous but I dunno she is making money so I guess she is doing something right. Way more money then we will ever see.
That’s about all… anything else you would like to say?
Or contact us at our website and that is http://www.ataris.com and you can get merch and tour dates and stuff there. And come see us and get on stage and rock out with us and that’s it.
Interview by : Josh Stern firstname.lastname@example.org