The Ataris

Genevieve Giambanco

With an honest chord comes music; with dedication, fans; with patience, the maintenance of grunge-worthy swaying, perpetually piecy rocker-chic hair. Pious followers of this mantra, the Ataris have strummed their way from fan-devoted touring-addicts to fan-devoted superstars, humming to the sweet sound of almost overnight success – or rather, maniacal teenage pawning at concerts and television screens around the nation. For every aspiring band out there, this is it – the stuff dreams are made of and adrenaline buzzes sprung from.

Feeding off of the unbridled energy of fans, the Oct. 3 performance was nothing shy of buoyant: the Ataris rocked the Pavilion and student body alike. Hordes of seemingly plaid-clad prepsters mobbed the stage with the energy of true mosh-pit ravers, letting the Ataris’ heartfelt pop-rock charge the Pavilion with jumpy, sing-along madness. By concert’s end, sweaty and sore-throated students reveled in the ambiance of a stellar, music video-credible performance – shrieking to high-powered bass lines and cooling down to lighter-flicking acoustics. I watched, distant from the moment, witnessing an anxious crowd plead for more, while the untouchable band faded into the shadows of dimming stage lights and retreated backstage.

Pouring outside the Pavilion as quickly as they came, students resumed their pre-Ataris selves; reluctantly succumbing to the evening and returning to the dorms they belonged to – most students, that is. Others clung to the remains of the stage and area; myself, eyeballing the unguarded backstage door, a glorious path leading to the high-rolling dressing room of the rock stars themselves. Wary of a soon-to-return guard and missing the opportunity of a celebrity run-in, I double-checked the scene and walked with my editor to the opportune door that would lead to our victory.

Successfully returning to the same backstage scene, where between sets we relaxed with opening band Vendetta Red, the empty hallway suddenly emerged with the fast-paced confrontation of Ataris frontman, Kris Roe, darting into the dressing room with a fervent following of select fans and friends. We hastily joined the following, and once in, I found my way to Roe, who gladly agreed to answer any spur-of-the-moment questions racing through my mind.

An inexhaustible Roe kicked back comfortably to humor curious questions, wiping his face with a post-concert towel, bleached strands of his punk-rock locks desperately peeking out at every chance. Immediately, we began talking about their latest album, “So Long, Astoria,” and the influences that carefully crafted their evolved sound. Roe claims, “Grunge was the definite factor affecting our music. The intense sounds – guitar layers after guitar layers just coming together to create something amazing. I just kept thinking, ‘This is awesome, man.'” Although presently labeled in the punk-rock genre, Roe adds, “The punk in us came through grunge, but not directly. Punk came from a diverse mix of sounds. It wasn’t something planned, punk kind of just happened.”

A ceaseless fan of both ends of the grunge and punk spectrum, Roe confesses, “I got into the punk rock scene through indie bands like Cure, Smiths, The Ramones, Black Flag and Sonic Youth.”

Ataris new album combines sounds from both rock extremes, complimenting the songs’ lyrical infrastructure, built from ingenuity, positive outlooks and memorable experiences. Roe emphasizes his lyrics as a personal account of life and change: “The last album was too focused on relationships. I wanted this one to be a mix of experiences that are focused and more altogether positive. Every song is pretty personal, but not the same. Every song on this album is totally different, from theme to sound. It’s how I want to remember the things I’ve lived through and the people.”

For Roe, life is all about remembering, all about the memories we make. The second single in “So Long, Astoria,” the suped-up cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer,” epitomizes this idea, as it was chosen from fond recollections of Roe’s childhood. Roe explains, “Of all songs to cover, I chose ‘Boys of Summer’ for a lot of reasons. The first time I heard that song I was where I always was every summer of my childhood: at my grandma’s house in Florida. As soon as I heard it, I made her take me out and buy the album. I was 8 or 9 years old, and with that album felt like Holden Caufield. That was one of the best summers ever. Anyway, while we were on tour not too long ago, we stopped to grab some food at a gas station and heard this song come on the radio. I turned to the guys and was like ‘This would be the best song to cover, it’s perfect.’ We had no idea it would become our second single, but hey, things just kind of happened that way.”

Above writing for himself and for the love of music, Roe admits a selfless loyalty to his fans, the reason for which he writes many of his songs and dedicates all of his performances. Midway through The Ataris’ set, Roe yanked a speechless student from the crowd and invited him to jam onstage with the band, a true testament to the bands intransigent priorities. “I like it when there’s no barriers between me and the crowd. I don’t the stereotypical crowd and concert. I want to feel the crowd kick the mic into my teeth when I’m singing; feel the blood, sweat, music. I prefer to play to a crowd of, like, one hundred as opposed to two-thousand. It’s a lot more relaxing – something to do in between big concerts.” Before adjourning our brief encounter backstage, Roe stays true to his principles and makes sure I understand his purpose, “We’re going to do a fan appreciation tour after these gigs. We are who we are because of our fans, without them we wouldn’t exist.”