The Ataris return to Australia next week for the first time in 7 years, and unlike frontman Kris Roe’s solo tour earlier in the year, the whole band will be returning to our shores.
We caught up with the man himself to chat about it all….
G’day, where are you typing this from?
We are currently on a day off in Wellington, New Zealand. We just headlined a big festival show in Jakarta, Indonesia and are about to start our of NZ before starting the Australia tour.
The Ataris have had a pretty big year, writing, recording, Warped Tour, and later in October playing Australia as a band for the first time in 7 years. Can you please tell me what the year has been like from your perspective?
Was fun to go out on Warped again, Great crowds but miserable hot as fuck weather. Prior to that we went to South Africa for the first Time. Shows were really incedible. Overall it has been another great year of working and traveling non-stop. Overall the main focus has just been to try and get this new album finished. I have completed all of the music for the entire record and finished vocals for five songs. I plan to finally go back in February and finsh vocals as well as maybe record a few more songs, as I find that I have always written a lot of the best tracks at the last minute.
You were here earlier on your solo tour, was that tour more of a ‘test of the waters’ to see if the full band could hold up here? Or was an international solo tour a thing you’ve always wanted to do?
By that point I had already completed solo dates in Japan, South America, US, Canada, UK, Europe…etc The Australia dates just seemed like the next logical step. The acoustic shows just began as something for fun, to fund recording and pay the bills in my time off while writing The Ataris new album. It was a great experience, It also gave our fans the opportunity to hear the songs stripped down and played in the way that they are usually first written. I was able to talk about the stories behind the songs, take questions and requests from the audience and play many songs that I had never played in years. It was a fun challenge and something I am sure I will do again in the future for those who missed it but in the current I am just excited to get back out on tour with the band again.
The new album The Graveyard of the Atlantic has just been announced, the new song sounds great, can you tell us about the writing and recording for the new album?
Recorded in Tempe, Arizona at Flying Blanket Recording by Bob Hoag, completely to Two-Inch Analog tape as we have done on most of our albums. Great, warm organic tones, lots of awesome old vintage amps, guitars and drums. Bob Hoag played drums and percussion as well as sang some harmonies, I did the rest. Recorded on the same Neve console that Radiohead –“The Bends” was mixed on. It used to be located at Fort Apache studio in Boston. Every album recorded there for about the last 20 years was recorded on that board (Dinosaur Jr, Lemonheads, The Pixies etc).
What can we expect from the new album?
I have been through many drastic changes in my life in the last five years since writing "welcome the night" some positive, some painful but in the end I feel I have come back around to a place in my life where I am fairly content and happy again. That for me is purely the biggest influence on my songwriting. The lyrics are descriptive, in depth personal stories about life, travel, love, hope, longing… etc. the music is more anthemic, somewhat upbeat, sincere heartfelt sounding rock songs not too far removed from The Replacements, The Weakerthans, Jawbreaker… etc. yet still managing to sound like The Ataris… The best way that I could describe this album is that it just sort of sounds like I picked up writing where "So Long Astoria" left off while still manging to be a nice natural progression forward.
You have said in some interviews that the writing and recording phase is something like just you and a drummer, has it been like that for Atlantic, or more of a group effort?
Besides “Welcome the Night” that has pretty much been the way we have recorded every record.
Why has the Ataris never been able to hold down members? Does it come down to people not being able to stay in the same room as each other?
No. Not at all. The live lineup has changed for many reasons, we have generally always been scattered about different parts of the country, some have pursued other projects, John started a studio and a really good new band of his own, a couple members got caught up in the excessive lifestyle a bit too much. For me I continue playing these songs because I started this band and enjoy playing these songs.
Unfortunately Welcome The Night saw a new direction in the band, straying from your punk roots and ultimately losing a few fans, if you had the time again, would you write a different record? Why?
Music is about art and evolution not about fashion, trends or being part of some scene. Again, “Welcome the Night” was an honest natural step that I needed to take. I am very proud of that album and will always keep changing, taking risks and breaking boundries, We always just did our own thing. If people like it cool. If not then that is fine as well.
To say The Ataris are influential to many fans is an understatement; ‘So Long Astoria’ has been hailed as the best album by the band. In saying that, I once read a quote from W Eugene Smith, “An artist must be ruthlessly selfish.”
Thanks for the compliment. I definitely agree with that quote whole heartedly. I feel that one should always just write their life experience and what’s true to them and not let any outside influence dictate what you create. I feel that record was an important point for me as a writer as I believe it was the first time I really learned to just write the most honest detail from my life and fill my songs with as much detail as possible. In the end I feel it is our most solid record as well.
So in an ever changing world, do you agree with the way some music is being put out at the moment? How have the Ataris been able to stay afloat (considering the history) in the musical times we live in?
I just try to focus on what I create. I feel there is still plenty of great art and music left in this world, it is just up to the consumer to weed out what is rubbish and what is not. Of course judging from what actually sells I honestly don’t believe a lot of the world have shit for taste. But in the end we are just one little band and will continue to do our thing regardless while at the same time I always try my best to use my voice and promote artists I feel are important to me. See our myspace page for a long and ever changing list.
As an artist, what has influenced you the most? What is your most prized album?
It always varies from time to time but to name a few… Godspeed you Black Emperor, Wilco, Radiohead, The Weakerthans, The Replacements, Neil Young, Lucero, Pedro the Lion, Sonic Youth, The Good Life, Jets to Brazil, David Bowie and on and on…
What’s your iPod looking like? Any garish guilty pleasures on there?
It’s black. Kind of smudged. See above.
If you had to pick; Jawbreaker or Fugazi?
Saw Fugazi around 6 or 7 times – A workhorse of a band that changed my outlook of music and musicianship as I know it. Jawbreaker I feel were of great underrated musical and lyrical significance and were more of an influence on me as a writer. They are both equally important to me.
Why has it taken 7 years for a full band to come back to Australia?
It has been that long?? We were planning to come back to Australia after our last album but I think the timing just never lined up. Hopefully it was worth the wait. Definitely won’t be as long next time.
The Ataris kick off their Australian tour on October 21st. For all the dates and venues click here.