FEATURE: The Ataris – So Long, Astoria (retrospective)

Indiana punk veterans The Ataris make their anticipated return to Australia this June. Performing on a five-show headline run, the international outfit will play cuts from their sophomore album ‘Blue Skies, Broken Hearts…Next 12 Exits‘, as well as songs from 2003’s ‘So Long Astoria‘.

In the lead-up, vocalist/guitarist Kris Roe recently checked in with Killyourstereo.com to provide two reflective and retrospective pieces regarding the impact of the aforementioned albums. Today, Roe discusses the band’s most commercially successful album to date, ‘So Long, Astoria‘.

“For me, it was probably my favourite album in the Ataris career to date, or favourite full-length album. [It was also] the first album where I felt as a songwriter I got to come in to my own, and become a vivid story teller with stronger narrative. To me, what I love about the Ataris and what I love with the likes of Nick Cave or Tom Waites, or any other great rock ‘n roll songwriters like Tom Petty or Springsteen, is they tend to take listeners where they can see and feel every detail of the song, and this was the first album I felt like I did that.

It was the first album on Sony and a major label, and I felt like the new songs could speak to a vast audience. I had set out to accomplish that every song had a vivid picture and told a detailed story, and in the end every song deserved to be there. I felt on this one album there was not one track I wasn’t proud of.

Overall, when we play [the songs] live, they stand up to what they were then and we really built on them, and we’ve been able to make them stronger now. Those songs really stood the test of time and I am really glad it spoke to people the way that it did.

There was one song on the album that was called ‘My Reply’ and it kind of relates to Australia. This song was intended to be the second single but ‘Boys Of Summer’ became the accidental single because a radio station, K-Rock, in Los Angeles decided to play that song instead, but ‘My Reply’ really meant a lot to me. There was a girl from Brisbane that had written a letter to me and when we go out on tour I go to the post office when I get back and collect hundreds of letters, and I make a ritual to write back to everyone or at least every one that asked for a personal response or warranted a reply. There was one letter that stood out that told me how [this person] had gone through a really hard time with depression and suicide, and I felt really moved by it. For my reply, I thought I would set it up and write a physical and literal reply but in song, so the verse of the song is with every line. The first line answers the first line in her letter, “I got your letter and the poetry you sent me postmarked in December of last year”… that sets it up. Then the next line, “I really hope you’re doing better” answered her next line. That song was my reply to her letter and it turned out she heard the song and she got through these struggles. She got a hold of me and told me that the song helped get through to her and out of it. To me, that was such a big honour and it was the same with other kids as well where they said the same where it helped them, too.”

Destroy All Lines, Chugg Entertainment and Killyourstereo.com present The Ataris on tour, with Columbus, this June. Tickets are available via: tickets.destroyalllines.com.

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