Blast From the Past: Q&A with Kris Roe of The Ataris

This past weekend I stumbled on my journal from college. Curious to see if my thoughts and passions had changed over the years, I picked it up and started reading. I was quickly taken back in time to my senior year of college while interning at JANE Magazine and later MTV News.

I’m glad to report the feelings of excitement haven’t faded when it comes to interviewing some of my favorite bands and discovering new artists. I came across one entry that particularly struck me. It was spring semester of my senior year and I was covering Rutgers’ annual Springfest concert with my friend and colleague Monica Rozenfeld. The Ataris were playing and I was determined to get an interview with frontman Kris Roe. I already had questions prepared, but never heard back from management so I decided to take matters into my own hands and just ask around.

After a few attempts we ran into a band member who said he’d talk to Kris about an interview. Kris gave us the green light and five minutes later we were in the boys locker room, sitting on the floor and chatting with him. I still remember the feeling of pure excitement walking out of the locker room after having asked one of my favorite bands everything I wanted to know. That night I wrote about my experience:

“This is exactly what I want to do with my life. Find & interview & write about bands — get their real life answers to questions! That’s my dream.”

Four years later, I’m glad its the same dream. You can read an excerpt from my interview here on Rutgers’ Daily Targum Web site, and I’ll paste it below as well.

When was the last time you performed? What happened with your old drummer?
October of 2004, we played our last show in Florida, some random show we flew down to do for Halloween. I just remember it was one of those things that we didn’t know if it would be our last show as that band. It was me, John, Mike and our old drummer Chris. It came at a point where the band felt like it was very limited.

I didn’t enjoy playing music with our drummer anymore. He really wanted different things from me. He wanted to be the hugest rock band in the world, whereas I just wanted to get in a van and play shows with my friends and have fun. I didn’t really feel like we had a friendship bond anymore. And our bass player went off the deep end and got involved in things that I wasn’t so proud of. I hated seeing my friends succumb to those things, and it’s like tough love. I had to be like, you know, this band’s here for you if you want it, but you’ve got to sort your life out first. A year went by and I never talked to him, so obviously he chose the other elements over me and over this band, and it happens.

What is to be expected of your new CD released in July? Is the sound similar to your previous record?
It’s completely different. At first it sounds like a different band. Musically its way more um, ah, I don’t really know. There are seven people in the band, there’s three guitars, cello, keyboards, and we got a new drummer and a new bass player. It’s more dreamy, spacey, like a big wall of sound. It’s more akin to all the British bands, like Radiohead, Muse, Snow Patrol, and Doves. We came to a point where I don’t really feel the music we were creating was the music I listen to and the music that I wanted to represent me. I think that we just kind of had to step outside ourselves and be like, you know what do we really want to do and what do we feel feels really honest. And we just started writing a bunch of songs and eventually after two years off with a year of writing, rehearsing, and recording, the record just kind of wrote itself.

Where do you get your inspiration for your songs?
Lyrically, this album is like a story about questioning yourself. There’s a lot of existentialist thought in it, about how in life there is so much more out there. It’s my question of myself asking what is out there in this world and what is beyond this world. The title of the album is Welcome the Night and it’s based on this concept that to me, everything in this earth and this planet is in transit and everything prior to our lives and after our lives is darkness.

Is there any venue or audience that you hated playing for?
Usually, it’s all pretty good, as long as people keep an open mind and don’t like to shout for stupid songs. Occasionally, you’ll get the one random punker guy. I’ve learned to ignore them. Back in the early days I would get kind of irate and stupid. I broke my hand getting in a fight with a kid because he threw some shit at me, and I never did that shit again. Just don’t let people get to you. One time in Australia I got pegged in the head with a bottle and I was like fuck it I’m just gonna keep playing because I knew it was the night of some Australian soccer championship. I knew it was some crazy, pissed off soccer fan and I knew he could kick me to shreds. So I was, like, I’m just gonna deal with it. If you don’t call attention to it usually people will just go on about their business.

How is it playing for a student crowd?
Playing colleges is always a good opportunity to bring your music to people that sometimes wouldn’t often get the chance to hear it. Because usually when you’re so absorbed with studying and probably a lot of partying I would assume as well, the music seems to take a secondary position in your life. Whereas a nerd like me, all I do is listen to music and pretty much sleep in all day and play music.

Is it a lot different from Warped Tour and headlining shows?
Yeah, I just feel the crowds are a little bit more narrow-minded [at Warped Tour]. I think that Warped Tour is more of a young audience and they already have their mind made up a bit more, whereas at colleges are a little bit more collective and willing to listen to more different and daring things.

Related Links:
Q&A; with Kris Roe of the Ataris: Part 1
Q&A; with Kris Roe of the Ataris: Part 2
The Ataris’ “Blue Skies, Broken Hearts” Acoustic Tour Hits New Jersey
Song of the Week: “Boys of Summer”