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The Ataris Hop On The Nostalgia Boat, Bring 'So Long, Astoria' Tour To Chicago

By Katie Karpowicz in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 20, 2014 9:00PM

Kristopher Roe of The Ataris (second from left) speaks with Chicagoist about the band's current reunion tour/Photo courtesy of Secret Service Publicity

Without reunion and album anniversary tours it's hard to imagine how pop punk would have sustained itself over the past couple years. It's become a matter of supply of demand, and it seems and The Ataris frontman Kristopher Roe isn't afraid to admit he's jumping on the bandwagon.

While he openly told Chicagoist that the band's current tour isn't the most original of ideas, he was also plenty excited about getting older fans back on board with the band. The Ataris will appear at House of Blues tomorrow (March 21) to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of the band's most successful album to date So Long, Astoria and the reunion of the album cycle's touring lineup (since replaced).

Before the show, Roe called Chicagoist while driving from state to state to chat about So Long, Astoria, pop punk's golden era and Chicago's influential music scene:

CHICAGOIST: So, obvious question, how did the decision to reunite with your old band members come about?

KRISTOPHER ROE: In the last year or so it was just one of those things where my current lineup and I talked about going out and playing So Long, Astoria and our old booking agent hit me up and said, "Hey, how would you feel about doing it with the lineup from the record." So I said I'd consider it and then I just started talking to [my former bandmates] and it was like everything was thrown out the window. We were on the same page but we'd grown up and all of the weirdness and bullshit was gone. My complaint back in the day was always that my focus was the music and then there were a couple of [bandmates] that put the party first and the music second. But now it's like everybody has grown up and it seems a lot more even keel.

C: Is the reformation going to be a permanent thing?

KRISTOPHER ROE: Not at all. The way The Ataris have always worked is I record all the records myself with a drummer. So on albums, the band has just generally always been me. This is a really fun one-time thing and I don't want to limit myself. If we do a one-off type festival thing here and there, it could happen but for now my main focus is doing this tour.

C: So have the shows been going well so far?

KRISTOPHER ROE: Oh, it's insane. They've been really, really good. I'm never one to brag but there have been a lot of shows that have sold out. I personally like intimate, really personal spaces—like the Beat Kitchen in Chicago—but these are bigger venues so this has definitely re-garnered some interest from fans that probably haven't come out to see us in a while which is cool. That's the reason I wanted to do this. Hopefully those same kids will come back and see us again when we play with the other lineup.

C: So, I feel I have to touch on this: It seems like a lot of the bands that were putting out albums at the time So Long, Astoria came out have done reunions tours or album anniversary tours like The Ataris.

KRISTOPHER ROE: Yeah, it's a really original idea. [laughs]

C: Well, that's not necessarily what I was implying.

KRISTOPHER ROE: No, I'm saying that though! I live to self-deprecate. I've been joking with people about how original the idea for this tour is.

C: Well, do you feel like the reason for all these nostalgic tours is because the early 2000s were kind of the "golden age" of pop punk or do you think the scene is still strong today?

KRISTOPHER ROE: That era was good for a lot of bands that kind of got lumped into what was called pop punk. I think So Long, Astoria stood out because it's a genreless album. It's just a rock album. Hopefully, now it's a nostalgia trip for some people but they'll come out and discover a little bit more of what the band is doing. It's great how music can take you back to a place and time and the memories associated with that. I think that's what's great about music and this album.

C: Absolutely. Ataris songs have always had that nostalgic quality to them, a lot of references to high school days and stuff. What have been your favorite songs to play so far on this So Long, Astoria tour?

KRISTOPHER ROE: The coolest this to me about this tour is that we never played some of these songs like because we always had to pick and choose which ones to learn for the live set [because the majority of the studio versions were recorded by me], so there are about four or five songs on the album that we've never played. I;m a deep cuts guy so I like "Eight of Nine," the last song on the album. "In This Diary" is a song that I can still play today and enjoy but then there are songs written about my ex-wife that I still have to sing. [laughs]

C: How do feel about the future of The Ataris? I know there have been a lot of setbacks and lineup changes over the years.

KRISTOPHER ROE: Honestly, on paper that stuff looks really crazy...but it doesn't hinder us. For me The Ataris are just an ongoing thing. When we're out on the road if somebody has a drug problem or something—which has happened before—I don't want to be a babysitter. I just give them a very nice, "Hey, get your shit together or find another band." Right now I feel like we have a very strong lineup, we sound great and we're able to coexist while I play these shows with my old bandmates. After this I'll play some acoustic shows overseas and then hopefully put an album out by the end of this year.

C: Remind me how the title So Long, Astoria came about. I know you grew up in Indiana and moved to California in your teens, but isn't Astoria a town in Oregon?

KRISTOPHER ROE: There was a book by Richard Hell of the band Television. There was this part in the book where he said that memories are better than life and that he caters each day to making the best memory possible so I started getting on this existentialist thought about having one life and one shot so we should make the best memories possible. When I was writing the album I had this idea of going back to where I grew up and not telling anyone, just sit outside at my old haunts or places I loved as a kid and write. If you're thinking back on something or if you're actually there in front of the old house you use to live in, those are two different things. So there was that and then the town Astoria was a town near where my ex-wife lived on the coast of Oregon. I just used it as a metaphor for where I grew up—it was also the town where The Goonies was set.

I always thought it was kind of a funny thing how in that movie they're these young kids who are going onto different parts of their lives. It was like that time of your life where everything seems so perfect and you're about to go to high school or college. It's a turning point. You always think you have it figured out but then you look back and you're like, "Man, I didn't have shit figured out."

To sum it up So Long, Astoria is saying goodbye to where you’re from but trying to keep it in your heart.

C: Awesome. You learn something new every day! Anything else you want to say before we see you here in Chicago?

KRISTOPHER ROE: We always have great shows in Chicago. We love it a lot and it was probably one of my favorite music scenes growing up. If it wasn't for bands like Sludgeworth and Naked Raygun and all the bands from that scene, I think we would sound completely different. We're excited to play there and we hope people will come out!

Tickets to The Ataris show at House of Blues are on sale now. Visit the band's Bandcamp page for more music and So Long, Astoria demos.