Parents divorce, father disappears, kid turns to music, starts writing songs, eventually making a demo that gets him noticed. It's a story that just keeps happening. Kristopher Roe was raised in Anderson, IN (a place whose exact location is known only to the Anderson Chamber of Commerce - and they're probably not even sure). A demo taped passed to Joe Escalante, owner of Kung Fu Records, resulted in Roe moving to Santa Barbara - one great place to be. There he assembled The Ataris with Mike Davenport (bass/vocals), John Collura (guitar/vocals) and Chris "Kid" Knapp (drums).
In the case of The Ataris, they took a circuitous route to end up, more or less, where they started.
The group's full-length Kung Fu debut "Anywhere But Here" was released in '97. They moved briefly to Fat Wreck Chords for the EP "Look Forward To Failure" before returning to Kung Fu for the '99 release "Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits" and "End Is Forever" two years later. Each of these releases sold in the neighborhood of 100,000 copies which is a figure rarely achieved by major label releases much less indie ones.
One reason for The Ataris' popularity was a willingness to create a sense of community. They opened a record store in Santa Barbara where they met fans, jammed and listened to demo tapes - even helping other bands secure indie deals. Though time consuming, their efforts connected with their audience (and peers) creating highly enthused fans.
Another reason for their success was an extensive touring schedule, opening for Blink 182, Hives, 311 and Jimmy Eat World. They also appeared on the Van's Warped Tour and hit Japan, Australia and Europe. Signed by Columbia Records, Ataris released "so long astoria " in '03.
It's amazing how quickly a group can go from being a cohesive unit to four or five guys standing on the same stage. Touring always takes a toll, though some groups thrive in that environment. There may be musical or personal differences that boil over. When they do, it usually means somebody as to go or the group is finished.
Given their history, it was somewhat surprising that this malady befell The Ataris. But in '05, the group was down to Roe and Collura. Guitarist Paul Carabello, keyboardist Bob Hoag, bassist Sean Hansen, cellist Angus Cooke and drummer Shane Chikeles were enlisted to record "Welcome The Night." But before the album hit, there was another major obstacle.
Record labels are generally viewed as the bastions of stability in a highly volatile business. Sure, labels are sold or go out of business, but they can usually be depended on; if for nothing else than to screw a group out of every last nickel possible. Hey, it's a business.
In '06, Columbia went through a rare meltdown. Since a group has a narrow window to make things happen, The Ataris decided to take action. Declaring their Columbia contact void, the group started their own isola Recordings through Sanctuary Records and RED Distribution. The Ataris were an indie group again. "Welcome The Night" was released in February, '07.
During an Asbury Park, NJ concert on October 10th, '12, when the group was halfway through "Your Boyfriend Sucks," Roe took off his guitar and smashed it into the drum kit and tossed pieces at Felicetti and off stage. Thinking his bandmate is too drunk to perform, Roe tells the audience, "Our drummer's f**king failing tonight... I don't know what the f**king problem is but I'm gonna finish the set by myself." The rest of the group left the stage and Roe performed solo.
"We were completely surprised when Rob couldn't keep a beat," Roe said later, admitting he should have handled the situation differently. "[But] it's Rock and Roll. Sh—happens."
Felicetti admitted to having "an off night" but flatly denied he had a drinking problem. "(Roe's) actions were petty, uncalled for, inexcusable, immature, and an embarrassment," said Felicetti. "Never have I felt more violated or betrayed by someone I once called a friend." Not surprisingly, Felicetti quit the group.
1997 Anywhere But Here
1999 Blue Skies, Broken Hearts... Next 12 Exits
2001 End Is Forever
2003 So Long, Astoria
2007 Welcome The Night
Revved up and ready to Rock, The Ataris hails from the Blink 182 school. Songs about girls (sex and the inability to figure them out) and teen life rule. A typical song is "Giving Up On Love" from the "End Is Forever" with the thoughtful line " I'm giving up on love, because it really kind of sucks." The Ataris catalog is packed with song titles like "San Dimas High School Football Rules," "Fast Times At Drop Out High" and "Teenage Riot." Pays to know your audience.
On "so long astoria," The Ataris has a likable, straight-ahead Rock sound while Roe's lyrics have more depth and urgency than most of his contemporaries. The title track, the "where it all began" car song "Summer '79," "My Reply" and first single "In This Diary" stand out. The album is consistently strong though one has to question the inclusion of Don Henley's "chestnut" "The Boys Of Summer" (even released as a single after it got radio airplay). Though they pick up the tempo (mercifully) and update the original Grateful Dead reference with Black Flag, "The Boys Of Summer" is still a cloying piece of corporate Rock. Otherwise, nice job.
Welcome The Night" has power-pop/Punk cut with '80s Wave. It's not as incongruous as it sounds. Sometimes the styles co-exist but more often than not it's an either/or proposition.
The first three tracks, "Not Capable Of Love," "Cardiff-By-The-Sea" and the emotive, "New Year's Day," are upbeat, catchy tunes. The lyrics show some maturity and the earlier edges are a bit rounded (if that's a good thing).
The ballads, "Secret Handshakes" and the dramatic, "And We All Become Smoke" are effective. Throwing a kicker, "The Cheyenne Line," in between, doesn't hurt. But after that, the album's tone and style changes significantly. It's not that "Welcome The Night" falls off the table, rather the remaining songs have significantly less impact. The Ataris sound like a second tier Wave band. Not bad, but certainly not as strong as they started.
A lot can be said for The Ataris' indie career. They come out of the box Rockin' on the furious "Anywhere But Here" but it's their subsequent work on "Blues Skies, Broken Hearts… Next 12 Exits" that resonates. "Blues Skies" opens with the searing "Losing Streak" followed by the Punk influenced "1*15*96." The vengeful "Your Boyfriend Sucks" is another standout. "End Is Forever" has a more melodic leaning but still kicks.