- Submitted Photo
- The Ataris
When you've been writing songs for two decades, it's easy to get hung up on the idea of legacy. Just ask Kristopher Roe of The Ataris, who braces at the thought that he'd be lumped in too much with the nostalgia crowd.
"Especially with some of these old songs, when you play them live there's a whole new life to it," he says of reworking songs off the band's early albums. "Any song we play I'm not just gonna beat a dead horse and just play something for nostalgic value. And I won't keep on playing anything unless it's something that I'm proud of."
Roe has plenty of material to pull from on his band's latest tour, which stops at the Melody Inn on Thursday, including some new material he's been working on for a yet-to-be-released album. And though the band briefly had flirtations with major label fame when its cover of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" crossed over to Top 40 radio off the band's fourth studio album in 2003, he says he never felt like a pop band and never had a major label pushing him to be anything he wasn't.
"More often than not people think we're just a pop-punk band and I don't think we sound anything like that," he explains. "I'm 39, and I think we're more of a rock band, we've got more of a Foo Fighters or Nirvana thing going, where there's no one genre driving us. We're just a rock band. Even on So Long, Astoria, I mean, that's just a rock and roll album. There's nothing novelty or pop-punk about that album. It's melodic, and pop means popular and we were never really popular. And punk, I think we're far from punk."
That comes through a lot more on his new material.
"I tour a lot, and touring definitely pays the bills and also funds my recordings," he says. "That's the thing. I just put out this other six song EP with some old songs that I recorded at the same studio like new songs, but they're all based off old ideas. I'm happy with putting out a few songs at a time, but there are people that I'll tell 'em there's new songs, and ... people still always ask when you're gonna put out a full record! I'm like, 'Why do you care? People don't buy records!'
- Submitted Photo
- The Ataris
Roe has always stayed close to his Anderson roots, choosing to pick the bands for his own shows as a general rule, "because if you don't, chances are a lot of these venues you'll show up and it'll be some bad pop-punk cover band, some high school band playing Blink covers."
For the band's return to the Melody Inn, he recruited Hell's Orphans, also of Anderson, a band he knew through a high school classmate he'd played in a band with three decades ago.
"I think I'd posted a picture or something on Facebook, and Kris Roe got a hold of me on there and asked if we wanted to open for them at the Mel," Hell's Orphans guitarist Nigel Baker told me. "We'd played with him at the Birdhouse a couple years ago, right before their tour. They'd needed a place to practice so they showed up there and played, then we played and then Intergalactic Caravan played. That was a super fun show! I smashed a guitar and had smoke bombs in it, it was awesome! There should be like a 15-second snippet of it somewhere online, but good luck finding it."
As for special plans for this show: It's a secret.
"That's classified information!" Baker laughs. "Let's just say our goal for every show is to have more fun than any other band there."
They'll have a hard time having a better time than Roe, who by all accounts is readying himself for the next great Ataris full-length, energized as a songwriter and ready for what another decade as a musician has to offer.
"The writers I always loved were really good about taking you to the places they were describing in the moment," he says. "To me good music always has in common that good ability of taking all the vivid details of the moment and really describing them to a listener. And I think as I've gotten older I've gotten better with that. When you're young you just kind of write to write, and as you get older you get better at honing in on what you do best. What are my strong points as a writer? For me personally that's what I feel I go for when I write a song: I want to paint the most descriptive picture I can."
And playing an Indy venue is a simple pleasure for the Hoosier songwriter.
"On a personal level Indiana's always been important to me because I have a personal attachment to memories of growing up here, all the good times I had as a kid and as a teenager," says Roe. "But the thing for me is, over the last ten years you've seen this great resurgence of places like Fountain Square where people like Tufty from Radio Radio, and the guys running the Hi-Fi, they're really putting their hearts into taking the music scene and proving they know what it's about. They're in tune with what makes good music.
"The downside still is that there's not a lot of all-ages support in Indianapolis, because of the stupid old rule where you can't have alcohol in the same room as all-ages. In any other state they'll stamp an 'x' on your hand and you can still go into a room that's 'over 21' and not drink. That's an Indiana law that's yet to change, and I think people should still push to change it."
This tour stops at the Melody Inn, the size of the venue Roe loves.
"I always loved the really small intimate shows because those are the ones I always liked going to," Roe says. "But I'm always really hands-on with picking the venues we play. Some of my favorite shows have been little dive bars like that. Playing the Vogue was really rad because of all the history there. Playing big places are great, but there are some big places on this tour. A couple of House of Blues shows — it's a real variety, and that's great because it keeps you really excited and it keeps things changing up day by day. But the Mel, I like playing that bar."