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Ataris | End is Forever | interview | Kris Ro | punk | Lollipop

The Ataris

End is Forever (Kung Fu)
An interview with guitarist/vocalist Kris Roe
by Scott Hefflon

End is Forever has a good amount of Lagwagon influence to it.
Yeah, that's probably because Joey (Cape) and I are such good friends. And we kinda think alike, and we write alike as well. But it's funny because most the bands I listen to - even though we're a punk band - are more mellow indie rock bands. But I'll take the vibe and the energy of a punk rock show over a band that just stands there... The stuff Joey's doing now with Bad Astronaut, man, that stuff is just so great. It's Lagwagon only more indie rock/emo. It's all the stuff Joey and I like - Radiohead, Elliot Smith, Built to Spill - and it's less of the double-time drumming.

I was listening to some old Descendents last night...
Love that band, they're my favorite. Some of those songs changed my life.

I got all nostalgic over "Clean Sheets," "Pep Talk," and "Coolidge"...
Those are my three favorites right there. I remember when I was like 15 and my parents grounded me to my room so I couldn't go see some band I wanted to see, so I played "Pep Talk" and sung along at the top of my lungs: "It's not the end of the world..."

Timeless... And that's one of the impulses to interview you. I think some of your songs have what it takes to be belted out by teenagers driving away from failed dates or sitting at home waiting for someone to call.
Every time I get a letter or an email from someone saying something like that, I remember all over again why I'm in a band. Every generation needs those bands, and if we could be one of those catalysts or whatever, then it's all worth it.

I'm sure you've suffered the "struggling band lifestyle," whether it was sharing a small apartment with too many other people or eating Ramen for months on end or whatever...
Oh yeah... Luckily we just recently passed that hump, and now we're able to take a bit better care of ourselves. My wife and I are refurnishing our apartment... It's a shitty little apartment, but it's my shitty little apartment.

And not to get all trippy and shit, but I really believe in giving back some of what got you here... I don't wanna say certain bands have literally kept you alive...
No, that's about right. I was homeless, living in a van in front of the house in which I'm now living, and that was the deal. When I first moved to Santa Barbara, all I had was my clothes and my van and a bunch of vinyl that ended up melting in my hot fuckin' van over the summer. Eventually, I ended up sleeping on our first bass player's couch, but we all broke up cuz we didn't get along.

What's the story with band members and getting signed and all that?
Well, we were giving out demos to meet up with a drummer and stuff, and Kung Fu decided that they not only would introduce us to drummers, but they wanted to put out our record. The band was pretty much just me and this dude Jason... They gave the tape to some drummers and the first one to call that I really got along well with was Derrick (Plourde), the old drummer of Lagwagon. He's in Bad Astronaut now, and that's cool and we're still friends and all that.

Did Jason, your original bandmate, move to Santa Barbara with you?
No, it was just me. His girlfriend was still in high school, so he stayed there. And the original bassist of The Ataris, Marko - Marko with a "k" - he's in Bad Astronaut too. So it was Marko, Derrick and me for the first six months. And Jason played on the record. We did two tours, each about two weeks, one with The Vandals and MxPx and one with Lagwagon and No Use for a Name. It was really weird to come out here and do such big tours on such short notice. After those dates, Marko went to Europe to fill in on bass for the Swingin' Utters, opening for No Use, and I was sitting in my van, about ready to say fuck this and go home to Indiana... But I figured a lot of great things had happened, so I decided to put the band together from scratch with my friend Mike (Davenport, bass) and his two friends Marco (Pena, guitar) and Chris (Knapp, drums). That line-up of the band has been together for over three years.

The first line-up was almost like session players, right?
It might've looked that way, but no, while it was kinda shaky at first, we were a real band. While I wrote all the songs - and I still write all the songs - it's always been a band thing, everyone bringing in what they're good at. Well, and there was this guy, Pat, who's listed on Look Forward to Failure and Blue Skies... who hadn't really committed to the band, but the artwork was already done and stuff. But really, the line-up has been the same for three years, I'm just making this sound all confusing, like Descendents/ALL's line-up.

You've recorded at The Blasting Room twice now, right?
Yeah, and I've seen the original reels for Milo Goes to College and shit. I wanted to take photos and stuff...

Maybe rub up against them...
Exactly. Joey and I were joking about how cool it'd be to pop those reels on and add some hand-claps or back-up "whoo-woos" or something.

So the lineage is that Warren (Fitzgerald, of The Vandals) produced your first record, Bill & Stephen (Stevenson & Egerton, of Descendents/ALL, natch) did your second record...
Jason Livermore did a lot on the second one as well. In my opinion, it's Jason that makes the Blasting Room sound rad. He's the key dude. I mean, Bill's a great drum tech and all, but Jason's the guy you can get for cheaper, ya know? I mean, we really wanted to be able to say "Yeah, we worked with Bill & Stephen," but this record we did with Joey and Jason producing, and I think we experimented a lot more with vintage amps and cello and piano parts. And the slide guitarist of Drag The River - the band that's half ALL and half Armchair Martian - did a part for us.

You were on Fat's Short Music for Short People, and you put out a couple alternate 30 second songs on your EP split with Useless ID, Let it Burn.
Yeah, I have an Anal Cunt 7" that has something like 1000 songs on it. And a lot of the time, we'll finish up a song by yelling "ALL!," and that'll be our Descendents cover. We did the split because people kept asking for unreleased songs, but we only had about 12 minutes worth of material and no time to go into the studio. And Useless ID, from Israel, was on the Fat comp and we thought someone over here should sign them. It's funny because they've toured the U.S. more times than most bands I know from the US. Every summer they have a van filled with their gear - good gear - waiting at one of their sister's houses in L.A.. They've got their shit together. I'm producing their full-length for Kung Fu. Their new stuff, much like everyone else, is leaning toward the emo side with the fourth chord added...

You're about at the point where you want to direct... Have you thought about starting your own label?
I've chosen a different route... We're opening a record store here in Santa Barbara that'll sell records and clothing and rare memorabilia. We tour all the time and we know all these people, so why not get bands to sign all sorts of random stuff and then sell it? I used to stand outside clubs for two hours to meet a band and have them sign something for me. I'm a total fanatic, and there're no stores that I know of where you can get punk rock memorabilia. There's eBay, but you pay an arm and a leg... The store opens in February and it's called Down on Haley, named after a song by our friends, Nerf Herder. It's on Haley Street in Santa Barbara, and opening day we're doing an acoustic show. We're donating most of the profits from the store to local charities so bands won't get pissed off that we're selling shit with their autographs on it. Also, aside from covering rent and stuff, we aren't really doing it to make money. Our rehearsal space is in the back, so as long as we get the space paid for...

It's in a commercial district in Santa Barbara?
It's one block off the main strip. That's why we pay a fraction of the rent. It's a good area.

Isn't Nerf Herder's song "Down on Haley," like, based on the innuendo "going down on Haley?"
Haley used to be a bad neighborhood, but bad by Santa Barbara standards. It was the place where transvestite prostitutes would hang out. Basically, it was a one-street-long ghetto. Put it this way, the only 24-hour porn shop - the one I used to work at - is nowhere near there. The city's cleaned the whole area up, and now it's all cool little coffee shops and vintage clothing shops and we just got lucky with a cool landlord and cheap rent.

Freshly-scrubbed, disease-free, tax-paying "alternative" businesses...
Exactly. And this is our way of giving back...

Speaking of moving on, I hear you're married now, so all the songs about looking for the right girl and getting hurt by assorted not-right girls are in the past...
I wrote all the songs from End is Forever during a melancholy time: hard times, lots of travelling, missing my wife.

How long have you been married?
Since April. We dated for about a year and a half prior to that. So I kinda knew I was writing the songs to get them out of my system.

How has getting married changed your songwriting?
The songs I'm writing now are much more upbeat and uplifting. I tend to like the more dark and depressing songwriting, but I just kinda wanted to get the last bit of it out of my system. I just don't have all that much to be depressed about anymore, ya know? I still feel I have a lot left to write about; in fact, now I feel I can write about more because I can write less about relationships. Even though I know kids can relate to it, I think I've done about enough of it. Or if I do it, it'll be a little less dramatic and depressing. I like the writing that really describes something... I think Tom Waits said something about every town needs a name, a piece of food, and something to drink... The songs I've written that describe the scene are my favorites. I can't get into the lyric-writing a lot of bands do that tries to sound clever but makes no sense: "I don't know that you don't care that I'm not trying to think about the things that you don't say when I say the things I say, yeah!" Rock.
(920 North Citrus Ave. Hollywood, CA 90038)  


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