This has been an interview I've been chasing for a while. Kris Roe of the Ataris is a special story and a really great person. He's accomplished a lot with hardwork and quality songwriting. I've been a fan of this band from the moment I first saw them. They combine witty, heartfelt lyrics with some great riffs and some tight melodies. Kris Roe is the primary songwriter, guitarist, and vocalist for the Ataris. When I sat down and talked with him after their show, I was amazed at what a pleasant and friendly person he was, he was still that kid from Indiana who loved hearing music and loved making it. I hope you can come away as impressed as I was with this person.
Samuel Barker: What is your name and what do you do?
Kris Roe: I'm Kris Roe, I play guitar and sing for the Ataris.
Samuel: I noticed you took a lot of CDs tonight is that something you still do, work with smaller bands and kinda listen...
Kris: Sure man, I get an average of about 5 demos a night and I go back and listen to all of them unless one of the other guys gets a hold of it and puts it a way somewhere where I can't find it. I helped the band that played tonight, Antifreeze. I helped them get signed to Kung Fu and produced their record. I helped a band from Isreal called Useless ID get signed to Kung Fu and produced their album. I've helped a couple of other bands too. There's another band coming out on Kung Fu called Audio Karate. I helped another couple of bands, there's a band from Australia called One Dollar Short and a band from England we put on a couple of shows called Greebo. Both of those bands are phenominal. If there is a band that gives me a really outstanding demo or something that's really great and they work hard I'd love to put them on some shows at the minimum if not help them get signed to a label or something.
Samuel: Well, I know you started out small, does it feel good to give back to other people?
Kris: Yeah, I believe karma is a big part of life and you definitely have to help out people in order to make it life.
Samuel: So you guys are finally heading home right?
Kris: Yeah, we're heading home. We've been on the road for 3 months. We did Australia, the UK, Japan, and New Zealand. We did the US with Lagwagon and the Vandals. Now we're doing 6 dates on the way home. We did a few shows with Blink 182 which was great. We got home for a month and head back out on Warped Tour.
Samuel: So are you looking forward to a break?
Kris: Yeah, for sure. I'm so burnt out right now you don't understand.
Samuel: So you're from Indiana originally?
Kris: Originally, grew up there, I was born there, lived there until I was 18 or 19. I moved out to California because old drummer from Anywhere But Here was out there. That's the old drummer, Derek, from the band Lagwagon. That lineup lasted about 6 months and by the time Anywhere But Here came out we were all pretty much broken up. I was about to move back to move back to Indiana, but I decided to stay in California and formed the band over with all the guys who are in the band now.
Samuel: So this lineup has been together for a while now?
Kris: Yeah, we had one brief change. Our guitar player, Marco, who is with the band now, left for a while because he didn't want to tour and wanted to try to do some other things creatively. So we had Pat who is one some of the records, but spent less time in the band than Marco ever did. Pat was in the band for 6 months, he left because he didn't want to tour so Marco joined the band again and quit everything he was doing.
Samuel: Were there a lot of shows you went to in Indiana to help influence you?
Kris: Yeah, in Indiana the one cool thing is that Chicago is 3 hours away, Cincinatti is 2 hours away, St. Louis is about 4-5 hours away, Colombus, OH is about 2 hours away so you have place you can go everywhere around you. In Los Angeles you have shows everynight, but out there you had like 5 or 6 different options which was cool, but it was also kinda shitty because a lot of people out there don't understand or accept punk music as much as they do in California, but then again in California people take it for granted. So it's kinda yin and yang. I was influenced a lot by the Chicago punk scene, this band called Slugworth. And of course bands like all the Ramoney type shit like the Queers, Screeching Weasel, that was the start of the Ataris. My all time favorite bands are like ALL, The Decendents, and Jawbreaker. Yeah, there are certain bands who to this very day I have to go up from and watch.
Samuel: So it's cool to still be a fan? I know a lot of people in the music business make it a business and become jaded with everything.
Kris: Yeah, I'm completely a fanatic with music. You see my record collection and it's diverse. I love punk music, and I always will but I love every kind of music. There's nothing I can't really sit and listen to. Well, except for all that top 40 shit, it doesn't really have any substance. Otherwise I'm a fanatic.
Samuel: On the new album I noticed it's a growing up album. It deals with a lot of growing up issues and heartache. It feels more mature. Was it more getting in tune with yourself?
Kris: Yeah, you kinda hit the nail on the head. You're probably one of the first people to say that. Most people look at it like it's some sort of downer album. There's a lot of heartache in it, but it's mostly for that reason. It was me, I just got married a year ago, and it was me coming to terms with myself and my relationship. I wanted to write all this stuff that was in my system from this down time in my life and get it all out and move on. There are still times when you sit down and feel down about certain things like being away too much from the one you love and traveling too much. That's the only thing, it's a blessing to be out here traveling all the time, but it's the thing keeping you from your home, so it goes hand in hand, you love it, you hate, you love it, you hate it.
Samuel: Where did the idea of letting people come up on stage during "San Dimas..." and letting them play guitar?
Kris: Same thing, as a kid the biggest thrill for me were bands like ALL or Avail...all the bands who would get down and sing along and let everyone in the crowd be a part of the show. Those are the bands, to this day, that when I go see I have to stand in front, against the stage in the crowd. There are all these kids who are in the crowd who are like 'Hey aren't you in the Ataris, shouldn't you be upstage?' and I have to be like 'No you don't get it, I'm still just a kid like everyone else and I like to up here to sing along.' And so for me when a band did that it was the biggest thrill for me. So I made our band function with all those things that got me off on a certain band. So that started happening. On the San Dimas everyone would sing along, so then I started letting someone play guitar, now we have so many people that we let 2 people play guitar. There will be 5 or 6 people a night who want to play guitar us and so everyone else wants to participate too so everyone just comes up on stage and sings along. We use to ask people to come up on stage, but we had to stop doing that. Our lawyer and manager told us to stop because if we kept doing that there would definitely be lawsuits happening. So now we have to silently let everyone know to come up on stage. It's the legal red tape.
Samuel: Alright man, here's something I always have been wanting to ask, where'd you pick up your guitar style, playing upside down?
Kris: When I was kid I started playing that way. I picked up the guitar, it felt right, that's how I taught myself. My first guitar was right handed. I flipped it over, it just made more since to me.
Samuel: Anything you'd like add?
Kris: Hope to see everyone out on Warped Tour, check out our website, Ataris.com for tour dates, and thanks for the interview.
Samuel Barker is Senior Editor. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.