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The Ataris have always been Kris Roe's baby. He is the singer, chief songwriter, and one constant member of the platinum-selling pop-punk band. An Indiana native, Roe has been fortunate enough to see music he wrote and performed go platinum in March 2003. For the 10-year anniversary of that platinum recording, So Long Astoria, Roe, now based in Tempe, will rejoin the musicians who made that album with him.
Roe, drummer Chris Knapp, bassist Mike Davenport, and lead guitarist John Cullura will embark on a 29-date nationwide tour celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Ataris' breakthrough album. This particular lineup of Ataris is coming together for the first time since their split in 2005.
But it will not be a reformation of the platinum-selling Ataris. The group will stick together only for the tour before Roe goes back to touring with current bandmates Bryan Nelson, Thomas Holst, and Erik Perkins and recording with in-studio bandmate Bob Hoag upon the tour's completion March 30 in New York.
"I think we've all grown up a lot," Roe says. "I mean, I haven't seen those guys in 10 years, and when we started talking about this, I realized it's going to be nice to end things on a good note with that lineup. One last time, one last tour with that band."
They hardly ended on a good note the first time around, citing financial and creative differences for the breakup, even though So Long Astoria had been a turning point for both Roe and the band.
Besides it being their best-selling album and making the Ataris a household name briefly in the mid-2000s, Astoria was the most poignant marker of their musical maturation.
Before releasing So Long Astoria, the band already was releasing tracks that featured more emotional lyrics and straightforward rock 'n' roll music, a slight departure from their pop-punk beginnings. So Long Astoria was the culmination of that creative direction, and judging by the fact that it sold more than 1 million copies, it is safe to say the Ataris did it well.
One song from So Long Astoria that highlighted the Ataris' maturation was "My Reply." Roe says it grew out of a piece of fan mail received by the band while it was writing the album.
"We got this letter from a girl going through some things, eating disorders. 'My Reply' is a reply in song to her letter, without giving too much of her personal info away. But enough to let her know it's about her," he says. "A lot of kids really received that song as a statement to hold on to life and not give up."
Roe calls celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his breakout album "kind of surreal." At 37, he still plays many So Long Astoria tracks — including "In This Diary," "The Saddest Song," and Don Henley cover "The Boys of Summer," the band's highest-charting single — in his live sets. For the reunion tour, the Ataris will perform the album in its entirety at each stop.
"When we play them now, we try to hold true to the songs the way I wrote them," Roe says. "But naturally, the way I play guitar is different, and I'm a stronger singer now, for sure. Those things will come through, but I want to make sure we keep it at least 80 percent true to the album while bringing new life and new heart and soul into the songs."