Since The Ataris announced they would reunite to tour in celebration of the ten-year anniversary of So Long, Astoria, playing the album in its entirety, I haven’t stopped listening to the seminal release.
After the band’s first rehearsal, The Ataris bassist Mike Davenport took some time to speak to me and shared his excitement for the much-anticipated tour, commenting on why bands are doing ten-year anniversary tours and discussing his band Versus the World.
I am so excited to see you all perform, especially this album. Almost every song on So Long, Astoria reminds me of very distinct things from high school. I saw you perform in D.C. almost a decade ago.
Oh man, the 9:30 Club then?
Yes! But now I live in LA, and there are a ton of venues to choose from…
You definitely have your smorgasbord in LA. I am in Santa Barbara, not far from you. I’m the only Atari still in Santa Barbara, even though we started here, but we’re all here rehearsing right now. I made them all come here. I said, “You started the band here, so you have to come back here.”
We had our first rehearsal in ten years yesterday. We’d gotten together before for photos and a documentary and things like that, but we never actually picked up our instruments and played. It went really well, though. Let’s just say we all did our homework.
What was the mood at that first rehearsal? How did you guys sound, or have you been secretly practicing Ataris songs over the years?
I’m in another band called Versus the World, and I’ve been in that band a long time. We just got done with two years of touring through Europe, playing Soundwave in Australia, Japan, China. We played a lot. We’re best friends. It’s what we do. I made them play So Long, Astoria beginning to end with me, so for a month our rehearsals would just be Ataris songs, and I got really good at that.
My singer for Versus the World, Donald [Spence], is also gonna be playing third guitar and singing back-up vocals for The Ataris on this tour. He’s gonna fill in because So Long, Astoria is such an awesome, layered album that we want to make it sound as good as possible. It frees Kris up to focus on singing, and he is such a great singer. It just adds more depth and is super cool.
And your band Versus the World is opening for The Ataris on this tour, so you’ll be pulling double duty every night?
Double duty, yes. [Laughs] Just like yesterday’s practice, I was pretty nervous at the beginning, even though we are all old friends. I still get nervous since that combination of people hasn’t played together in a while. I’m a little nervous about the double duty thing, although after the first night, I should be good to go. I’ve never done anything like that before. I know my friend Joey did a tour where he played with three bands, and I was like, “That’s pretty awesome.” That’s a lot of rock.
I think with the energy of the show, you’ll be ready to play all night.
For sure. The first four shows are warm-up shows, and they’re under the radar, but Versus the World is main support, so we go on right before The Ataris. The real official start of the tour is in Los Angeles, and I’ll have more bands in between.
Speaking of the tour, I know there will be lots of nostalgia for myself and other fans. Will that be infused into the performance? I’ve heard whisperings of a projector being involved?
Kris loves visual art, and his girlfriend does a lot, too. Kris is a photographer and a lot of his photos have appeared in our album art, so Kris is taking a collection of photos and displaying them in a visual format behind us while we play onstage. It should be pretty cool. It’s a similar vibe to our “In This Diary” video but a little different, a little more throwback, old-school projector style. It’s going to be cool.
Is there any particular song you’re excited to play?
I don’t think so because of how we are doing it. I think what’s cool about this is normally, yeah, there are some songs I’d rather play than other ones. The challenge of this tour, though, and something I’ve seen other bands do, is play an album start to finish. You normally never do that. Some songs you record and you never play them again — that’s true of every album I’ve recorded — so it’s cool to go back and play this album the way it is.
At the end, we’ve added some classics and b-sides, including tracks we’ve never played before. There are songs I think people have never heard, like b-sides from Australia and Japan. You can’t even get a couple of them on iTunes. I had to go on YouTube and find other bands doing covers of them to rehearse.
Rehearsing your song using other bands’ covers — that’s hilarious.
I’ve been challenged to play the whole record and that has been one of the coolest things of this tour. It’d be easy to do greatest hits from our records, but this is cooler. Ultimately, you want to keep it interesting.
You mentioned a lot of bands don’t play start to finish, but last year I saw Taking Back Sunday and Yellowcard play ten-year anniversary tours of albums start to finish. Was there something in the water in the early 2000s that produced such classic albums?
You know, last year we toyed around with doing the tour. We have been talking about this for one year now. They wanted us do a ten-year anniversary, but by the time we got all our schedules cleared, it became an eleven-year anniversary.
You know what it is? It’s that rock ‘n roll comes in waves. There was a bad five years for pop rock and pop punk from 2005 to 2010. It got really hard, people got disinterested. A lot of bands you’re talking about had a harder time selling tickets, selling records.
Now there has been a resurgence in our style of music, and rock ‘n roll in general has come back. It comes and goes in waves. I think there will be another good five years. Right now, it’s on, man. I noticed it playing at Soundwave with Offspring, Blink 182, Sum 41. You can really see it coming back in Australia. 50,000 kids, sold out, going crazy every night. It’s infectious across the whole world. It’s definitely on a comeback.
I think that’s a great way of putting it. I remember going to Warped Tour during that era, like the early 2000s, and there was a serious lack of solid bands.
Lots of screaming. I think there are always exceptions to the rule and there were good bands during that time, but we go in peaks. The first peak was Green Day and The Offspring and that was the early-nineties, and then there was a little lull, and then there was our little peak with Dashboard [Confessional] and Sum 41. But then after Fall Out Boy, there was a lull. They brought on the last lull, and I’ll blame them personally for that. [Laughs]
They are back together. We’re all good. We’re all back together.
Any truth to the rumors that some of the proceeds from this tour will fund The Ataris tour for The Graveyard of the Atlantic?
Kris and I are very close and always have been, even when we weren’t playing music together, and the bottom line about him is he is a perfectionist. The Ataris record I didn’t play on, Welcome The Night, I think he was rushed to do that record, and I don’t think he was happy about the way it came out. Fans weren’t receptive to it…
I think he wants to make sure when [The Graveyard of the Atlantic] comes out, it’s done right. He is so meticulous and such an artist. I think he has the music done but not the lyrics. From what he says, he wants it out by the end of the year, but I don’t play on that record and that’s his piece of art. I hope to tell Ataris fans it’ll be out by the end of the year.
I can tell everyone the new Versus the World record, Homesick, Roadsick, will be out early 2015, and we’re working on that now.
Sweet! Will you be playing songs from that on the tour then?
Not at all, but Versus The World only plays up to St. Louis, and after that our singer Donald will be playing acoustic. He just did a 7-inch that will be available on the tour, and there will be two songs on that that will be on our new record that he’ll be playing. Versus the World only has a half hour, so we are going to play our greatest hits. We’re going to do what The Ataris aren’t going to do. [Laughs]
The cool thing about this tour is when we decided to do it together, we wanted all our best friends on it. Every single person on this tour I’ve known for like twenty years. There’s not one person I haven’t been totally naked or vulnerable around. Drag The River, Authority Zero, they’re all my best friends. It’s not only great to have different styles of music, but we all get to go across the country and be best friends and get paid for it. It’s pretty awesome.
That sounds like a good time. This tour will definitely be a must-see for Ataris fans. Anything else to add?
Check out the shows. It’s going to be great. I’m not sure it’ll ever happen again. I’m pretty positive we’ll never go out and play Astoria again. We may get back together again, but it’s taken ten years to do it. And check out Versus the World, because that’s my baby.
The Ataris So Long, Astoria Reunion Tour Dates:
02/28 – Scottsdale, AZ – Pub Rock *
03/01 – Las Vegas, NV – Backstage Bar *
03/02 – Fresno, CA – Strummer’s *
03/03 – San Luis Obispo, CA – SLO Brewing Company *
03/05 – Los Angeles, CA – House of Blues %
03/06 – Anaheim, CA – House of Blues %
03/07 – San Diego, CA – House of Blues %
03/08 – San Francisco, CA – Bottom of the Hill %
03/11 – Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre %
03/12 – Seattle, WA – The Showbox at the Market %
03/13 – Boise, ID – Knitting Factory %
03/14 – Salt Lake City, UT – In The Venue (Club Sound) %
03/15 – Denver, CO – The Summit Music Hall +
03/16 – Kansas City, MO – Riot Room %
03/18 – St. Louis, MO – Old Rock House %
03/20 – Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights #
03/21 – Chicago, IL – House of Blues #
03/22 – Indianapolis, IN – The Vogue #
03/23 – Detroit, MI – The Shelter #
03/24 – Cleveland, OH – Agora Ballroom #
03/25 – Pittsburgh, PA – Altar Bar #
03/27 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Arts #
03/28 – Silver Spring, MD – The Fillmore #
03/29 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall #
03/30 – New York, NY – The Gramercy Theatre #
* with Versus The World
% with Authority Zero, Drag The River, Versus The World
+ with Drag The River, Versus The World
# with Authority Zero, Drag The River, Gasoline Heart
Tickets are now available for The Ataris’ stop by House of Blues – Hollywood on March 5th, and for more information, visit: