Kung Fu Records (1995–2002)
Formed in 1995, the band originally consisted of singer, songwriter, guitarist Kris Roe and guitarist Jasin Thomason. Using a 4-track, Kris wrote and recorded demos in his bedroom, using a drum machine while he searched for a full-time drummer. The band's first big break came in 1996 when Kris attended a show at the club Bogart's in Cincinnati, where Jasin passed one of the band's demo tapes to a roadie from the band. The roadie gave the tape to Joe Escalante, bassist from the band The Vandals who owned their own label, Kung Fu Records. A few weeks later, Roe received a call from Kung Fu Records, who told him they were interested in putting out their record, even though he was really only searching for a drummer. The Ataris signed to Kung Fu and the label passed the tape along to various drummers. Eventually, Roe decided upon ex-Lagwagon drummer Derrick Plourde. The band then proceeded to record their debut album Anywhere but Here, tracking the whole thing in less than a week. The album was released on April 29, 1997 and the band held a release show party at Missing Link Records in Indianapolis on May 2.
In June 1997, Roe moved from Anderson, Indiana to Santa Barbara, California. Shortly afterward, Marko Desantis joined the band on bass for a short time. Thomason decided to leave the band to stay in Indiana, and the group toured as a three-piece for a short while. After a brief tour in October 1997, this lineup disbanded. Roe, out of money and living in a van, contemplated moving back to Indiana. But the band still had an upcoming tour booked with Dance Hall Crashers and Unwritten Law, so Roe decided to give the band one more shot. He got his friend from Santa Barbara, Mike Davenport, to play bass. Davenport shared a small rehearsal space on East Haley Street with his friend Marco Peña, who was in a different band. One day at the rehearsal space, Roe and Davenport heard the drummer of Peña's band, Chris Knapp, playing and immediately asked him to join The Ataris. While Roe and Davenport joked that Peña would be upset over them "stealing" his band's drummer, Peña surprised them by showing up at their practice the next day, strapping on his guitar, and playing along. It turned out Peña had learned all the songs from Anywhere But Here. He joined the band as a second guitarist and the foursome went on their scheduled tour. However, Peña soon left the band due to personal reasons and was replaced by Patrick Riley.
From there, the band gradually increased in popularity in the underground rock scene, a lot due to their consistent touring and personal, DIY approach to the band. They then found more success with their 1998 EP Look Forward to Failure, released on San Francisco punk label Fat Wreck Chords. However, it wasn't until the release of Blue Skies, Broken Hearts...Next 12 Exits in the year 1999 that they started to gain widespread acclaim. The album's name comes from the name of a mobile home park along Highway 101 in Santa Barbara. Also, "...next 12 exits" refers to a nearby sign on Highway 101 North that reads "Santa Barbara, Next 12 Exits". The album contained personal, storytelling lyrics and heartfelt tales of relationships, discovery and things once left behind. After this album, Riley left the band to go back to school, and Marco Peña re-joined the band.
The band's third full length studio album, End is Forever, was released in 2001. This album painted a more intensely personal side of the band's storytelling and personal relationships. Due to their persistent touring schedule, a lot of the arrangements and lyrics were worked out at the last minute while in the studio and then the vocals recorded while Roe had a bad cold. Roe maintains that he was not completely happy with half of the songs, although he went on to state that in spite of this, several of the songs such as "Fast Times at Dropout High" and "Road Signs and Rock Songs" were still to date some of the band's strongest of their earlier career.
So Long, Astoria (2003–05)
In 2002, the lineup changed again, with John Collura replacing Peña on guitar. Prior to this, Collura had played in his own band who'd toured with The Ataris. He'd also done time on tour as a guitar tech for The Ataris just prior to Peña's departure.
During this same period, the Ataris' contract with Kung Fu Records expired, and the band chose to sign with Columbia Records. Later that year, they began recording their fourth full-length album and major label debut, So Long, Astoria, released on March 4, 2003.
Produced by Lou Giordano, the album's production served as a stark contrast to any of the band's past releases. Whereas previous efforts would be recorded in short time spans between tours.
So Long, Astoria was widely credited for introducing The Ataris to a larger mainstream audience and generating several successful singles, including "In This Diary" and "The Saddest Song." Musically, the album showcased very personal, encrypted and slightly more optimistic songwriting with a more refined, straightforward rock sound, not unlike Jimmy Eat World. This album also included their hit cover song, originally recorded by Don Henley "The Boys of Summer", which much to the dismay of the band became their "accidental" second single after a radio station, KROQ in Los Angeles started playing it, even though the band had already chosen the song "My Reply" as their second single. The single is their highest charting single to date, reaching No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The band toured behind this record for most of 2003 and into early 2004. That year also saw the release of a low-key live album, Live At The Metro, along with a track on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack. So Long, Astoria sold well in excess of 700,000 copies and was certified gold.
After a number of personal, financial and artistic differences, this line-up decided to respectfully and creatively go its separate ways over the summer and fall of 2004. Davenport, interested in playing heavier music, became a founding member of the band Versus the World, while Knapp stopped playing music altogether and stayed in Santa Barbara. Details regarding the departures of Knapp and Davenport have been kept quiet for sometime, and neither camp has appeared interested in fueling any public debate or ill-will.
Looking for some time off, Roe headed back to Indiana while Collura moved back to New York; though the pair would later regroup to begin the recordings of the band's next album.
Welcome the Night (2005–07)
After some time off, Roe and Collura later moved forward and began writing songs that would become part of the follow-up to So Long, Astoria titled Welcome The Night. They held some informal practices with some friends from New York, who played in the band Park Ranger. These sessions led to three members of Park Ranger joining The Ataris: Sean Hansen on bass, Shane Chickeles on drums, and Paul Carabello on third guitar. To round out the lineup they added longtime friends Bob Hoag, formerly of Pollen and The Go Reflex (which was managed by Roe), on piano and keyboards, and Angus Cooke on cello. Cooke played cello on past Ataris records, and helped with production as well. Starting in 2005, the band began recording Welcome the Night at Seedy Underbelly in California, with producer Nick Launay. Writing and recording eventually took the better part of two years and was extended to multiple studios. The album was routinely delayed by Columbia.
On June 10, 2006, the band announced that it had left Columbia Records due to the label's internal disintegration. In November 2006, The Ataris started their own imprint, Isola Recordings, through Sanctuary Records and RED Distribution, and simultaneously announced the official release date of their fifth album Welcome the Night as February 20, 2007. Welcome the Night debuted at number 85 on the Billboard charts with over 12,000 copies sold. Following the album's release, the band embarked on a tour of the United States and Europe.
The Graveyard of the Atlantic (since 2007)
Roe stated in a blog post that the band's new material would see a return to the more upbeat, urgent, rock sound from albums like End Is Forever. He said, "I feel that today where I am at is sort of coming around full circle and just having fun again and being newly inspired by the art that made me discover music in the first place.".
In Spring 2008, three members of a local Indiana band joined The Ataris, replacing the Welcome The Night-era lineup after an amicable split. The band began recording demos for their next album at The Gallows Studio in Muncie, Indiana. Roe described the songs as "just very melodic, raw, catchy, upbeat, sing along rock songs" and "definitely everything the opposite of slick, polished and over produced."
In December 2008, the band recorded a batch of new songs at Flying Blanket Studios in Arizona. Some of which Roe has stated will likely become part of their forthcoming album "The Graveyard of the Atlantic"
Kristopher Roe played a number of acoustic shows throughout Europe and U.K. from January through March 2009. The full band then toured through South America, South Africa, an extensive U.S. tour and scattered dates on the Warped Tour in summer 2009.
Roe finished all of the guitars, bass, and drums for the existing thirteen songs in April 2009. Vocals have currently been recorded on four of those finished tracks. Roe has stated that he has written several other songs since and plans to record and add some of those tracks to The Graveyard of the Atlantic. Roe has confirmed the song "Fast Times at Dropout High", from the End is Forever album, will be re-recorded for the new album. The band recently uploaded an early, unmastered mix of "All Souls Day", as well as an untitled acoustic demo. Both of which will likely be included on their upcoming CD. This rough mix of "All Souls' Day" was also included on the 2009 Warped tour compilation CD.
In August, Roe posted a blog on the band's MySpace page informing that the new album will be named The Graveyard of the Atlantic. The album will be released in Japan by Bullion Records and in the United States on the Gainesville, Florida based label, Paper + Plastick.
On June 10, 2010 Kristopher Roe announced (through facebook.com/theataris) that a 7 inch containing two new songs will be released on July 6 on the Gainesville, FL label Paper + Plastick, in time for their summer tour with Gasoline Heart. The 7 inch contains full band recordings of the songs "All Souls' Day" and "The Graveyard of the Atlantic" and was made available November 25, 2010.
In January–February 2011, Kris Roe embarked on a cross country acoustic solo tour of the US, mostly playing stripped down acoustic versions of The Ataris songs, as well as the occasional spontaneous cover song. During the band's down time Kristopher still continues to tour the world acoustically. To date Kristopher has embarked on several successful acoustic tours throughout the United States, Australia, Japan, South America, Europe, U.K. and Canada.
In an interview with Kris Roe on February 7, 2011, he has confirmed that 20 songs had been recorded in the sessions for their upcoming album The Graveyard of the Atlantic, Likely around twelve of those would make the final record. Some of the leftover tracks will be released over a staggered period of time as 7"'s. bonus tracks and B-sides at the band's own leisure. Kristopher also confirmed that there were still vocals to record for six of those remaining final album tracks, then mixing and mastering will follow. All of the album has been recorded completely to analog tape, using organic sounds and vintage equipment. However as of May 2012 the status of the album is still unknown. At a concert March 6 Kris announced that the album would be released in December 2012.