You know The Ataris’ current hit “Boys Of Summer?” Those SoCal punkers actually didn’t want you to hear that tune. Ever. Well, at least not their version of it.
“That was something we DID NOT want released as a single,” grunts bassist/vocalist Mike Davenport about the Don Henley cover tune. “We didn’t even want it on our album, but the record label pushed for it and it proved to be a good idea. They respected our wishes to not release it as an actual single, but the radio stations decided to play it and it caught on. There’s nothing you can do to stop that, but it was a good thing anyway.”
As the song races up the charts, it’s no wonder that this band is quickly becoming a household name. Unfortunately though, Davenport and crew are still trying to cope with the stress that a hit of this size brings. The Ataris are finding out that plenty of problems come with success.
“The bullshit is all stuff that we’ll get over when you compare it to the joy of being able to play music, but I get really frustrated with things at this point in time,” Davenport says. “It’s hard to see people think that we’re a new band. So many people are aware of nothing other than ‘Boys Of Summer’ and it pisses me off. We’ve been around for seven and a half years. We have multiple albums out, you know? This is why we signed with a major label after being indie for so long… we want to turn people on. But they’re getting into a song we didn’t write and then they show up asking us about ‘Overnight success.’ I try to school them: ‘I’ve been here eight times before, you know…'”
Sliding over to Columbia for their latest effort So Long, Astoria, The Ataris are generally pleased with their major label life so far. This isn’t to say that longtime indie label Kung Fu Records was any chore to deal with, but as Davenport relates, if the band was to continue, it was time to move ahead.
“We have a solid history of independent albums, so moving to a major isn’t that big of a deal,” he says. “It was becoming obvious to everyone that if we were to succeed, we had to look for something bigger. We felt we’d taken [Kung Fu] as far as it could go. In fact, we completely outgrew it. We gave them way more than we were supposed to because we loved them so much. If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be doing this today but we just couldn’t sell any more records without MTV and radio play. We had to get to Wal-mart and we needed a big label to do that.”
And as many fans will admit, the shift hasn’t changed the content one bit. Adored for their personal songs, the band is still just as poignant with So Long, Astoria, an album that Davenport feels ups the intensity even more.
“Kris [Roe, vocals/guitar] isn’t an emotional person,” Davenport says. “He doesn’t know how to be that way with people. He works his shit out through his songs. There are songs about me on the record. He does that with everyone else in his life. After all these years I’ve learned to get used to it but I will say that it was fucked up and hard to deal with a guy that seemed like such an unemotional asshole. Then you realize that he’s giving emotions in a different way. And he speaks to the world through them. That’s the most incredible thing about our band: the lyrics. So many bands are writing pop jingles over and over, it should be a story. Sometimes it’s hard to know that a song was written about you, but you get used to it and forget about it after a while.”