Q&A with Mike Davenport of The Ataris
by Mackenzie Nichols (Journalism), published March 27th 2014
Any ‘00s pop punk music lover can agree that The Ataris’ 2003 album So Long, Astoria is among the first named when discussing the genre’s groundbreaking albums. When the opportunity arose to bring the album back to its fans after a decade, bassist Mike Davenport along with the rest of the album’s lineup decided to pause their lives and tour the album across the country. With the help of agent Andy Somers, vocalist/guitarist Kristopher Roe, drummer Chris Knapp and guitarist John Collura have teamed up with Mike Davenport and his band Versus the World to showcase Astoria and the essence of The Ataris. Davenport talked with Tastemakers about the experience so far.
Tastemakers Magazine: So I see you guys have already had several shows on the West Coast, how have those gone so far?
Mike Davenport: So far we’ve done five shows. The first four shows were considered warm-up shows, but they were killer, kickass. The official tour started at the House of Blues in Hollywood which is just an amazing venue. We sold it out 10 years ago on the original “So Long, Astoria” tour, so it’s very fitting to start there again. The shows have been amazing… packed shows, everybody singing all the songs. We were doing [the tour] more for ourselves, but once we started playing shows we realized that there are a lot of people out there who needed this, too.
TMM: Have you had any old band mates show up to your shows? I know you guys have changed your lineup quite a bit over the years.
MD: Our guitar player, Pat, who played on our Look Forward To Failure E.P. and the Blue Skies record, showed up last night out of the blue and surprised us. We hadn’t seen him in like 15 years so it was awesome. [The tour] is actually pulling a lot of people out of the woodwork.
TMM: The Billboard article talks a little bit about making the tour more theatrical, can you talk about what the fans can expect from the show?
MD: Kris [Roe] was definitely was a little more ambitious in the beginning and wanted to have some videos accompanying [the songs], but at the end we elected to stand on just the rock show which is what we’ve always done. There’s a lot of stuff that we’ve added to the songs; a lot of breakdowns and flows from one song to another.
TMM: Does So Long, Astoria as a whole illustrate a particular theme or concept?
MD: It’s a concept called “futuring”, which is making the most of your memories… making instant memories basically. Every moment that you’re living you’re trying to make an important memory that really makes you feel like you’re living and not just going through the motions. We got [the idea] from the artist Richard Hell. Kris read his book [Go Now] and it inspired him to write Astoria on that concept.
TMM: How has The Ataris changed in recent years, specifically with Astoria’s follow up in 2007 Welcome the Night?
MD: Kris started writing this more indie-rock stuff using a little bit of country and it just wasn’t The Ataris I wanted to be in. I started Versus The World at that time and I thought we should be more like Rise Against and bands like that who were coming out. I thought The Ataris would have been perfect to go a more pop punk record and going even a bit heavier. Columbia, our label, didn’t want [Welcome the Night] because they didn’t feel like it was the brand they had signed and I didn’t feel like that either. Kris put it out anyway, and it became a huge deal for him. I admire him for that attitude. Recently he’s trying to go back to more pop punk music with “The Graveyard of The Atlantic”. I’m going to try to get [Kris] to move back to Santa Barbara, he came out here for rehearsal and seemed to be really inspired. Maybe to get that record done he needs to change and I’m gonna try to support him on that, but at the same time I’m working on my new record for Versus the World.
TMM: So your band, Versus the World, has a heavier pop punk feel?
MD: Pop punk, yeah. It’s more guitar oriented than the Ataris, but the songwriting is very similar.
TMM: Kris talks about “Boys of Summer” as being sort of an accident, what is your take on the inspiration for the single?
MD: I talk about it in a different way. We were in a truck stop and it came on over the loudspeaker. We started talking about our memories of “Boys of Summer” and where I was as a kid when it came out. The next day at sound-check we started messing with it, [Kris] started playing the guitar riff on his acoustic. We just decided to throw it out there one night and the crowd went crazy. It was too powerful for us, it ended up kind of defining us.
TMM: Where do you see pop punk heading in the next few years?
MD: There is a resurgence right now of pop punk and that’s because bands are out there like The Wonder Years and Such Gold and Living With Lions who are bringing it back. The kids are going back and discovering The Ataris and Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World and bands like that. I think music goes in 5 year cycles. Pop punk was really huge until about 2005 and then it went dead from 2006 to 2010, now 2010 to 2015… we’re killin’ it. That’s why all of these bands are performing and doing tours. People are buying tickets and that’s awesome, but I just hope we don’t go back into the depths again. We’ll have to see what Fall Out Boy does. If they retire again then we’re all doomed [laughs].