While the pop-punk band the Ataris never officially broke up, the band did significantly alter its line-up in the mid-2000s. That’s when bassist Mike Davenport and drummer Chris Knapp both left the group. Last year, the Davenport and Knapp reunited with singer Kris Rowe and started rehearsing for a tour that would commemorate the ten-year anniversary of 2003’s So Long, Astoria, arguably their best album. On their current tour, which stops at the Agora Ballroom on Monday, the band will play So Long, Astoria in its entirety.
“The Ataris’ history is messier on paper than it was ever was in my era,” says Davenport via phone from his Santa Barbara home. “In my era, I started with Kris and we were solid together for 11 years. We did have different guitar players and then once I was gone, it went one person after another. After 11 years together, we just needed a break.”
But after a 9-year break, he admits that he and his former bandmates decided it was time to get back together simply because “we started missing it.”
“We were nervous about [a reunion],” says Davenport. “There were doubts about whether people would come to the shows or whether we would have our old chops. Turns out, it’s been magical—a thousand times better than anyone’s expectation."
Featuring pop-punk/emo songs that tap into the timeless theme of growing up, So Long, Astoria distilled the band’s ragtag punk rock roots into something for palatable. The guys were often compared to Jimmy Eat World and that comparison rings true on the album as songs such as “Takeoffs and Landings” and “In This Diary” start slow with chunky guitar riffs and parched vocals before turning into hearty sing-alongs.
“During So Long, everything was wonderful because it was what the [label] [was] looking for,” Davenport says. “We made them the album that they wanted. They would get updates from our producer. They didn’t meddle at all. They gave us a piece of advice but at the end of the Ataris — and this is why I left — Kris had radically changed his style on [2007’s] Welcome the Night. I was already in Versus the World and they ended up dropping the Ataris because that record wasn’t an Ataris record to them. That shows you how quick the hammer falls. Kris was trying to be artistic and mix it up. He wanted to be known as a great songwriter. He wanted to do something radically different. He’s done it over the course of the other records. That upset the major label enough to cut it off.”
So far, Davenport, who still plays in the indie rock band Versus the World, says the tour has been “amazing” and nearly every night of the tour has been sold out. He says the band isn’t likely to ever play So Long, Astoria in its entirety again. But he’s not ruling out another tour or even another album.
“At the beginning, I would have said it’s a one-time thing,” he says “Now, you never know. We’re not all working toward the same goal. Kris is going to do acoustic shows in the UK and China after this. Versus the World is going to the studio make a new album. I have talked Kris into coming to California to make a new record with the old band and some new guys. I would even say there will be more shows in the future, but I don’t know for sure.”