|Though singer/guitarist Kris Roe of pop punk band The Ataris may be considered a rock star by his fans, he still has trouble seeing himself in that light.
Growing up listening to his father‚??s record collection, which included the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, and The Who, he latched onto bands like Kiss at as young as three and played guitar on and off until he discovered The Descendents, The Replacements, and other punk bands he could relate to as a teenager.
Starting his own band at the age of 15, Roe would record songs in his bedroom on a four-track with a drum machine, taking his recordings to shows. While seeing bands like The Queers in Cincinnati, he gave a demo to The Vandals, who ended up introducing him to his first drummer and helping him record his first album, ‚??Anywhere But Here.‚?Ě
‚??It was just being in the right place at the right time and being really persistent, and then after that, it was just really years of getting in the van and doing it really, really organically. The bands I loved growing up like Jawbreaker and The Replacements and Husker Du ‚?? all those bands really did things from the ground up. You‚??ve really just got to build up a following, go out, get the van, and bring the music to them. Then hopefully people latch onto it and can relate to it,‚?Ě Roe, now 35, explained.
‚??Personally, I think today with modern music it‚??s a little backwards because obviously people can build a band on some virtual online presence and it doesn‚??t really matter if they go out and tour as much, but to me, I still do things the way I did them when I was young. I still record completely to analog tape, no Pro Tools or auto-tuning (expletive). We tour with four guys in a van with our own merch and our own gear. We take pride in being a band that‚??s really down-to-earth with that kind of DIY ethic. That‚??s what we do, and we love it.‚?Ě
That work ethic has gained them a steady worldwide following, releasing four albums since their debut. Spending much of last year recording their long-awaited sixth album, ‚??The Graveyard of the Atlantic,‚?Ě slated to be released over the summer, Roe also produced a five-song EP and a full 14-song LP of acoustic tracks he offers online on a ‚??pay what you want‚?Ě basis.‚??
Known for capturing in-depth and personal stories in his lyrics, he thrives on sharing these feelings with audiences who largely grew up on his music and staying in touch with them through social media like Facebook.
‚??For me, that is the biggest honor, to have somebody come and sing along with something you wrote or say that it helped them through some hard times. That‚??s not what I ever expected to happen. In fact, it‚??s the farthest thing from it, but when I hear people say that, it‚??s really surreal, even to this day,‚?Ě Roe emphasized.
‚??I‚??m really socially awkward and I try my best to say, ‚??Thank you,‚?? and I really mean it, but at the same time, I guess it just doesn‚??t register even to this day that something I wrote had the impact like the bands that I grew up relating to on that level did, the bands that helped me through life in a small town in the Midwest going through all the hardships I went through.‚?Ě
While their new album has taken longer than the others to come out, Roe said that this is largely due to how it was written. While he usually sat down with a guitar and wrote songs until completion, this time he wrote his thoughts in free verse in a journal as things were happening, then went back and twisted the words into ‚??an even more detailed picture‚?Ě with a rhyme scheme, resulting in much stronger lyrics on this outing.
‚??With the writing, I feel that my stronger points are telling darker, descriptive, personal stories of my life and really being the most brutally honest writer as I can. There‚??s one new song about my great grandmother that passed away last December, but it‚??s less about that and more about that ‚??carpe diem‚?? saying from Horace how many of us kind of walk blindly through life never really taking in the current moment but more of less just kind of planning the next moment,‚?Ě he said.
‚??She was one of the few people I knew that was really prepared for her final moment, where I can‚??t really fathom a day when I can say that I will be prepared for the end.‚?Ě
Music isn‚??t his only passion, however.
‚??Traveling is my favorite thing outside of spending time with my family, traveling and seeing the world. It kind of fuels each other. My other thing I do is I do photography and I‚??ve always done a lot of the photography for our albums,‚?Ě he added.
‚??The real broken-down chaotic beauty that you stumble upon down the road ‚?? those are things that I‚??m lucky enough to photograph, and I suppose if I was stuck in one place and I didn‚??t get the chance to see all these amazing moving places, I don‚??t think that what I do would be the same and wouldn‚??t have the same impact. My music is kind of like a conduit; it‚??s like an outlet for that. It‚??s just like a third dimension of the stories I write in songs.‚?Ě
Always staying close with his audience, this led him to craft around 50 limited edition versions of his acoustic LP with packaging made of artifacts from his life he had collected throughout his travels.
‚??I moved out to Arizona with the band; we now live outside of Phoenix. I was going through all my old things when I moved into my apartment and I didn‚??t have as much space and I‚??m like, ‚??Well, I think that some of the people who like our music would appreciate some of these things that I‚??ve collected. The thing is that everything I collect has a personal meaning, be it a brick from the top of a pyramid in Mexico or be it some piece of an old castle or an acorn from the floor of the Globe Theatre where Shakespeare was or like anything. There‚??re different things behind it and the stories are all part of it,‚?Ě Roe said.
‚??This was one more way to share those old photographs and relics. Everything was special‚?¶.I took pride in doing something cool and made them like really cool little art pieces. It was fun. Tedious and a long process, but it was sure fun.‚?Ě
Now touring with one of the very bands he looked up to as a kid, the Ataris will playing with The Queers and Far From Finished at Redwood Art Space, 740 Jumper Rd., Wilkes-Barre, on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
‚??To me, to be able to go out and tour with bands that you respected, that‚??s one of those things that you never really could have imagined when you were younger‚?¶I still get star struck. I got to meet Davis Bowie. I got a picture of myself with Kiss with full make-up and it was my Christmas card ‚?? we said ‚??Merry Kiss-mas‚?? on it,‚?Ě he shared with a laugh.
‚??If you would have told the three-year-old me that one day I would actually be standing with those guys that looked like cartoons or superheroes or something, I probably never would have believed me. These things to me are still really surreal and I never take it for granted.‚?Ě
If you go
What: The Ataris, The Queers, Far From Finished
Where: Redwood Art Space, 740 Jumper Rd., Wilkes-Barre
When: Tuesday, Feb. 21, doors 7:30 p.m., show 8 p.m.