Vintage Ataris: new album, old-school style

Bill Thomas, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Kristopher Roe has an old soul.

Though he’s only 35 years old, Roe’s rustic, confessional approach to music makes him appear a nostalgic throwback amid the current mainstream music industry, which seems to be increasingly dominated by electronic dance-pop and flagrant Auto-Tune abuse.

In an era where even the tiniest audio flaw can be effortlessly smoothed over by sterilizing software programs like Pro Tools, Roe is having none of it.

“When you’re staring at a computer screen, just analyzing sound waves all day, you’re really picking things apart in the wrong way,” Roe said, explaining why he prefer to record using vintage analog equipment. “There’s just something you can feel, something you can hear when you record onto tape and the sound travels through those old tubes. There’s a warmth to it that modern music just doesn’t have. Everything is so disposable these days.”

It’s clear Roe has developed some pretty strong opinions after being in the music industry for almost two decades. Since 1995, he’s been the lead singer, guitarist, songwriter and overall mastermind of Indiana-based alt-rock act The Ataris. Five studio albums in and several lineup and record label changes later, Roe remains the only original member of the band.

Any act that’s been around as long as The Ataris bound to have had its fair share of ups and downs. That fact is evident in the band’s current tour, which will bring Roe and Co. to Wilkes-Barre’s Redwood Art Space on Tuesday, Feb. 21. Pairing the frontman with guitarist Thomas Holst, bassist Bryan Nelson and drummer Rob Felicetti, this tour marks the first time Roe has toured with a live band since 2010.

“The shows are a very fast-paced and energetic. It’s tight but it feels like it can fall apart at any minute; it’s unpredictable,” Roe said. “I’m really exciting to be playing with a band again. It’s been a great tour and it’s only improving with each show.”

That sense of high-impact urgency, or “controlled chaos” as Roe is fond of saying, is something that has also re-emerged in the form of recent strides the songwriter has made toward finishing the long-awaited Ataris album, “The Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Originally started back in 2007, “The Graveyard of the Atlantic” found itself repeatedly delayed by the aforementioned lineup and label changes. After years of keeping fans in anticipation, Roe now promises the album will finally see release this summer.

The album will also see Roe return to the same punky, upbeat sound that pushed The Ataris’ 2003 album, “So Long, Astoria,” to No. 24 on the Billboard 200 and landed the band a spot on the “Spider-Man 2” soundtrack.

For Roe, though, the return to that sound wasn’t an intentional choice based on album sales. In fact, he said, it wasn’t intentional at all.

“I don’t think about it. When I’m writing songs, I let whatever is going to come out come out,” he remarked. “I don’t like to feel like we’re going backwards. There was a time in my life when I was trying to find contentment after going through a lot of turmoil. After that, I felt like I came full circle and was able to write an album that was more back to being organic rock ‘n’ roll songs.”

Admission for The Ataris’ concert with The Queers and Far From Finished at Redwood Art Space in Wilkes-Barre, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, is $15. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, visit or