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The Ataris have grown up since “In This Diary” and the cover of Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer” heated up the airwaves in 2003. Since then, they have endured several personnel changes and album delays much to the chagrin of fans. However, the original lineup came together once again to play their breakout album So Long, Astoria in its entirety this spring. We recently spoke with one of the main guitarists on the album, John Collura, about that reunion.
So you’re touring with the original So Long, Astoria lineup for the 10th Anniversary. When did that idea come to fruition?
It was March of last year and I had gotten a call from Aaron Lewis, the band’s longtime manager. I had not spoken to him in a couple of years…I had not been in the band for six years at that point. He just called me out of the blue and said he had been talking with some people and they had discussed getting the original lineup back together and doing a tour. I was not going to say no off the bat, but it was possible. I hadn’t spoken to those people in years.
They contacted each of us separately. It just made sense. It had been ten years since So Long Astoria was released in 2003. At first, we thought we would just do a set of songs from the past, but we then decided to go and ahead do the full thing, even though we knew it was not a completely original idea. I know it’s now the eleventh anniversary, but since we thought of it together, it just made sense to do it.
I remember getting that album a year or two after it was initially released. Both Taking Back Sunday and Motion City Soundtrack have done these types of shows. As a performer, how does the way you approach these songs evolve throughout the years?
It’s funny. I haven’t listened to the record in so long that it sort of feels fresh to me. Yes, I was a part of it and was a fan of it. I really feel like if this record came out tomorrow, it would still be relevant. We haven’t played half of these songs since we recorded them. I feel like that’s typical of most bands.
I find it refreshing to come back to it. It feels new again to me. When I started rehearsing for it, I thought it would be difficult because I haven’t played these songs in so long, but it didn’t take long for me to get into the groove. There are some songs that I forgot that we had on there. It really was not much of a challenge.
I was watching the Replacements documentary and one of the interview subjects said, “It’s good when you make a record that sounds timeless because you don’t want to make a record that someone can pinpoint the exact time you recorded it.” You want to make a record that you can pick up and still sounds fresh today.
I know that I’m biased [since I was] involved in this. We know that we weren’t inventing anything when we made this. I think we were nervous when we were writing and recording this record just because it was our first major label record and it was going to be the record that would be heard by more people than ever before. We just wanted to try and keep it simple.
“In This Diary” was definitely the breakout song, but why did you all decide to go for the Don Henley number [“Boys of Summer”]?
It was really Kris Roe’s idea. He had grown up going to Florida every summer to visit his grandparents. The year that song was released, his grandmother would take him to a record store and she would let him buy whatever he wanted, which happened to be that record that summer. So Long, Astoria was themed on nostalgia. It was really that simple.
So we sped it up and we just put it on the record as track ten. Most of your big singles are songs one through four. You never hide your big single as track ten. It was honestly a mistake; at least we thought it was. I think the record company knew once they heard it that they were going to promote it as a single. It wasn’t against our will, but it definitely wasn’t something in the initial plans.
I don’t necessarily love it or hate it. It’s just one of those songs that you hear in a grocery store or gas station all of the time.
What were some of your favorite moments during that peak time of that record?
For me, it was the Reading Festival. There was something about that show that was really awesome. I didn’t really know anything about Reading and had never played it before. I honestly did not know much of the history. We played on a Warped Tour-like stage and there was a big crowd there. We were lucky enough to play fairly late, probably around 7:30 or 8 o’clock. That show went off and there was a crowd. I felt like it was one of the coolest things that we had done.
Not long after that show, we were still in Europe and we wound up somehow opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Germany. It was not a festival show; it was their tour. I don’t know how we got it. That was the biggest show I ever played, easily over 30,000 people. It was a little weird because it was summer time, but it was really late and pure daylight and [there were] 30,000 German people with their arms crossed. It ended up okay; we got them to applaud a few times. But that was definitely a wild moment for me.
Follow the band on Twitter: @theataris
photos by Michael Charlson