For as rebellious and counterculture as punk rock is supposed to be, there are a lot of unwritten rules punk bands are supposed to follow. Getting “too big” or signing to a major label is often met with derisive jeers or skepticism from fans.
It’s the same thing with the music: When a “punk” band starts experimenting with sounds, slows the tempo or matures as a songwriting unit, the comments get even nastier.
Just ask Mike Davenport, bassist for the California pop-punk band the Ataris. “There’s always the naysayer,” Davenport said. “Music is for everyone; it’s not an elitist art form. I believe punk rock should embody that principle the most. But sometimes punk rock kids are so closed-minded.”
Davenport and his bandmates in the Ataris have taken some flak for their latest album, So Long, Astoria, not only because it was released on Columbia, but because the album features several tracks that are more reflective, soulful and…slower, like “The Saddest Song” (the title says it all).
If a listener were to compare the band’s early releases on Kung Fu Records to So Long, Astoria, it might sound like two different groups. But Davenport insists it was a natural progression. “Everything that happens with us is very organic and kind of rolls into its own deal,” he explained. “If you would have asked me three years ago, I would have been surprised at what we’re writing now, but the thing is we’ve matured as songwriters and as musicians and people.
“No matter who we would have released the record with, it would have sounded like this.”