The Ataris have an unlikely new single on their hands — one that even the bandmembers didn't expect to take off.
That's because the Southern California quartet never intended their version of Don Henley's "The Boys of Summer" to be released as a single. The proper follow-up to "In This Diary," off the band's fifth album, So Long, Astoria, was supposed to be "My Reply," but radio programmers just couldn't keep their hands off the Ataris' "Boys."
"Releasing a cover song as a single is a move we didn't want to do," explained singer/guitarist Kris Roe, but when powerhouse New York and Los Angeles rock stations K-Rock and KROQ started playing it, "we just had to go with it."
Other stations followed their lead, and now "The Boys of Summer" is among the most added songs at alternative radio stations nationwide.
Roe and bandmates Johnny Collura (guitar), Mike Davenport (bass) and Chris Knapp (drums) weren't completely aghast when they heard their amped-up rendition on the airwaves. They knew that covers are usually surefire sucker cuts, but despite a warning from their record label, they went ahead and included it on March's So Long, Astoria, mostly because of Roe's affinity for the song.
"Our label said, 'Look, you know if you put this on the record there's going to be a chance that somebody's going to put it out as a single,' " Roe said. "And that was a chance we were willing to take because we like the song."
"The Boys of Summer," which was co-written by Mike Campbell, guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, holds special significance for Roe, who for a time in 1984 was himself a boy of summer.
"I used to travel down to Florida every summer to visit my grandparents," he said. "One year — I think I was 8 — that song was just huge on the radio. And I just remember that that song captured totally the moment for me: Traveling by myself for the first time, seeing these beautiful sunsets, and I felt like this young Holden Caulfield traveling the world. ['The Boys of Summer'] reminds me of this time when I realized traveling was what I wanted to do with my life. That song captures the summer for me."
The Ataris were so close to dropping "My Reply" as their second single, they had even settled on a video treatment with director Steven Murashige, who also helmed the clip for "In This Diary." But instead of scrapping the mysterious and surreally colored concept entirely, they made some adjustments and will apply it to the "Boys of Summer" video, which they plan on shooting later this month.
"We've never wanted to do a video that just seemed like your normal 'kids hanging out at a party, dancing around and drinking' [video]," Roe said. "That is totally clichéd, the whole 'Can't Hardly Wait'-style teen video ... so we totally went for the opposite.
"We want to make it really dark, to tell the story of a darker summer. It's about a girl trying to let go of a lot of the things she had in the summer. The treatment that Steven came up with totally blew me away. It's going to be a video that really turns some heads."
The Ataris will play a radio festival in Mountain View, California, on June 13 before they head out on the Vans Warped Tour June 19 in Nampa, Idaho (see "Warped Tour Dates Announced, 17 More Bands Added").