A lot has happened since 1985, the year local garage/post-punk outfit A.T.S. first started calling itself a band. From the beginning, the group had been difficult to classify. Several years ago, original drummer Steve Heineman told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that A.T.S. was "a country band trying to play jazz." Today, guitarist/vocalist Evan Knaeur and bassist Mike Marcinko have given up on classifications.
"Now I just say we are a rock band," admits Knaeur.
"It's hard for me to be objective when it comes to classifying our music," says Marcinko, "I guess I'm just too close to it."
On Saturday, A.T.S — currently rounded out by Kip Ruefle on drums — will grace the stage at Howlers, in Bloomfield, celebrating three decades together. It will be a show befitting such a milestone, as A.T.S plays first as a trio, and then closes out the night with Meet the Beatless, a seven-piece super-group of past and present A.T.S. members, including its original bass player, Josh Arnson of Asylum Street Spankers. Opening the celebration will be newly formed band The Full Counts, which features members of The Cynics, Legendary Hucklebucks, White Wreckage, and the Steel Miners.
Both Knauer and Marcinko recognize that 30 years is a long time, especially in band years. For Knauer, it's all about effort.
"Thirty years making music, for me, just means we tried harder." In other words, just because a band hits the five-, 10- or 15-year mark doesn't necessarily give it more staying power than any other band. Hard work is still the foundation.
For Marcinko, 30 years is more about the relationships forged: "I've had the privilege to work with my best friends at doing what I like best."
Recognizing that such longevity ultimately inspires others, A.T.S. maintains its humility.
"I hope we've influenced other bands," Knaeur reflects, "but we're still being influenced, too. Our songwriting is influenced by The Working Poor, our continuity by The Cynics, and our musicality by Ben Opie."
"Hopefully, we've been able to influence younger musicians in a positive way," Marcinko says. "Most of them have probably never heard of us, though!"