The Heart Attacks return

Atlanta punks get a delayed swan song

Five years after unceremoniously splitting up, Atlanta's glam and U.K. punk-obsessed five-piece the Heart Attacks are reuniting for two nights for a fest that's been dubbed the first annual Gathering of the Playboys. According to ex-Heart Attacks and current Biters guitarist Tuk Smith, the idea was hatched when local promoter Waylon Pouncy (No Way Entertainment) pitched the reunion to headline a rock 'n' roll festival that was being planned for December. The Biters were already on a break, searching for a new bassist, and the rest of the group was into the idea.

Other bands from Atlanta's mid-aughts rock 'n' roll boom, such as the Booze and Beat Beat Beat, have reunited recently as well. But a Heart Attacks reunion carries more weight, mostly because the group quit playing together seemingly without warning. Returning for a proper send-off has the group's fans in Atlanta and elsewhere eager for closure. "People are coming from all over the country, and maybe a few from overseas," Smith says. "The type of rock 'n' roll we played was not just a local thing."

But the Gathering is more than just an excuse to party. "I want to make a festival that we'll have every year," Smith says, "featuring cool bands that are busy doing stuff but not getting the attention they deserve."

The Heart Attacks emerged in 2004 as a group of local teenagers bonding over a shared love for such first wave punk bands as the Boys, Generation X, and Slaughter and the Dogs. Following a series of raucous live sets at the defunct Lenny's Bar and Marietta's all-ages staple Swayze's, the band released its first album, Heart and Scissor Killers, in July 2005 via Brand Name Records — a local label that co-released Black Lips' "Ain't Comin' Back" 7-inch with Die Slaughterhaus, as well as other releases by Treephort, the Letters Organize, and more.

While on the road in a customized school bus, following the 2005 Warped Tour caravan — even after finding out that its promised bookings on the tour had fallen through — the group was hustling CDs and T-shirts in the parking lot at one tour stop. It was there that Rancid singer and guitarist Tim Armstrong, who also runs Hellcat Records, first encountered the band's members, and was instantly drawn to their look, sound, and anything goes state of mind.

Armstrong signed the group and released Hellbound and Heartless in 2006. The album was produced by fellow Rancid guitarist and singer Lars Frederiksen, and highlighted by such songs as "Eyes" and "Tearstained Letters." The latter of which is a doo-wop style duet featuring Noles singing alongside Joan Jett.

National tours with Rancid and Social Distortion followed. But by 2008, behind the scenes drama, clashing egos, and lineup changes put a halt to work on the group's second Hellcat album. "There were a lot of factors that contributed to the group's demise, but everyone is different now," Smith says, admitting that he's grown a lot since the Heart Attacks' short time together.

Smith and Noles will be reunited on stage again with guitarist Dave "the Wave" Klein, who is flying in from New York, and original bassist Paul Masci. Drumming will be split between local fixture Amos Insane (A.P.A. and LUST), performing songs from the first album, while Joey O'Brien (Biters, Gunpowder Gray) sits behind the kit for some of the group's later numbers.

The two-night festival will be filled out by other acts, including Noles' current band Dino's Boys, and touring acts such as Jersey City's Wyldlife — a young group that Smith and local engineer Dan Dixon recorded an album for earlier this year. But the highlight, of course, will be Heart Attacks' first chance to finally reconnect with an audience and reflect on its original run; a time spent together that was much shorter than the five-year wait it's taken to receive a proper farewell.