Atlas Genius, a rising indie rock band from Australia, started with a homemade studio. “We had a lot of song ideas and it was important to us to have our own studio where we could experiment and hone in on our sound,” drummer Michael Jeffery says on the band’s website. And clearly this was a recipe for their success; since their first song’s release in 2011, they’ve gone on to release an EP and a full album and to go on tour with Imagine Dragons. They are currently headlining their own tour in the United States, hitting Harlow’s in Sacramento on May 22 with opening band The Postelles, another indie rock group that hails from Manhattan.
Known for their hit song “Trojans,” Atlas Genius is easily recognized for their feel-good melodies that make you want to get up and live life. Their lyrics speak to everyone in some way, each song filled with honest, thought-provoking lines. It’s the perfect music to dance to, to love to, and to live to.
I got the opportunity to speak with vocalist and guitarist Keith Jeffery, who quickly proved to be a friendly and laid-back guy with a great passion for his music and his fans alike.
Where are you right now?
I’m in sunny Santa Monica.
Ooh, how is it?
Beautiful, as Santa Monica tends to be.
I was wondering where your name comes from – Atlas Genius.
Michael had a dream, and the name came to him in a dream.
So a lot of buzz surrounded the song ‘Trojans’ when it first came out [in America] in 2012, and you were kind of dropped into the category of ‘bands to watch’. How did that feel? That must have been a lot of pressure.
All that depends on how you think about it. Like when people say that kind of stuff, I think it’s flattering. But the other thing is, you know, it can put pressure on you if you try and live up to that or whatever, but it’s really all you can do as a musician, at any time, is focus on the music. […] I mean, the truth of it is, good things come and go, and some bands, you know, play for thirty years or something or stick around for six months. […] So all you can do in the end is just enjoy it and focus on writing the best songs that you can [write].
So would you say you’re more focused on the music and not noticing the fame as much?
Um, yeah, definitely. I mean, [it’s a job that comes with] a lot of notoriety. But it’s still a job, and it’s still, it [comes with] a lot of passion as well. […] So, um, you’ve just got to focus on what you’re doing day to day.
So 2013 seems like it’s going to be a pretty big year for you guys, yeah?
It looks like it’s gonna be a busy one, yeah. We’ve got things pretty much booked up ‘till the end of the year. […] We’re going to some pretty cool places. Um, and, and playing some, we’ve gone all our big festivals coming up in the summer over here, which is gonna be really great. The lineups are amazing.
How’s it feel to headline your own tour this year?
It seems like a good step. Like it’s a big step, you know, I think, I think that there, it’s kind of, uh, exciting, […] you know, we started playing our shows, our shows out here in August, […] and in less than a year, now we’re doing our own shows. So it’s a big [deal], right, but we’re excited about it.
So can you tell me a little bit about the members of Atlas Genius?
I can. Michael is my brother, the drummer. And we have a keyboard player from England. And currently we have a bass player from California.
Wow, that’s a lot of diversity. How’d you find these people?
Yeah, we’re very multicultural here. Darren [the keyboardist], actually we met, um, our keyboard player, we actually met in Australia. But he [had] just moved to Australia about ten days or so before we met him. So it was just one of those serendipitous meetings where we got chatting and we loved it. We had similar interests and we started dating musically.
[laughs] And what about your bass player?
He’s a Californian, a man of many talents, we met him, last year. We met him just through a mutual friend, actually.
So you’re in a band with your brother. Is that better or worse than being in a band with people you’re not related to?
Different. There’s pros and cons, pros and cons for both. But I get on really well with Michael, so obviously we’ve got a strong connection there. We’ve got similar influences, we understand each other and where we’re coming from, so I think it’s a great thing.
Is there any sibling rivalry with you guys?
Not so much because […] I think with music, he’s a drummer and I’m a guitarist and I sing, so it’s, you know, it’s different, and I think he’s got his own area. I think if he broke my guitar or something, we’d probably get a [sibling rivalry] situation. I don’t think there’s too much rivalry with the music. He might disagree with my opinion.
Is he your older brother or your younger brother?
He is my baby brother. So I can kind of boss him around a bit, you know?
Do you guys, like, all hang out when you’re not playing together, or do you kind of need a break from each other to do your own thing?
You know, touring’s a funny thing, where you spend so much time with each other for […] four and a half months, and so for every day you’re kind of with each other, like, always, 24 hours a day. And I think that, when we have a break, I think we all kind of go our way for a couple of weeks just to get some spacing. I think it’s a healthy thing to do. I think we spend more time with each other than, than people do in relationships, you know? Like we work together, we pretty much, we travel together. We don’t actually sleep together.
Do you see those parts of each other that you wouldn’t normally see unless you were in a relationship?
When you’re touring, there’s gonna be a day where you’re just exhausted and you’re not on best behavior. So we’ll see that part of each other. But everyone, they’re all good guys, and[laughs] you know, I’m a bastard, but you know, it’s okay.
So you’ve recently been signed to Warner Brothers. Do you feel more restricted in your playing or your songwriting since you’ve been signed?
No, that’s the reason we chose Warner Brothers, ‘cause what, part of what we wanted in a record deal was the freedom to continue to write and produce it ourselves, which we do. Which was really important because I think that, you know, we try to, we’ve kind of proven that, that we can do it on our own. […] We definitely don’t want someone coming in […] trying to change what we’re doing, because we had a strong meaning for what we wanted to do. So […] I feel like it was the right choice, and we’re happy with what we chose […].
You have an upcoming concert in Sacramento, and it’s going to be pretty intense. Do you have any hangover cures that you swear by for our readers for the morning after?
Hangover cures…um, I guess, by indulging in this, I will be condoning the excessive consumption of alcohol. But [laughs] okay, so hangover cures. I think it’s drinking a few Gatorades. That’s always a good one. And vitamin B. Getting some vitamin B tablets in you. I mean I’m a vegetarian so I take vitamin B tablets anyway. But I think they’re supposed to be good for you.
What made you decide to be a vegetarian?
Well the whole animal cruelty thing. That was a big factor. I just, there’s just so much needless torturing of animals in the production of meat. And I think it’s, it’s disgusting. […]
What message do you hope that fans take home with them after an Atlas Genius concert?
Well I don’t think we try to preach any message with our music. […] I think they, they would just come to a concert, and I would just, just kind of forget anything else and really get into that concert. […] If we’re successful at a concert, then they’ve kind of forgotten about anything that might have been bothering them and just get into it for that hour that we’re playing.
Atlas Genius and The Postelles are playing at Harlow’s on May 22. Make sure to get your tickets for a night of great music, passionate crowds, and lots of fun! Check out http://www.atlasgenius.com for tickets and more information about the band.
Photo Frank Maddocks
Words Tessa Murphy