Co-founded by brothers Keith, Michael and Steven Jeffery, along with English-born Darren Sell, the Australian indie-rock band Atlas Genius first started recording music in a studio built in a garage with the help of the brothers’ father. That was where the group wrote “Trojans,” the groovy, infectious track that broke the band into the mainstream and dominated U.S. airwaves in 2012.
Cut to 2017, and the band is now composed of just Keith and Michael Jeffery; they’ve released a second album, are working on a third and have played festivals around the country. Now, the band is embarking on what it is calling its “63 Days of Love” tour — named for the band’s latest single, but with an expanded meaning.
While the song, according to the campaign mission statement that the band released to accompany the tour, was originally written by Keith Jeffery as “a love letter I wrote to someone I broke,” he expanded on what the band is trying to accomplish during an interview.
“As we’ve all seen in the last few weeks and months, we’ve got some political disasters, we’ve had some environmental disasters, and right now more than ever is a time we need to pull together,” Jeffery explained. “If we can really embrace each other and look for the good in each other, then we can make a difference. And part of this tour is that we’re going to be engaging with fans in a way that we hope can spread that message of togetherness.”
The band has always had a penchant for trying to connect with fans on a more personal level — it usually performs sans the intense light productions and pyrotechnics many bands employ to increase the energy at shows.
“There’s the wow-factor where you can have pyrotechnics and big LED walls and that kind of thing, which is great, and certain bands do that,” Jeffery said. “I think that with our music — where it comes from, and the honesty that we try to put into the lyrics — the connection is more of a one-on-one connection. The better the show, the more I feel we connect with each person that’s in the crowd.”
That’s not easy when there’s a crowd of 1,000 or even 10,000 people. But according to Jeffery, “if you can make everybody feel like they’re with you, that you’re sharing that same emotion — whatever that song is relating to — if you can share that moment together, that’s kind of what we try to do, and that’s been my goal as a musician.”
Anyone who’s seen Atlas Genius perform can point to some of the elements of those attempts. Beyond the simple light show — and Jeffery’s habit of jumping onto the barrier to play guitar solos in the crowd — the band also reworks its songs to make them more engaging live.
“All of our (recorded) songs tend to be under four minutes, and when we go live, those shackles are off,” Jeffery explained. “It’s about finding those moments that really feel like they want to be magnified.”
That usually translates into new guitar solos and instrumental interludes, intros and outros, which give a new side to the music without really messing with the parts fans already know and love.
But the “63 Days of Love” tour, beyond offering up these live-tuned songs, is also the chance to hear unreleased cuts off of the band’s upcoming third album — something the band has never done before. “It’s a bit of a tightrope, actually,” Jeffery admitted. But it’s also exciting; it gives the band a rare chance to “road-test” those tracks before their release.
It may be a risk, but it’s also a sign of the band’s increased maturity. Having had several years of experience touring and recording in different locales — the band relocated to California for its second and third albums — there’s a sense that the two brothers are settling into a groove.
“I think back to those shows (opening for) Imagine Dragons a few years ago, and I felt like a seasoned performer at point,” Jeffery laughed. “But when I look back now, I think in comparison to what we do now, it seems pretty reserved.”
“There’s two versions of me — the performer who’s there on stage and there’s the person who’s at home — and they’re very different people,” Jeffery said, pausing for a moment before continuing. “The more you do this, they become even more different from each other.”
He has a similar sense about how the change of location has affected the band’s newer music as well. “Living in California, I’m sure they’re totally different records than if we had stayed in Adelaide — for better or worse, you never know, really,” he said. “But the nice thing about doing records in different environments, with different people, is that you get to grow as a human being.” That idea tracks straight back into the band’s current tour message, one of embracing different viewpoints, be they on recording and songwriting techniques or in social relationships at large.
Atlas Genius will be performing at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Sunday, Sept. 24.