Atlas Genius talk roots and newfound fame

Kira Walker/Staff

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It’s been a while since the U.S. got hooked on an Australian band. There was the Jet phase — how can you still not bob your head to “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?” — and even Powderfinger made some noise for a while. There seems to have been a lapse in communication with the folks from Down Undah. However, the connection has now been reformed by the trio known as Atlas Genius.  Although they only have one EP out right now, the band has been steadily gaining popularity through their catchy, hip-swaying single “Trojans.” This Tuesday, the trio will play at The Fox Theater as one of the openers for Silversun Pickups.

Before they were opening for Silversun Pickups, the trio (made up of two brothers and a friend) would casually jam every week. “We are brothers with an Englishman on keys. We met Darren at a show in Adelaide. We realized pretty quickly that we all shared the same passion for music and music production,” said vocalist and guitarist Keith Jeffery in a recent interview. “It started out with us all getting together every Wednesday. Once a week, we would spend the day putting different sounds together. Just enjoying music really.”

The relaxed mindset Atlas Genius brings only reinforces their standing as a band; they sincerely come off as just a few guys who really just like what they’re doing. The level of popularity that their single, “Trojans,” has reached was unexpected by the band. Jeffery said that they uploaded the song online one day and hoped for the best. Since then, the track has been circulating beyond Australia, getting numerous plays on the Bay Area’s Live 105 radio station, for example.

Now with their feet planted in the music scene, the band has had nothing but a good time during their recent tour. “It’s been great, having people know the lyrics and singing them back to you is an epic feeling,” said Jeffery  when asked about their touring experience. “We are all huge fans of [Silversun Pickups], so we have no doubt it’ll be a fun next few months.” Although Silversun Pickups and Atlas Genius come from different areas, both bands share a similar love of ambient keyboards and swirling guitar effects. However, the distinction lies in the strings, as Atlas Genius prefers crisp, semi-clean guitar tones as opposed to the usual fuzzy, distorted guitar riffage that Silversun Pickups generally apply to their songs.

For example, “Trojans” forgoes any major use of distortion throughout the song, slowly building up the slightly twangy riffs with each passing chorus. “‘Trojans’ is a song [in which] we wanted to contain this subtle musical ‘evolution’ throughout its three and half minutes,” said Jeffery when asked about a breakdown of their single. “It has a bunch of different elements that come in and out during the song. The lyrics are a ‘stream-of-consciousness.’ They represented what was floating around in my head at that point in time.”

The trio also seem to take most of their song inspiration from Adelaide, their hometown in South Australia. Both of their other songs on the EP were drawn initially from places in Adelaide. Jeffery stated that the lyrics of their drum and bass groove “Back Seat” was inspired from a street that the band would frequently walk down when leaving a particular nightclub in the area. Similarly, the song “Symptoms” has a root in their city as well. “It’s a story about the haunting feeling a place can have when you return to it after a period of time,” said Jeffery.“We had this amazing beach at the end of our street in Adelaide that we would spend our summers at. The song happened when I knew we were going to be moving from that house.”

Atlas Genius is the perfect example of how the internet can assist bands in finding their audiences. Just through putting a track online, the band was able to amass fans on the other side of the globe. With online indie music bundle providers like Humble Bundle and Music Rage, the gap between bands and listeners is shrinking. Although Jeffery said that they are having trouble finding a good of a cup of tea in the states, the trio seems to have relaxed the physical distance from their home continent by bringing Adelaide along with them through their musical adventures.

“Every song has a different path to completion,” said Jeffery. “We treat each song as a little journey. You never really know where they will take you.”


Ian Birnam is the lead music critic. Contact Ian at [email protected]