Discovery: Atlas Genius

Published July 30, 2012

Australian indie band Atlas Genius started off the summer (well, winter for them) with a catchy jam, “Trojans,” reminiscent of Phoenix and The Strokes. The band is intent upon bringing back a period of indie-rock that preceded electro-pop; something they believe sets them apart from other Australian (and American) outfits currently topping the charts right now.

Music was never the Atlas Genius’s original plan. The foursome—composed of three brothers and their friend—began studying architecture and business and ended up building a recording studio and making music. Their three-song EP, Through the Glass, was released in June, after three years of writing and recording. You’ll have to hold your breath waiting for their debut album, which is being kept under wraps until this fall.

We recently spoke with vocalist Keith Jeffrey about not wanting to play with Mariah Carey, the band’s democracy, and standing out as Australian musicians.

BAND MEMBERS:  (Brothers) Vocalist Keith Jeffrey, Bassist Steven Jeffrey, Drummer Michael Jeffrey; and Keyboardist Darren Sell.

HOMETOWN: Adelaide, South Australia

ON SETTING THEMSELVES APART FROM OTHER AUSTRALIAN ARTISTS GOTYE, KIMBRA, and WIM: It’s a good time for Australian music, I think there are some untapped sounds and I’d like to think that we have a unique take on the music that we deliver. We’ve got our own eclectic influences, and I think it comes out in our music. What makes us different? The fact that we’re different people.

THREE BROTHERS AND A FRIEND: Our keyboard player was from England, so he was playing shows around there with different bands; he moved to Australia a few years ago. We met him at a show; we got chatting, and it turned out that we had very similar interests, [so] we got together and started writing. At the same time, we were building a studio, and we spent a couple of years doing it in our spare time.

FROM HOBBY TO PROFESSION: [Making music] is something we were all doing when we had spare time. “Trojans” had a few different versions; it started out as a different song, it had a few different meanings. There’s one section that turned into [the final version of] “Trojans.” It took months to do that song.

BEING INFLUENCED BY NEW AND OLD: Growing up we always had The Beatles playing, The Police, Beck—a lot of bands. I’m really bad at remembering band names. Some current bands are The Strokes and Empire of the Sun.

ON KEEPING THEIR ALBUM TITLE SECRET: It’s a closely guarded secret. We think we’ve got it. I’ve got Jamie from Warner Brothers here, so he’ll probably smack me.

THE DEMOCRATIC DECISION OF A BAND NAME: Well, we had that name. We had a few names that were in the bag as potential band names. It’s got a few meanings to us. Also, it’s pretty ambiguous; you can take it a couple of different ways. I think we wanted a band name that was pretty open as far as preconceptions go, a lot of band names kind of come loaded. It was a name that we all liked—it was democratically voted in [but], even if they didn’t agree, I still would have forced the issue.

ON GETTING REAL Basically, we built a studio. We finished building the studio and we all thought that we needed to get real and do something serious. We went back to university—I was studying architecture, one of the other guys was doing business and accounting. We built the studio with the aim of writing and recording for some time, [but] we thought maybe we had made a mistake because music is a hard game to crack. We were studying full-time and working; we were writing some songs [but] we put music on the sidelines as we were doing it one day a week. Last year we thought it was about time we put something out, that song was “Trojans.” We put it up on Soundcloud and forgot about it for about a month or so.

THE SUCCESS OF “TROJANS” : We were gonna be happy if anyone outside of our friends and family found this song. We thought, let’s just get one out. We didn’t expect anything. It was a cool song, and we liked it, [but] we were completely surprised when people started noticing the song. It’s the first song that we finished and the first song that was released during a period of time where we were all recording and we were studying at university or working full-time.

TOURING THE WORLD: We’ve got some tours lined up with Animal Kingdom, and we’ve got some dates with Silversun Pickups. September is announced. October is not announced today. I’d love to tour with Phoenix, Foster the People, Kings of Leon [and]… Mariah Carey. Definitely not Mariah Carey—we jest.

INSPIRATION FOR SONGWRITING: I have to be careful when I talk about these things. It’s personal stuff that’s floating around in your head. The songs that are from a place of honesty are the ones that come out. Whatever is emotionally occupying your mind, I think. To me, if it’s something I’m really worked up about, it’s going to turn into a song. It might be relationships with people. Just something I’m going to be emotionally worked up about.

ATLAS GENIUS WILL BE PLAYING U.S. TOUR DATES AND WILL BE RELEASING THEIR DEBUT ALBUM THIS FALL. THEIR THROUGH THE GLASS EP IS OUT NOW.