There is something very soothing about the music of Atlas Genius.
The Los Angeles-based band has been on the scene, in one form or another, since their 2009 inception in their hometown of Adelaide, South Australia, but their music has the timeless quality that many bands reach for, but often fail to capture. Atlas Genius seems to come upon this valuable quality quite naturally, though, even if the casual listener may not hear it immediately.
To many, Atlas Genius may seem to be another current band cashing in on the early '80s new-wave dance-rock revival trend sweeping the world's alternative radio stations and in some ways, this summation is correct. Part of the band's charm is how deftly they are able tap into a danceable groove, reminiscent of New Order's more guitar heavy music or fellow Aussies Crowded House, but there is more to the band than a good beat.
The band achieved a great deal of notoriety for their 2013 album, When It Was Now, which had two very successful singles, "Trojans" and "If So." Both of these songs ooze the type of pop appeal that results in pictures on the walls of teenage bedrooms and interviews with the likes of Carson Daly, but the success is well deserved. The brothers Jeffery—Keith on vocals and guitar, Stephen on bass (at first, now rhythm guitar), and Michael on drums—write really good, really catchy songs, and with their good looks and Australian accents, are the stuff teen dreams are made of.
Where you find the quality material, though, as with many bands who have achieved radio success, is in the deeper tracks. 2015's Inanimate Objects found Atlas Genius reaching a level of maturity and musical muscularity that is both refreshing and honest in approach. While the band's second full-length record has not yielded a single even nearly as popular as their debut album, the higher quality of the music is more than apparent.
Tracks like "Levitate," "Friendly Apes" and "Where I Belong" show the Jeffery's growth as songwriters on Inanimate Objects. There is always a calculated risk for a band like Atlas Genius to move away from the formula of any early success, but their growth is not a tremendous departure from their earlier work. Fans of a song like "Trojans" should be able to enjoy Inanimate Objects, but more importantly, the album can also speak to the more discerning music fan who may typically eschew music seemingly made for mass consumption.
Currently, Atlas Genius is on the road with their friends, Bear Hands, touring across the United States. We caught up with the relatively soft spoken Keith Jeffery on a rare day off for the band as the brothers tried to figure out what to do in Peoria, Illinois.
"I think we may go out for a bit and see what is happening here," says Jeffery before disclosing that, "The boys want to go ten pin bowling, which is very rock and roll, as you know."
While there's irony in Jeffery's words, there's clearly a sense of fun as well. After all, the bulk of the band is three, thirty-something year old brothers, from Australia who are still exploring the U.S. and figuring out what to do with themselves in places like Peoria. Earlier this year, Steven rejoined his brothers after a few years of not touring.
"Steven joined us earlier this year for the tour, which has been great," Jeffery says. "We were in bands together forever as kids. Growing up, we were always playing music together. It's been really nice. The hardest part—we love playing, we love touring—but the hardest part is not getting to see your loved one for long stretches of time. Having the three brothers together again is beyond great."
With Steven back in the fold, and Michael on the drumstool (as he has always been for Atlas Genius), the lineup for this tour also includes Alex Marans on bass and Blake Straus on keyboards. Jeffery is not above ribbing his bandmates a little bit as he carefully spells out Straus' last name.
"There is only one 's.' I give him shit about it because it feels like there should be two s's, but they only gave him one," Jeffery says through a chuckle.
Jeffery clearly has a pretty good sense of humor, as well as a having a good dose of respect for the opportunity he's enjoying because of the success of his songs. Just prior to the official start of the tour in Lexington, Kentucky, Atlas Genius found themselves sharing a festival stage with Panic at the Disco! and Weezer.
"Weezer was certainly big in Australia, but not to the level they are here. We played a few shows with them last year and I was blown away. It was hit after hit after hit. I knew more of their songs than I had realized," Jeffery says.
The band also had a pretty unique experience while rehearsing for the tour a few weeks ago in their adopted hometown of Los Angeles.
"We were rehearsing last week for the tour at a space in Los Angeles and right next door to the Prophets of Rage. Growing up, I was such a huge fan of Rage Against the Machine. We heard them do 'Killing in the Name Of' through the wall. It was a nice experience to hear that," says Jeffery.
The move to L.A. was something Jeffery says he and brother Michael had to do, though he knows the story isn't exactly unique.
"Like pretty much every musician in the world, we decided to move to Los Angeles. It's what you do. When we finished touring the first album, we went back to Australia. It was really depressing to be so removed from the community we've become a part of," Jeffery says.
Adelaide, the Jeffery brothers' hometown, is more 8,000 miles from Los Angeles, but could not be more different musically in terms of the opportunity to collaborate or spend time with peers.
"At home (in Adelaide), where we live, it's so remote. ...That's why Michael and I decided to come back and base ourselves in L.A.," Jeffery says.