A conversation with Keith Jeffery of Atlas Genius

By Jared Allen

April 23, 2016

Australia’s Atlas Genius burst into the limelight back in 2012 with their celebrated single “Trojans,” and have since shown they possess the musical ingenuity to back up the hype with unique, imaginative indie rock. Keith and Michael Jeffery released their sophomore album, Inanimate Objects, in August and are now back on the road touring, carrying the mindset that this is the best they’ve ever been.

We spoke with Keith ahead of their show at the Visulite Theatre to discuss their return to the Queen City, the tour and the pressure following a renowned smash hit.

CLTure: Is this the first time you’ve visited Charlotte since playing at Weenie Roast back in October?

Keith Jeffery: Yeah, we haven’t been back since last year. You’re right.

CLTure: Is there something you like or look forward to when visiting Charlotte?

Keith: That show (Weenie Roast) was a lot of fun. I remember really loving that show. I really enjoyed that crowd, so I’m hoping for more of that good Charlotte live action. It was great, the crowd was really responsive.

CLTure: How has this tour been with the addition of Skylar Grey?

Keith: I genuinely said this is one of my favorite tours we’ve done. Shows have been great! Sold out show in Boston (April 20) and we’ve had some really great shows around the country. Skylar has brought a real nice dynamic to the tour because normally when we tour it’s just “indie rock bands,” which is good but having Skylar, her music is quite different and really compliments what we do and makes a well-rounded tour.

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Courtesy of Atlas Genius

CLTure: Any memorable experiences on this tour?

Keith: Our fans are usually pretty tame. Every so often we’ll have a fan that will come up outside the venue and will be visibly shaking. That’s kind of hard for me because how do you deal with that? On one hand it’s really nice that they’re that excited but on the other what’s the appropriate reaction? Do you offer them a box of tissues or give them a hug?

CLTure: You formed over 6 years ago, is there any notable lessons you’ve learned during your time as touring musicians?

Keith: So many… Too many to mention really. Things that spring to mind are touring and knowing how to put on a show. How to really craft a set. When you start a set, that’s your opportunity to cast a spell and take people out of the mundane which is an art form as much as anything else in music. I feel really great about the band now and that we’ve matured and it’s the best we’ve been. We get on stage and from the first song to the end, it’s a real joy.

CLTure: Is there a song off Inanimate Objects that you genuinely enjoy playing live?

Keith: “A Perfect End” is a personal favorite for me. It’s almost like a rejoiceful song when it gets to the chorus and it’s like to clouds open up for me when I play that live. “A Stone Mill” into “Molecules” is always fun, that transition always rips peoples heads off.

CLTure: The artwork for Inanimate Objects is very memorable, who created it and what was the inspiration?

Keith: We commissioned an artist we’re big fans of, Kii Arens. He’s done a bunch of artwork and is based in Los Angeles. We’d seen a bunch of his stuff and didn’t realize it was the same guy. We knew we didn’t want a photo of Mike and I on the cover trying to look pretty. I wanted an album cover that I like with something memorable about it. We approached him, he was keen and we played him a few tracks and he took that as inspiration.

CLTure: And the album title?

Keith: Initially, the song “Molecules” was called “Inanimate Objects” but it was such a mouthful that we changed the album to Inanimate Objects and the song to “Molecules.” Inanimate objects come from molecules.

CLTure: Did you feel any pressure creating Inanimate Objects after the first album?

Keith: Yes, you definitely feel pressure but in the end, Mike and I had the attitude that there was no way we wanted to just rehash what we did on the first album or get pushed down in some trendy path that uses the flavor of the month because I typically hate commercial rock. I always been drawn to the less commercial. We didn’t want to go that path… we just wrote music we were inspired by and then when we have a body of work we’re proud of, we’ll release it and that’s what we did.

CLTure: How special is it to play alongside your brother and growing the band together?

Keith: It is special, I couldn’t replace him. I’ve written with other people but it’s not the same as creating music with someone you share a bond with, grew up in the same house with and share similar influences with. We get each other. I don’t know what he’s always going to do [on the drums] and vice versa but in a good way. He’ll react to what I come up with and will make it better.

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CLTure: With the sad news that emerged this afternoon, did Prince influence you?

Keith: Growing up, I think, not directly but the more you know, the older you get, the more you learn how important he is because there’s certain musicians that virtually affect everything around them. He was definitely an influence on us in a way.

CLTure: The Visulite Theatre is an intimate venue, what’s an Atlas Genius show like for those who’ve never seen you perform?

Keith: I’m really excited for people to see the band. Right now I think it’s the best we’ve ever played. The lighting aspect of the show is equally important and everything is cohesive. Both albums we’ve done really come to life when you see it live. Without sounding boastful or talking ourselves up, I’m really f***ing excited for people to see the show. It’s been an absolute ball for us to play.

Catch Atlas Genius tonight, April 23 at Visulite Theatre with Skylar Grey and The Young Wild. 

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