Atlas Genius, the "indietronica" band made up of Australian brothers Keith and Michael Jeffery, along with a semi-revolving ensemble, will headline the Bluebird on Wednesday, April 6. Known to many for the success of their 2013 debut album When It Was Now, and breakout single, "Trojans" (which reached No. 4 in the Billboard Alternative chart), Atlas Genius is currently touring the U.S. in support of sophomore follow-up LP Inanimate Objects, released last August.
Its newly released single "Stockholm" is the impetus behind a return to the road. Despite demonstrated chart success and touring the world as headliners, singer Keith Jeffery maintains the humility of a hometown musician. The adjustment has been difficult and affected the music on Inanimate Objects. "I actually feel like I’m in a much better place personally now, than when we embarked on the second album. It was just so much to deal with, so much of a lifestyle change, going from musicians living in a small town to musicians traveling the world.”
“I’m not complaining," he continues. "I’ve loved every minute of it. But dealing with that, and where you fit into the grand scheme of things — it throws up a bunch of questions that I didn’t really have answers for. It took me a really long time to come to terms with it, and if I had a home base.” It’s little surprise then, that tracks like "Where I Belong" from the band's recent album resonate the most with the singer. Lyrics like Would I forgive me from above?/ I don’t plan on giving up/ I’m stuck here right where I belong hint at the search for a home that remains intangible.
When asked about which tracks from Inanimate Objects seem to promise chart success, Keith explains, “I don’t tend to seek out information like that. You do tend to get tweets from fans about what’s resonating with them. On writing, you can’t concentrate on that. I’m not chasing ‘smash hits’.”
Jeffery describes "Where I Belong" this way: "It's a bit more of a somber one. It’s understated. I tend to get drawn to music like that. It’s got a vibe that even when I put it on now, even though it’s one of our songs, I still get lost in it, which is rare when it’s your own work. Normally when I listen to something we’ve done, I hear the things I want to change, or the trials and tribulations that we went through. But every so often there’s a song where I listen to it and I can enjoy it as a song rather than something I’ve done.”
Lyrically, both albums demonstrate a sense of vulnerability and genuine reflection. While managing to maintain the band's acoustic identity (along with carefully placed, subtle synth lines, complimenting structured beats and fellow Aussie Michael Hutchence-inspired vocals), Inanimate Objects does show progression, moving from emotional strangulation to believable acceptance.
Regarding the pressure associated with producing a sophomore album, Jeffery elaborates, “There is that ‘second album pressure’ and while I tried to deny that in every interview I did....I did try to tell myself that, too. That pressure is huge.". On whether he’s moved past that stage, he adds, “I don’t think I know what it all means, I’m not going to claim that. I’m more okay with not knowing.”
Despite the initial disturbance of life on the road, creatively Jeffery has adjusted to the new lifestyle. “I’ve actually written more songs in the last few months; when I haven’t been ‘trying to write an album,'" he says. "I’ve really just enjoyed the process, probably now as much as I ever did.”
That is not to say however, that all pressure has dissipated: “Music for me, is everything. For me it’s always been my passion. And now it’s my hobby, my passion and my work. It can put an unreal sort of pressure on things, because it is everything. I guess I’m embracing the notion that while this is what I’m doing today, there’s also more to life. And that in turn gears you up for more writing.”
Although physically far from his Australian roots, Jeffery says he and bandmate and brother Michael still feel like Adelaide in New South Wales, Australia, the city they grew up in, is home. Apropos of his reflective lyric style, Jeffery expressed sentimentality towards the brothers' hometown: “There are some beautiful parts of it. Obviously, moving away you tend to appreciate more than when you actually live there, of course. “
Their new home in L.A does have its perks. “Living in a place like Los Angeles, more than in any other place in the world, in my experience, I’m guessing, you tend to run into your idols and your heroes on an almost semi-regular basis,” he says. Exposing his inner fanboy, he continues, “Meeting Paul McCartney, and meeting [other] people like that over the past few months, to me it is like ‘Wow!’ It’s mind-blowing now. I think of me as a fifteen-year-old kid when I was learning guitar; that would have given me a brain hemorrhage!”
Atlas Genius plays Wednesday, April 6, at The Bluebird. Singer-songwriter Skylar Grey also performs.
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