Posted Aug 21st, 2015 (2:00 pm) by Heather Starks
Atlas Genius
Image by Frank Maddocks via WB Records

For those of you who haven't seen our recent coverage on Atlas Genius, the Australian duo have been shaking up indie rock with their distinctive brand of catchy, introspective pop-rock. We've covered their excellent singles, "Friends With Enemies" and "A Perfect End," and now we have the chance to sit down and talk all things AG:

Inyourspeakers: The first song you ever released, "Trojans," took off pretty fast when you posted it on the internet, and it gained traction through people sharing it online. How did it feel to know that your music was so quickly embraced by the people who matter most, fans?

Keith Jeffery: Oh, of course it was very flattering. It was also a situation where it hadn't happened to us before like that and I guess it's very rare that it happens to anybody. So it was a little hard to trust initially, like it was one of these things where we kept kind of questioning, is this actually happening? For instance, when Alt Nation started playing the song we didn't really know what Alt Nation was, we don't get that in Australia. So we thought that maybe it was a regional college station or something where 30 people listened to it. Obviously that wasn't the case. It was very flattering and very exciting and it just came out of nowhere for us. When we put the song out, we had no preconceived notions that anyone was going to hear this. We really just put it out there for ourselves.

IYS: So you really had no intention of putting that out as something your band was doing? It was just something for you guys to listen to?

KJ: I mean honestly I can say it was a situation where we'd been working on a bunch of songs, I think Michael was getting frustrated with how long I was taking to finish. You can always, when you own your own studio, you can just keep working on songs forever. And so he was like, "this song is good enough, let’s just put this thing out there, let’s move onto the next because there has to be a first song." So we thought, let's just put this out. But we didn’t tell anyone about it, it was just out there sitting on the internet. It was kind of crazy that it happened that way.

IYS: So taking that into account, what was it like then, the first time you guys actually stepped out on stage and heard thousands of people singing your songs?

KJ: Well that also was wonderful validation, and I guess when it became real for us. Because before that, it was just lots of blogs and lots of...you know people sort of tweeting at us about stuff. But then to actually see people singing the songs, like you said that’s, that’s when it was real for us.

IYS: A lot of bands have a pre-show ritual they do before taking the stage, is there anything you do to get pumped up before a show?

KJ: I used to really sort of try to get myself really worked up, like really jump around and get the blood flowing. I've found now that I actually do the opposite. I find that if I just keep myself...I need a few minutes to myself before we go out there just to really compose myself, and keep the breathing in check. I actually find that allows me to put on a better show, than if I go out there super hot. It's just a personal thing. Also, we used to have a shot, we'd shoot some whiskey or something before, but I actually find now that no alcohol works better for me as well. It's not very rock n' roll but that’s kind of what I've been doing and it's been working for me.

IYS: Hey whatever works for you guys.

KJ: Yeah!

IYS: What's your favorite song to perform live?

KJ: Favorite song? Actually, one of the new songs, "Stockholm" is a little fun to play live. It's one of the more rocky tracks that we've released, so that one is fun. "Back Seat" has always been a favorite of ours to play. On the album it's quite a slow, vibey track...well it's not slow but it's a vibey track, but we normally jam that track out. So it's always fun to play.

IYS: You guys toured pretty relentlessly in support of your first album, how was it having to spending so much time on the road?

KJ: Well I mean we toured for 18 months and then we took a year off to do the new album. So, it was really...it was such a crazy contrast. Because you know we did tour hard, it was 18 months of almost constant touring and then it was no touring at all. We totally stopped playing. So I wouldn't recommend that as a way of doing it actually, like mentally that's a lot of change to deal with. I know I personally suffered from a case of post tour depression, I think Michael was the same, whether he would admit to that or not. But touring and playing on stage is a great high and when that's taken away and you are in the studio for a year and half, you really start to...we were craving the road again. We've been back on the road now for a couple months now and it's been great to be out there again.

IYS: How did your approach to making Inanimate Objects differ from your first album?

KJ: Well we had a lot more time to do this. It was a conscious decision to really take our time with this one. Because the way "Trojans" came out, there was so much attention on that, there was this kind of rush to get more music out there. So we kind of didn't have as much time as we would have liked to have finished the first album. Even though I'm proud of the first album, I feel like this one, what’s great about the second album is that we got to experiment a whole lot more and we wrote so many different songs. And we picked the songs we were most happy with for this album. It’s pretty satisfying when you can do that. It’s not always the case but we were really lucky that we got to take time. I'm really proud of what we've done because it’s really pushed some boundaries for us.

IYS: So would you say that this album is better than your first one?

KJ: Um...no, it's just different. You know what I really hate? Growing up I'd read bands saying their new album was always the best album they’ve ever done and they'd always talk down about their first album. But you know I'm proud of what we did on that first album. There are songs that we are fortunate that people really embraced. So whether this album is better or not, is not for me to say. And I think everyone's opinion is valid. So some people might think this album is better and some might not, but what I am happy about is that it’s a progression for us. It rocks pretty hard, there are some moments there where we really pushed the sounds. So I think it's just different. It’s an evolution of what we did on the first album, I'll put it that way.

IYS: Fair enough...You’ve had some of your songs in movies like BoyHood and Project Almanac, will we be hearing your music on the big screen again anytime soon?

KJ: Well this album is just coming out right now, so I mean there's nothing in the pipeline right now. But I would hope over the next few years that would be the case, yes.

IYS: Have you ever had any interest in writing songs for movies or scoring for films?

KJ: Yeah, I have actually. That's a goal of mine to do at some point. For me, that’s what makes or breaks a movie quite often. If there is an amazing score, you're not even aware that it's happening quite often, you just sort of focus on the movie. I mean look at movies like Star Wars. One of the reasons it is so great is those scores are incredible. So that's something I definitely want to do in the future.

IYS: Without John Williams composing those, they'd probably be entirely different movies.

KJ: Oh I don't even want to imagine that. You couldn't do a better job than he did on those films.

IYS: Agreed! So on this note, I actually saw an interview of you from a few years back, and they were talking to you about movies, and somebody asked you if you had seen Casino or Goodfellas. Have you had a chance to see those, because I know you said you hadn't seen them yet.

KJ: No, I still haven't. There are so many films that I feel like I need to sit down for a year and just watch the classics.

IYS: Maybe you can do that on your next tour.

KJ: On the last tour we did a couple years ago, I binge-watched Breaking Bad because I was late to Breaking Bad. So I watched the entire six seasons in the space of about six or seven weeks, so that's what I tend to do.

IYS: So other than releasing this new album and I assume you are going to tour, what else is on the calendar?

KJ: Well I'm doing some remixes for a few different bands at the moment, so that's sort of a side project. I mean we are going to be touring pretty hard I think over the next year, which I'm looking forward to. I'm hoping to get to Asia this time, we almost made it over to Asia. So that's really the focus.

IYS: It looks like we've got time for one or two more questions, this next one is going to be a silly one. What is your spirit animal?

KJ: What’s my spirit animal...I would like to think it that it's a golden lab.

IYS: A golden Lab?

KJ: Yeah, I just really feel a connection, whenever I see a golden lab. I mean we have one back in Australia, but I just feel like that's me, you know? They have their moments when they are inquisitive, but they are also really quite happy just to chill.

IYS: Is there anything else you'd like add?

KJ: We're always grateful that we get to do this for a job, and we had this moment as we were rehearsing a couple of months ago for these shows over the summer; as we were loading into the rehearsal space, the guy who runs the place is like, "Well the room next to you has the Rolling Stones for the next week." So as we were rehearsing, we take our breaks and go to the coffee machine, and one day I literally had Mick Jagger strolling by as I'm making my coffee. And then we had Charlie Watts another day walking past. So you know, basically the biggest band that’s still going, I mean arguably the Beatles would be biggest band but short of that, the Rolling Stones are probably the biggest band of all time. And they we’re rehearsing IN the room next to us. It's one of those moments where you just go, "Wow, how did we get here?" You know? That is one of the moments I will never forget, is rehearsing next to the Rolling Stones.

IYS: That's pretty amazing.

KJ: Oh, it was.

Look next week for our review of Atlas Genius' upcoming record, Inanimate Objects, out 8/28 on Warner Bros. You can also see them live with Passion Pit; find out more information here.

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