Atlas Genius on the Grand Canyon and Australia -- but not Gotye

Atlas Genius on the Grand Canyon and Australia -- but not Gotye
Photo courtesy of Big Hassle

If you haven't heard Atlas Genius yet, fret not. Chances are, the Aussie indie pop band will be  comfortably squished between the likes of MGMT and Arcade Fire in your rotation soon enough.

After the release of their catchy debut EP Through the Glass, the band is on the road with the Silversun Pickups and working hard at winning over the hearts of Americans. Their first single, "Trojans," garnered enough independent response that major labels took interest -- eventually, Warner Bros. won them over. "Back Seat," with its driving bass line and lead singer Keith Jeffery's mellow vocals, is as addictive as prescription pain killers.

We got on the phone with Jeffery, who filled us in on how the Adelaide-based band is finding the United States and what to expect from them next.

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Gimme Noise: This is your first tour in North America. What's been one of the most interesting discoveries for you along the way?

Keith Jeffery: Seeing the Grand Canyon was right up there. That was pretty spectacular.

Really? I've never been.

Well, as an Australian I recommend you see it. [Laughs] We've had some really fun shows as well, in cities that I've never even thought I would get to go to. Sacramento, Seattle -- that was a really fun show. Playing to Americans who know our music -- that's been the highlight, having come from the other side of the world.

Can you shed some light on the scene in Australia? It's rare that we have a chance to get a decent look at a place so far away, so some insider information would be great.

It's a lot smaller than the American scene, because we really only have five or six big cities, and in Australia they're always so far apart. It's not like the East Coast and West Coast. There's Melbourne and Sydney, and it's like a few hundred kilometers before you get to the next big city. There's not quite as much cross-pollination between the cities.

Is there an Australian band -- besides yourselves, of course -- that we should know about? Please don't say Gotye.

[Laughs] Okay. The Hunger Kids Of Hungary, they're great.

Tell me about the Through The Glass EP. Three songs long, catchy--who does the music and lyric writing in the group? Or is that a shared effort?

That's my department. I'm the guy to blame for that, I guess. I can't help but write about what's on my mind at the time. The songs that I write and let other people hear come from a really personal place. It could be my relationship -- and not romantic, but relationships with friends or even places. It's always really personal, but I try not to get super specific where it only makes sense to me. I try to tread that fine line where other people could relate to situations, because I don't generally like songs that are super specific... I like the stuff that's open to interpretation.

So, two of your band mates are your brothers -- does that ever get a little dicey? Are you guys totally sick of each other at this point?

I think we were sick of each other at the age of five, but we're really close. We're best friends. I think you can have a fight, and then you're over it.

Where does your band name come from?

We're just really, really good with maps, basically.

When can we expect a full length album?

We've just got a few things to do--finish tracking, hopefully, over the next month. We're just going to take a few days... We've brought a recording set up with us, and it's gonna be a good few months before everything is in place. Early next year, probably.

Cool. So, any weird food things you're noticing in the U.S. as you're driving around the country?

Well, pretty much everyone -- except for one member -- is vegetarian. We've noticed there's a lot of cheese on pretty much everything. We don't quite have that obsession with cheese.... and we've had a lot of great Mexican food here.

How has it been being a part of a major label? Just last year you guys were all enrolled in university, hardly thinking that music would be your main gig.

They've been really great. We were really cautious about going with a major label, and there are a lot of horror stories that go around, and I have to say so far everything's been great. It feels how I would expect an indie label would. It's not quite as corporate as I would have guessed. We're producing the record ourselves... That's probably not what you wanted to hear. You probably wanted to hear horror stories.

No! Not at all. I'm glad it's working out. Anything else you're really looking forward to coming up in the States?

Playing shows in New York. We're really excited to play some shows there coming up... um, and of course your city! Wait, let me retract that. Minneapolis! We're really looking forward to Minneapolis.

Atlas Genius opens for the Silversun Pickups on Thursday, September 20 at the State Theatre. 7 p.m. $30.

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