INTERVIEW: Atlas Genius

Photo by Anna Maria Lopez
Photo by Anna Maria Lopez

Aussie indie pop band Atlas Genius is in the midst of their fall headline tour across the US. WTBU DJ Katie Evans spoke with the band’s lead singer/guitarist, Keith Jeffery, about new music, meeting Paul McCartney, and spreading the love.

Katie Evans: If you could tour with any band, who would you take on the road?

Keith Jeffery: I really enjoy touring with bands that push you as a performer. One example is where there is a band, and they can have a really great front mansomething about them that’s unique. I find that those are the best tools for me because it kinda pushes you and you end up learning a bit more about yourself as a performer. We did a festival with a band called Night Riots earlier this year and they were an opening band on a tour with us. They were really good people; they had their own unique take on the performance of music and I enjoyed that. I’d love to go tour with those guys again.


KE: I’ve noticed that your newest single “63 Days” has a different sound than your older music, what can we expect from the new album?

KJ: The song “63 Days” is a little bit of a small departure from what you’ve heard on the first two albums. With the rest of what we’re doing with this album it’s probably a little different from “63 Days” to be honest. “63 Days” is more of a concise pop song, as you could say, where with some of the other songs, it’s a bit more of a “rock-ier” album. Probably a little bit like what we did on the first album actually.


KE: I recently came across your #63daysoflove movement, can you briefly describe what it is and the reason behind it?

KJ: The song “63 Days” is about two people experiencing a misunderstanding and disconnect. We thought that that can also have a wider message in America, Australia, and other communities around the world. Right now there’s a lot of misunderstanding and disconnection between groups, whether it’s people of different religious backgrounds or sexual orientation or race. We coined this thing called a “soul stare,” and there’s a lot of examples in many cultures throughout the world, but it’s just a gesture of two people bringing their foreheads together in honor of mantic embrace. It’s a sign of respect and love, and in doing so, it’s really hard to feel anything but empathy and love for that person. The “63 Days” video has an example of that and it’s something that we wanted to do to contribute to the healing process. There’s a lot of bad things going on right now. I feel it’s been a tough couple of years for our society. It’s something that we wanted to do to promote healing throughout our community.


KE: Last April on your tour with Night Riots and Andrew McMahon, you told me the story of when you met Paul McCartney. That story has stuck with me since, would you mind retelling it?

KJ: It was about a year and a half ago. I was in Los Angeles and I was heading to an acoustic promotional show that we were doing. I had my acoustic guitar with the case in my hand and I was waiting outside a hotel. I heard a voice behind me say, “Go on, play us a song then,” in a very distinct English accent. When I turned around, no more than three feet away from me was Paul McCartney looking at me smiling and for a brief second it felt like eternity. My brain was processing, “Hang on is this for real, this can’t be Paul McCartney,” the guy I idolized my entire musical life. But yet, he’s talking to me and so it was incredible becauseI’m sure you’ve got your idols as well and you dream of meeting them at some pointI always imagined that if I did meet Paul McCartney, it would be me having to hassle him in a restaurant awkwardly going up and saying, “Hey man can I get a photo,” or something, but it wasn’t that case at all. He ended up coming up to me, so it was a beautiful thing and it just meant a lot to me. He’s not just a musician. He was part of the greatest songwriting duo, in my opinion, of all time and a living legend in every sense of the word. It was something that I never thought would happen. I was very privileged to be in that situation.


KE: What is the strangest thing a fan has ever done?

KJ: I think when people want you to sign body parts that you feel a little awkward about, that for me is a little bit weird. I’m sure you can imagine that could be a little awkward when girls come up and want you to sign their boobs; that’s not really my thing. Also, I feel a little awkward when people come up and they burst into tears. It’s very flattering, but I don’t necessarily know how to handle that. Sure would help having a box of Kleenex. It’s beautiful, but I think that it’s always a little difficult to handle.


KE: When you are not on tour, what do you like to do with your free time?

KJ: Right about the same time I discovered music, I discovered surfing. We grew up in Australia on the beach, not literally on the beach, but right next to the beach. I’ve rediscovered it in the last couple of years because we’ve been touring a lot and I haven’t had the time. But when I get the chance, surfing is the greatest escape for me. That and going for a run, so like anything physical that I need personally for mental well-being as well as physical well-being.


KE: Do you have any guilty pleasure songs or artists?

KJ: I’ve got musician friends who don’t like The Eagles; I love The Eagles. It’s funny because I know how much my friends hate The Eagles, but as a producer and as a songwriter like you listen to just incredible music. I love the Bee Gees as well. Both of those bands with their harmonies and their song structure, it just feels effortless. The Bee Gees are an even better example of effortless yet extremely complicated song writing. So those two acts I’m proud of. Some people don’t get the “cool cred” that they deserve. It might be because of their haircuts or something. I don’t know.

Atlas Genius will be playing at ONCE Ballroom in Somerville on Sat. Oct., 14.