Q&A: Atlas Genius’ Keith Jeffery talks touring and 63 Days of Love
Atlas Genius is looking forward.
It’s easy to get that impression while talking to lead singer Keith Jeffery. The alt-rock band from South Australia reached its commercial peak with the 2013 hit “Trojans” before embarking on a tour with Imagine Dragons. After more touring and a grueling recording process behind the 2015 album “Inanimate Objects,” the duo — made up of Jeffery and brother Michael — released “63 Days” in July. It’s Atlas Genius’ first single in two years and a return to comfort for a band that has been strung out on tours for much of its recent career.
Atlas Genius will play Portland’s Hawthorne Theatre on Monday, Sept. 25. The Emerald spoke to Jeffery about the band’s current pre-album tour and a new social media campaign they hope to jumpstart based on “63 Days.”
Emerald: You’ve been on tour a couple times before. I remember seeing you open for Imagine Dragons back in 2013. It’s safe to say you’re pretty experienced touring. Does that change the experience, being semi-vets?
Keith Jeffery: When you’ve been doing it for three or four years, if that makes you a veteran, you’ve done enough. You know how to handle yourself on a tour now. You know how to pace yourself. Because it’s pretty fun. The first couple of times you go on tour, you’re going out getting pissed every night after a show and you’re eating terrible food and you get worn out pretty quick. I’ve been doing — I don’t know how many American tours we’ve done, maybe seven or eight? You know how to pace yourself. And also you know what to look forward to and know what to brace yourself for.
E: Yeah, because you guys had pretty modest beginnings. You had this big hit song “Trojans” come out of nowhere in 2013, and a couple years later you’re on tour. I can only imagine you were a little nervous at first.
KJ: There was a very steep learning curve. We’d been playing as musicians before that but it’s one thing to be playing in bars or in your hometowns and to go to the States in two years and other parts of the world…There was a pretty fun learning curve there.
E: Do you have a favorite city?
KJ: Some cities are always fun. We always have good shows in Chicago. It’s funny: different cities have different personalities. You’ll go to each city and generally you’ll find there’s a certain personality to the crowd every time you go back. Portland, Oregon, has a really energetic crowd. You go to other cities and they’re a bit more subdued. When you’re playing Boston or Philly, they make you work. They’re not going to to give it to you on a plate. You have to prove yourself there. In the Midwest, there are certain parts that are a bit more out of the way and they’re just appreciative that you’re there. It’s kinda nice. You start off and they’re just happy you’re playing.
E: Let’s talk “63 Days.” It’s the first bit of music you’ve released in two years.
KJ: Yeah. That crept up. I didn’t realize it until we released it that it had been two years. You know, you do a bunch of touring, and during the last two years of touring we were writing. But by the time you actually record and finish and release stuff, it actually takes longer than you’d think. I was surprised when we counted it out and it had been two years. But it’s nice to have it out, and it’s the first of a bunch of music that’s going to be coming out from us over the next four or five months.
E: When your last album “Inanimate Objects” came out, you talked a lot about “second album pressure.” A lot of artists consider a sophomore effort to be a “make or break” record. Are you feeling the same way about your upcoming release?
KJ: No. I think what do you do is you go and make a bunch of fuck-ups on your second one. You let all the pressure get to you and then you get out of the way, and then you can relax to be honest. The second album was painful because of the reasons I mentioned before. All of a sudden you’re back in the studio and yet you’ve got all that pressure coming from what you’ve just done. It just wasn’t an enjoyable time. It was just weird. After talking to a therapist you’ve got a much better idea of why that was. At the time, it was just fuckin’…It was weird. Now, it’s much more enjoyable because you kind of make the mistakes doing it, but I feel much more confident in the studio.
E: You’re launching a social media campaign called #63DaysofLove.
KJ: Well, the idea is to encourage people to make a 63 day commitment to spreading love and kindness and bringing people together. It’s inspired by the song, [which is about] separation and miscommunication and misconceptions, and then it’s about putting the time in to communicate and heal. And that’s what we’re trying to do with this 63 Days of Love campaign.
E: Was it inspired by anything you saw in the world?
KJ: I think it came from just watching the news the last six months to a year. Living in America, as we do now, and seeing there’s obviously a lot of disconnect between certain groups in the country and all the environmental disasters we’ve had, hurricanes, et cetera. And noticing all the disconnect here and a lot of good people who are otherwise on the same page but are looking for the bad in each other, rather than trying to focus on what we can do as a team.
Part of the campaign is encouraging people to take part in a soul stare. It’s a meeting of foreheads, and Conan and I just kicked it off with the first official soul stare. We’re trying to encourage everyone to do it so soon it’ll be everywhere.
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