The Weekly interview: Atlas Genius frontman Keith Jeffery

Atlas Genius brothers Keith (right) and Michael Jeffery play House of Blues on Halloween.

Brothers Keith (guitar/vocals) and Michael Jeffery (drums) are the face of the Australian alterna-pop group Atlas Genius. They’ve spent the last year touring in support of their debut LP, When It Was Now, and are gearing up to play the House of Blues on October 31. Keith called up the Weekly from Salt Lake City to talk about the band’s Halloween show, touring with Imagine Dragons and the band’s limited edition IPA with Flying Dog brewery.

Your Vegas show lands on Halloween. Are you hoping anything crazy happens? I should hope so. I’m going to be disappointed if not.

Are you guys dressing up or doing anything different? There’s definitely been talks of some augmentation of the show, so, yeah, that’s a possibility.

Is there a costume in the works? It’s under wraps.

Okay, I get it, it’s a surprise. I know you’re starting to work on the follow-up LP to When It Was Now. How might the new record differ? It’ll definitely be an evolution from our last album. We’re not going to try to do an MGMT and completely … try to rebuild our fanbase. I feel like we’ve taken on a lot of new influences [on tour].

Like who? We’ve toured with Silversun Pickups … Imagine Dragons … a whole bunch of really great bands. You can’t help but soak up influences. And you don’t actually know how these new influences are going to show up until you actually go through the whole process of writing. Then you can look back and go, “Ah, that was probably from that show we did with so and so.” It’s futile to try and analyze how that’s going to go … You start with a blank sheet of paper, and you don’t know where that’s going to take you. But I’m sure we’re a different band than we were a year and a half ago, purely because of what we’ve done over the last year and a half.

When can we expect the new album? I think later next year. We go to England with Imagine Dragons again, then we come back here for a few shows in December. We want to be back in Australia, too, and I think we’ll hit the studio again in January.

How was it touring with Imagine Dragons? It was great. They’re really nice guys. We spent a lot of time with them, and thankfully we’re going out on tour with them again. I think what was really lucky about the time that we were touring with them was that was their first headlining tour, and they had gone from doing what we were doing at that point, doing support shows. And all of a sudden, they were starting to blow up during that tour. That was kind of that moment where everything went crazy for them, and [they] ended up going onto even bigger tours. They’re selling out all around the world now. From our point of view, they seem to be the biggest breakout band of the year, and we were kind of watching like a fly on a wall. We got to watch a few months of that happening. I feel quite privileged to have seen that. I think we learned a bit from watching that.

Atlas Genius has a similar story. You went from being unknown to blowing up on the Internet immediately after you released “Trojans” in 2011. I’m wondering if it really happened as fast as it seems, or if you guys also spent time playing the local circuit before that all happened. In some ways, it happened ridiculously fast. For a couple years before, we were working in the studio. We built our own studio and were working on a bunch of songs. But at the same time I was studying architecture. We had pretty full plates so to speak, studying and working on music. And then we made a conscious decision with Atlas Genius to not go out and do a whole bunch of shows. What we noticed, and what you see with a lot of bands, they spend years and years playing shows all over the place … We’d been in different bands and played a lot of live shows, so we felt like we knew what we were doing on the stage, but we didn’t want to spend too much energy doing that. We wanted to focus on the music. And within a few months … it was getting blogged about … and then within a few months it was getting played on [SirusXM’s] Alt Nation, and then it kind of blew up from there. So it really was extremely quick.

Did you end up finishing school? No, I put that on hold. I was actually leading up to exams when “Trojans” started to get blogged about. It [was] just kind of a funny situation where it was extremely exciting, but we also had to kind of try and temper that and focus on the mundane study life and trying to get through the whole exam period. And once I finished those exams [I decided], I’m going to put this on hold and see where music takes us. I’m pretty glad I did that.

You sound really busy. What else is in store for you guys? We’ve got a few collaborations on the go at the moment, one with a DJ—I’m not gonna name who it is, ’cause it’s still kind of early days, but one of the bigger DJs—so it’s kind of a different thing for us; it’s not exactly the kind of music we normally produce. And also, I’m looking at producing a couple of bands if time permits. So the next year is going to be a lot of studio time with a bit of touring.

Have you had time to visit Australia and see your friends and family? Very brief amounts, this year especially. Last year for Christmas we had a few weeks off. This year we did a tour in June or July, and we went back for two weeks. I was back in my hometown for about two days. It was very brief. I’m looking forward to having a bit of time to just unpack and connect with the Earth again.

You did a stop at the Flying Dog brewery in Maryland where you helped make a limited edition Atlas Genius version of the Raging Bitch IPA. Is that still available? Actually, it’s still brewing. I think it’s going to be ready in the next week or two. It’s a very small run—we’ve actually yet to try it. It’s the Raging Bitch with a few special ingredients added as well. It has some habanero chilies in it and some other ingredients—a bit more of a kick.

That sounds amazing. On top of being a musician, would you consider yourself a beer snob? I enjoy beer, but I’m more of a scotch snob.

Atlas Genius With Family of the Year. October 31, 7 p.m., $26. House of Blues, 632-7600.

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Leslie Ventura is a staff writer at Las Vegas Weekly and Industry Weekly. She’s picked the brains of rock stars ...

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