Atlas Genius Talks Overseas Success and Poolside Leisure

With the recent success of Aussie artists like Gotye and Kimbra, it’s no surprise that Adelaide’s indie rock band Atlas Genius, and its debut album When It Was Now, has been getting so much attention. In preview of the band’s set at Sasquatch! later today, we talked with singer/guitarist Keith Jeffery about performing on Late Show with David Letterman and the struggles of being an Australian musician in the United States.

What are you up to? If I’m honest, I’m sitting by a pool in Santa Barbara [laughs]. I should lie about that, say I’m in the studio.

Do you enjoy all the traveling? I enjoy once we get to America. The long-haul flights are not fun. Once you get here it’s fine. You get to see a lot of interesting places.

What’s the most unexpected thing about America so far? I didn’t expect we’d be playing on David Letterman so soon.… The first show of the headlining tour in Austin was sold out. This place called Emo’s. That was a great moment.

How was Letterman ? We’ve done a couple late night shows, but that’s the only one broadcast in Australia, also England, where [keyboardist Darren Sell]’s from. Growing up, that was the show we watched late at night, so to be on that, where you’re so familiar with the set and how he performs, that was amazing.

You all built a studio, recorded a little, and then went back to school. When did music become your main focus? We started talking to a bunch of record labels at the end of 2011. It was a lot of interest in what we were doing, so that was when we were like, “We should pursue this.”

How did you choose who to work with? It was a hard decision to make. You hear horror stories about bands signing the wrong kind of contract. We took about six months to decide what we wanted to do. I hope we did the right thing [laughs].

Well, you sold out Emo’s, so you’re doing something right. [Laughs] Yeah, something’s going well.

Atlas Genius is the latest in a wave of Australian musicians taking over the airwaves. Is there home country pride knowing so many musicians are making it big overseas? I’d hope so. We’ve hardly been back there in the last year, but it’s amazing how much Australian music is getting out there.

Are there any Australian musicians we should keep our eyes out for? There’s a band called Van She. They’ve always been a really progressive band. I don’t know if there’s much over here yet, but they’re quite big in Australia.

I recently interviewed an Australian musician who said that Australian bands need international success to really be recognized at home. Did you find that to be true? Definitely. That’s an unfortunate thing that sometimes does happen. There wasn’t really any ignition in our country before we started doing things overseas. It’s a bit of an Australian quirk.

What does the rest of the year look like for Atlas Genius? We’re doing this tour for another six to eight weeks and then a couple weeks touring in Australia. Pretty much touring until the end of the year.

More hotels, more poolside hangouts. Unfortunately, it’s not always as great as being by the pool in Santa Barbara. This is actually a rarity, but I’m embracing this.

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