Similarly to the famous tale of the Trojan Horse - the device the Greeks used to secretly invade the city of Troy and end a 10-year siege - the 2011 Atlas Genius song “Trojans” has done just that to the music industry. Peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard chart, the track sneak-attacked the public, taking the indie scene by storm and thrusting the Aussie-based band into the spotlight.
Formed three years ago in Adelaide by brothers Keith (vocalist/guitarist) and Michael Jeffery (drums), Atlas Genius began their career by building a recording studio which allowed them the freedom to write, record and experiment with their music. (British keyboardist Darren Sell was added to the lineup soon after.) Six months after they released the chart-topping “Trojans,” were signed to Warner Brothers, and had set out on a major tour to promote their debut EP, Through the Glass.
Last February the band put out their first full-length effort, When it Was Now, which replicated their previous success and charted at No. 10 on Billboard. They've spent the last 14 months on the road, and are currently on a headlining tour of North America featuring Family of the Year, with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., and Little Comets.
We chatted with frontman Keith earlier this week before they performed a sold-out show at Chicago's House of Blues, and talked about success, traveling and pet monkeys.
Your first album has been super successful. Do you feel pressure to keep the momentum going with a sophomore album?
Yes and no. There's always a bit of a work aspect to the music industry because it is an industry in the end. But I think the best chance you've got of keeping “the momentum” going is just to focus on writing the best thing you can and presenting yourself in an honest way, because in my experience that's what tends to connect with listeners. It's not going to be everybody's cup of tea, you can't write a song that everybody's going to like, but you've got to find your niche. I think if you're writing a song and it resonates with you, then somewhere out there somebody will like it.
You've been on tour for ages. What's your craziest story from the road?
The craziest part for me is how many different places we go to in such a short space of time. The last two weeks we started on the West Coast, we rode across the country, we were in Kansas the other day, then we flew to Rhode Island and now we're up in Chicago. I mean... crazy? We had a monkey backstage on the tour at the beginning of the year. An actual live monkey – that was an experience.
A monkey backstage? How did that happen?
We were touring with Imagine Dragons. They had as a joke on their band rider, where you include an alcohol request backstage, they also had a monkey butler. Just as a joke it was always on the list when they submitted it.
Do any U.S. cities stand out as favorites?
I love Chicago, I love New York. New York is my favorite city. When you talk to people who live in New York they're always very proud of their city and always seem very satisfied to be living there. I find that's rare thing.
We consider Atlas Genius to be an up-and-coming, exciting new band. Is there a new artist that you guys are particularly excited about? Who would you want to see in our Spotlight?
We're touring with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. and they're great.