Atlas Genius emerges from middle of nowhere 

Michael, left, and Keith Jeffery are touring with Atlas Genius; the band of brothers plays in The City this weekend. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Michael, left, and Keith Jeffery are touring with Atlas Genius; the band of brothers plays in The City this weekend.

Adelaide may be the capital of the state of South Australia, but it felt like the boondocks to Keith Jeffery, a singer-guitarist who grew up there and, out of boredom, formed the band Atlas Genius with his kid brothers.

“You’ve got the east coast, which is where most of the major cities are, then you’ve got the west coast, where there’s Perth,” he says. “And then Adelaide is out in the middle, and the closet major city is Melbourne, a good thousand kilometers away. So we’re pretty much in the middle of nowhere.”

Jeffery, 31, who brings Atlas Genius to The City on Saturday to play from the band’s new album, “When It Was Now,” recalls an outdoorsy childhood spent riding bikes, making tree-house “cubbies” and casually dealing with the most venomous arachnids in the world.

“We had the huntsman spider everywhere. They’re not really that dangerous, but they look freaky ’cause they’re huge,” the frontman says.

“But in our garage, I could find you a redback within five minutes, and they’re really dangerous. I was walking the dog a few years ago, and I discovered a spider that I didn’t even know existed, with bright red fangs and a blue abdomen — a mouse spider, related to the funnel web, and one of the craziest things I’ve ever seen.”

After escaping Australia’s eight-legged aggressors, Jeffery, at 15, was bitten by the music bug instead.

“That’s when I discovered for myself how emotionally powerful it could be, and nature gave way to technology,” he says.

The siblings’ father had led a high school rock band, and he still had some classic old Gibsons in the house.

“When you’ve got guitars like that just sitting around, it’s pretty obvious that something’s going to happen,” he says. “You either break them or learn how to play them.”

Simultaneously, the brothers — Keith, Steven (on bass) and Michael (on drums) — formed Atlas Genius and cleared out their garage to build a home studio. The project took more than two years.

“We thought we’d have about three months’ work ahead of us, but it just got out of control, and we were sharing our time between construction and songwriting,” Keith Jeffery says. Their first Internet-posted effort, “Trojans,” sold 45,000 copies in the U.S. before they signed with Warner Bros.

Judging by tracks such as “If So,” the Atlas Genius sound is unique — part Midnight Oil, part Foster the People, part vintage new wave.

“So Adelaide definitely worked to our advantage,” he says. “If you belong to a certain big-city rock scene, there’s a risk that you’re just going to sound like a whole bunch of other bands.”

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Tom Lanham

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