We took some time to chat with Keith from Atlas Genius about their kick-off show next week in Dallas, music-writing processes, veganism and their new album ‘Inanimate Objects‘ out now.
What’s the central vibe or theme that you guys wanted to create for the new album?
Well i don’t think about an album in terms of essential vibe, i guess in retrospect there probably is somewhat of a theme there, like it’s a darker album sonically and also lyrically which is a direct reflection of where we were at, and lyrically where i was at last year. The biggest thing was that the first album was done pretty much in a short space of time and also without much expectations from ourselves. We didn’t think anyone would ever hear them… and then we toured for a long period of time and that was exhausting but also exhilarating so i think that the difference then when we came back to do the album was that we had all these experiences that shifted us a people and changed the way we looked at everything. It felt very good to be back in Australia working on this album after spending so much time on the road playing for some great crowds so it was somewhat of a learning experience for the first few months and though dealing with that post-tour depression that you hear about that pretty much every band seems to go through, that came into it as well as some personal stuff that i was going through with a break up and i think we just wanted to write a darker album with the guitars and the sounds that we chose for this album lended themselves to darker themes.
What was your process to get the essential sounds in the album?
There’s a lot more guitar, i wanted to play more guitar – guitar was my first instrument that i learned as a kid – so I wanted to speak to that a little bit more. Even the last couple of years i’ve had a lot more of this stuff and growing up listening to Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, that kinda thing and so i was missing that. There was some territory there that we wanted to explore that we hadn’t before. There’s also a lot of experimentation in finding new sounds and textures, for instance one song where we were living in a house in west hollywood as we were writing the album and i had the microphone recording and a bunch of street noise including kids walking past and cars driving past. As i recorded it, i noticed this moment and i actually sampled this random street noise and that became a part of a texture for friends with enemies. There simply moments like that.. very serendipitous with a conscious mind to capture these random bits of sound that you can use to create textures that you couldn’t create in any other way.
You’re about to start your tour with Passion Pit, what are you guys most stoked about? How about your set?
We’re both very excited to tour with Passion Pit, i’ve been a fan of that band for a bunch of years and i think that his melodies and chant vocals are really unique so i’m pretty excited to be a part it. There was a real conscious thought process that went into this new album where we would often check in with ourselves to think about how certain moments in a song translated like live. That was one of the real interesting lessons that we had touring for so long on the first album that there are just certain things that work really well when you’re playing live so we wanted to build those moments into the sound rather than have to sort of change things up a whole lot once we started playing the songs live. So we built that into it. It’s a dynamic show as far as intimate moments and there’s also some moments that are extremely “rockish” i guess is the word.
Is there a specific song you love performing every time?
There’s actually a couple of new songs off the album that are really fun to play and there’s a couple that we haven’t actually played live yet. Friendly Apes is pretty fun and there’s also Friends with Enemies like i mentioned before. That’s probably one of the two most intimate songs on the album and there are a few moments where you can basically hear a pin drop in that. and that’s going to be interesting to play that to a crowd.
The new issue we’re currently working on is about creative processes and the art of creation, can you tell us a little about your creative process for your latest single, Molecules?
Every so often we have a song that virtually just appears in real time and that was one of those songs. On the first album we had a song called Back Seat which is very similar. What happens is you stop judging yourself and you let yourself just let it flow and that song within 4 or 5 hours that song came out is roughly the way you hear on the album. Those songs are relatively painless in comparison to certain songs where you have to really chase your vision. Certain songs, you’ve got an idea, you’re in the general direction of where you want to go with it but pinpointing it and grabbing on to it can be difficult so some songs can take 6 months even just the initial inception of the idea to the very completion of it, so those songs can be frustrating. Some can be very satisfying once you finally finish them but Molecules was a very quick song and i wish more songs happened that way but you just can’t count on that happening.
Let’s talk about Veganism.
We’re both vegans. Being vegan is a strange one because i’m very passionate about it and so is Michael. The main reason being for animal rights. The ethical stance that i feel like any violence for any creature is wrong but it’s also a very polarizing topic. A lot of people get very threatened when you talk about it. So it’s kind of a difficult one because i understand that the majority of our fans are not vegetarian or vegan so i don’t want to be preachy. You know what it really comes down to? It’s really just nonviolence towards all creatures. Which i think the majority of people would agree with. The difficult thing is we all grow up in this culture where we’re so removed from the violence from the food and the clothes that we wear but we don’t re-associate the violence to what we’re consuming. So it’s important to me but it’s something we have to tread carefully with. You can’t run around pissing everyone off.
Does having a brother as your band-mate/counterpart help in your production process?
We work on things sonically and the way that things sound together, we filter each other. As you’re writing an album you have moments of doubt, you create something and think it’s good but you’re not sure. The benefit we have is we go to each other and ask “What do you think about this?” and i know he’s not going to sugar coat it but he’s also going to be honest if he likes it. It comes from a place of honesty that if you play something, Your brother is going to give you an honest response as opposed to how there are a lot of “yes men” in music that you can work with that just want to hang out and you feel like you can’t really trust their opinions. So that’s probably the biggest benefit we have.
Catch Atlas Genius on tour with Passion Pit next week in our home.
→ Dallas, TX // September 6 // House of Blues