Indie and “alternative” rock are, for me anyways, becoming harder and harder to define. Not because the music is overly complex; the opposite in fact. Indie rock has, in many ways, become exactly the thing it was trying to steer clear from: the mainstream. We here indie rock on the radio, indie bands are now being signed to major labels. Which brings about a greater question: what exactly defines indie rock? Sound? Attitude? Being independent of any label? The music industry has changed so much over the last decade – the term indie rock didn’t even really exist in 2000, not to the same degree as it does today. (In the 1980s it referred to lo-fi, grunge, punk and underground-type music). A good case study on this matter is Atlas Genius.
Hailing from Australia, Atlas Genius is the musical embodiment of the paradox that is indie rock. They are signed to a major label (Warner in this case), they found success with their single Trojans, and, like many “indie” bands out there today, AG has a very folky sound to it. There are countless other bands that sound like them, yet they are still a band that you and I would love to listen to on occasion. Perhaps that is why indie ha now crossed the “mainstream” threshold, they found a formula and their sticking to it. Yet, unlike traditional pop songs that have the same three chords and are (often) written by producers trying to cash in on whatever product they’ve created, indie artists and bands do show that they have talent and musicianship. The lyrics are always different, which makes it stand out from the “oh babys” of pop music.
There is no question that Atlas genius is a good band. Keith Jeffery is a good guitar players, the music is catchy, the presentation is spot on. And yet, somehow, it feels like I’ve seen it all before. The Lumineers in particular come to mind. Now granted, this is not necessarily a bad thing as most of the songs are new and hip and contain a good mixture of up-tempo groove tunes, as well as the slower ballads and one-on-one time with the audience. For me, it is about where does a band like Atlas Genius go from here? Where does indie music as whole travel to? Does it need to evolve to survive? Fans will always listen to it no matter how successful it is, but musicians are continually striving to broaden their strokes and perhaps indie rock is a perfect example of that.
As for Atlas Genius, they are what they are. A couple of funky, groovy brothers from Adelaide. Keith is very fun-loving and likes to interact and the tunes are catchy. He knows his schtick and he’s perfectly happy staying put in his comfort zone. And the fans are as well. Everybody loves a good folk-rock sounding melody. It’s becoming the new thing. Which in a way, is a good thing.
Their debut full-length album “When It Was Now” was released on February 19, 2013 through Warner Music.