On July 25th, 2019, popular indie-rock band Catfish and The Bottlemen announced their North American Headlining tour. Eclipsing that was the smaller text on the poster, underneath the band’s own name, that read “Special Guests: Atlas Genius”.
Easily 85% of the replies on Catfish and The Bottlemen’s tour announcement tweet called for the immediate removal of Atlas Genius. It would take anyone 3.5 seconds worth of scrolling to deduce that this was because Atlas Genius had been accused of sexual misconduct. This, much like the band itself, seemed to be widely unknown beforehand, but spread quickly throughout the internet and into indie-pop music fans’ circles. Within the community of people-who-pay-super-close-attention-to-touring-bands, everyone who had not heard of or paid attention to Atlas Genius before this tour announcement suddenly was paying attention now. It had the effect of feeling like the entire scene was suddenly united in getting them off a very popular band’s line up. Here are some examples of tweets from CATB fans, explaining their reasoning:
“atlas genius has made a career of off harassing and abusing girls as young as 16 and blocking every single person that calls them on it to try to shut them up. disappointed to see a band i love giving them a bigger platform”
Replying to @thebottlemen and @atlasgenius
“You have to do better than this. The safety of your primarily young female fan base depends on it. ” -LittleLamTweets
If one were to go searching for testimony straight from one of the victims’ mouth, they would not have found it. When people who knew the victims personally, (those like the accounts quoted above), were questioned with “receipts?” they were met with a response that can be summarized that that the victim wished to remain anonymous, and did not owe anyone her identity and the details of her trauma and abuse.
To be fair, it had kind of been an industry secret for awhile now that the guys in Atlas Genius were problematic. I had heard stories from concert fans of them groping girls at shows, trying to get with underage fans of them, and just overall behavior deemed very creep-esque. They just were never really ~known~ enough (the band and the allegations) for anyone to care. Last summer I even posted on my public instagram a list of artists I knew to be problematic enough for me to quit listening to. Atlas Genius were on that list. Many people messaged me “What did they do??”, including one of my long time followers, 101.1 WKQX, the most popular ALT radio station in Chicago. I was assuming the people at this radio station were asking because they regularly have the Atlas Genius song, Trojans, on their rotation, and have done their signature “no-dough shows” concerts with the band. Lauren, easily the most recognizable and popular radio host of the station, signed the direct message to me that came from the station’s official instagram account. I responded telling her what I knew, and she left me on read. Trojans remains in their rotation.
I would now like to back up to what I knew and what I had been telling anyone who inquired about why I quit listening to Atlas Genius.
As I’ve said, I had first heard of the allegations against Atlas Genius nearly a year ago. I was at a music festival in mid September, 2018. I was talking with my good friend, Connie, and she told me of her latest favorite band made up of straight white males and how they had (surprise) disappointed her. Connie is 21 years old, with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Women and Gender Studies, and currently studying to get her masters in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. (I know – ALL this at THAT age WHILE extensively traveling the world for concerts).
More pertinently, Connie is a well-known live music fan from Chicago. She, like me, is deeply entrenched in live music fans’ circles. Everyone knows Connie, and being a tall girl with long waves of bright blonde hair, she stands out and is almost impossible to not constantly recognize at shows.
Connie had been listening to and attending many Atlas Genius concerts at the time we met up at this festival. She agreed to let me interview her and use her story, and this is what Connie told me all those months ago:
1.) What were the allegations made against Atlas Genius, to your knowledge?
“I’m mostly familiar with the allegations made by someone I know. She was 18 at the time and in High School. Basically Keith took advantage of her – their music had helped her through her mental health struggle. Keith played with her emotions during this fragile time to get what he wanted from her. He lied about his age and lied about being single. He would obsessively call/text her. She doesn’t like to talk about it so I don’t want to give too much away.”
2.) How long have you known about this/ been trying to raise awareness about this band’s allegations?
“I found out in October 2017. I had literally just left their show in Chicago, I was on the train back to my place and a girl was posting receipts on her instagram story. I really liked them [Atlas Genius], felt like I’d kind of gotten to know them, but there was pretty clear evidence, so from that moment I made a point of calling them out, stopping my support of them & informing people about what he’d done. The hire-in bassist for Atlas Genius (in 2017) messaged me after I had posted on twitter about the allegations. He literally gaslighted the girl I know, calling her crazy and saying she was making everything up. He was saying Keith was so upset over it & that he was just hanging out on the bus, not meeting any fans because he was too worried. So I went on instagram and Keith has been tagged in plenty of photos with fans from every night, so that was a blatant lie.”
3.) How’d you react when you saw CATB put them on? when you saw they got kicked off?
“My heart fell. I was sick. I knew Van & Keith were friends but I didn’t know if they still were. I really hope Van makes the right personal decision to cut ties with him, but that’s up to him. I am really happy to see that someone made the right decision to kick them off the tour though – the safety & security of fans is really important.”
Since then, Atlas Genius have also been dropped off of Hermosa Beach festival. They’ve been replaced by July Talk on CATB’s tour, who’s team I’m sure remembered to google “July Talk Allegations” this time around. Everyone seems satisfied with this outcome. Everyone, of course, besides Atlas Genius. The band is currently “lawyering up” and threatening victims, friends of the victims, even many people who just extensively spoke out against them, with threat of legal action via cease and desist letters. Atlas Genius have otherwise stayed completely silent on this issue to the public.