Why Do The Black Keys Still Feel Like Underdogs?

After six Grammys, numerous industrial spots, a handful of world excursions, and one hilariously misattributed VMA, it’s bizarre to consider The Black Keys as underdogs. And but, that’s how drummer Patrick Carney says he and singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach now see themselves.

“When we took five years between records, it felt like an eternity, and I think we kind of got to underdog status again, which is where we thrive,” he just lately instructed The Every day Beast concerning the hiatus that adopted 2014’s Flip Blue.

And whereas so much’s modified within the musical panorama within the ensuing years—together with the diminishing popularity of rock music as an entire—The Black Keys have managed to emerge stronger, extra united, and extra centered than ever. Their 2019 comeback report, Let’s Rock, was largely a throat-clear, paving the best way for final yr’s Delta Kream, a group of hill-country blues covers that reignited Carney and Auerbach’s spark within the studio. Now, they’re full steam forward on Dropout Boogie, which arrived on Friday, a day earlier than the twentieth anniversary of their blazing DIY debut, The Massive Come Up.

That is the duo’s eleventh album, which makes them, maybe improbably, surviving champions of the early-aughts garage-rock grind. That could be as a result of Carney and Auerbach aren’t making an attempt to reinvent the wheel. As lead single “Wild Child” proved, they’ll nonetheless make a easy, sub-three-minute track electrifying with out overthinking it (a number of of the tracks on the brand new album are first takes, with imperfections left in). However that’s to not say they received too comfortable for Dropout Boogie, which marks their most collaborative album up to now, with contributions from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Prime and Greg Cartwright of the Memphis rock band Reigning Sound.

Beneath, Carney talks to The Every day Beast about getting snug with outdoors collaborators, his love of Devo (and subsequent frustration with the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame), and the way he and Auerbach got here to the conclusion that they’re “each other’s best friends.”

If Let’s Rock was an train in getting the band again collectively, and Delta Kream was extra of a spontaneous one-day session, then what’s Dropout Boogie? What’s the power you introduced into this one?

You understand, we took 2016 and 2017 completely off. It wasn’t even one thing that we mentioned. We had reached this burnout, and we each went away and did our personal factor for some time. We by no means talked about breaking apart or something. However in 2018, I used to be like, we must always do one thing, and Dan’s like, yeah, let’s make a report. In order that was precisely what Let’s Rock was—it was type of a transitional report and us determining how you can work collectively once more. It was enjoyable, however I knew we might make a greater report. When Dan referred to as me to do what grew to become Delta Kream, it was precisely what we had been seeking to get out of music. It was completely spontaneous. And it was actually the primary time that I had socialized with grown males in like a yr, as a result of I used to be residing in my home with my teenage stepdaughter, my spouse, and her sister, and it felt actually good to love, get round Dan.

Through the making of Dropout Boogie, we bonded tougher than we ever have previously. I assume as you grow old… guys simply have a tough time making pals, and I assume Dan and I simply realized that we’re one another’s greatest pals. And it felt that method within the studio. This report is us utterly on the identical web page, having enjoyable, and being actually inventive and dealing actually effectively. I assume perhaps there was a bit bit extra ego from each of us going into Let’s Rock as a result of we hadn’t labored collectively shortly, and perhaps there was a bit insecurity there. However for this album, it felt like after we made Brothers. It was simply flowing out. And we’ve been within the studio working since we completed this report. We simply by no means stopped.

You’re nonetheless engaged on new music now?

Yeah, we’ve simply saved recording.

I guess Dan and I just realized that we’re each other’s best friends. And it’s felt that way in the studio. … It felt like when we made ‘Brothers.’ It was just flowing out.

Only for enjoyable, or do you assume that can flip into something?

I imply, we’ve most of one other report full. We’ve realized through the years that when it’s taking place, to simply let it go and let it occur. Once we completed Brothers, I knew that it was our greatest report, however I knew that we had much more gasoline within the tank then that we didn’t actually seize as a result of we spent all of it on tour. However fortunately we did cancel some reveals and get within the studio, and we made El Camino. This time, it feels just like that and, you understand, touring is method much less of a dedication than after we had been in our late twenties. So we’ve been in a position to spend so much of time within the studio.

You’ve talked earlier than about how that is probably the most collaborative album you’ve ever made. Was it that you just and Dan didn’t really feel such as you wanted to contain lots of different folks earlier than, otherwise you simply didn’t wish to?

Once we labored with Hazard Mouse, that was totally collaborative. And I believe we by no means even thought-about anyone else. We knew we didn’t need some other producer. We by no means have issues with the music; it’s probably not a problem, the music simply flows. However typically Dan likes to have some assist with lyrics. He vocalized that to me, and I used to be all about it. My MO with the band is it must be pleasant, and likewise you possibly can’t knock it until you strive it.

So we began with Greg Cartwright, and it was insanely productive and useful and a lot enjoyable, that it type of opened up this different door the place Dan and I noticed, wait a second, after we’re not engaged on Black Keys stuff, like after I’m producing and Dan’s producing, all we do is co-write with different folks, so we must be doing this extra with the band. It’s not like we’re bringing in a matrix right here. We’re bringing Greg Cartwright, legendary storage rocker. I type of want we began doing it earlier, as a result of there’s so many individuals I want we received an opportunity to work with, like David Berman, who’s a good friend of ours. I by no means received an opportunity to put in writing with him, and he handed away a few years in the past. However that’s the place my head went, was identical to, we’ve a really deep Rolodex, and we must be tapping into our pals.

I used to be at all times curious, why did you cease working with Hazard Mouse after that sizzling streak you guys had collectively for a number of years?

I believe it simply had run its course. Brian and I are very shut pals. We’re in a fantasy soccer pool collectively and we textual content so much. And I believe it was simply time for us to… I imply, we took type of an inadvertent break, and after we reconvened, we knew the scenario between Dan and I used to be a bit bit too tense to convey a 3rd particular person in, as a result of we needed to work on our relationship. And it labored, as a result of right here we’re.

I knew that our relationship had gotten again on monitor, the place it must be, as a result of there have been years the place we didn’t actually have telephone calls. We might textual content and hang around backstage and joke round, however we had been getting sick of one another. We had been spending an excessive amount of time collectively. However now, we speak on the telephone twice a day, simply to shoot the shit. And I notice that actually, the band is superb. It’s my life’s work. And it’s additionally very profitable. However actually, when it comes right down to it, at this level, my relationship with Dan is crucial facet of it. So I believe it simply appears like the best way it’s purported to.

You’re developing on 20 years as a band, which appears particularly wild contemplating that lots of the bands you got here up with most likely aren’t even collectively anymore. Has that shocked you, seeing so lots of your friends come and go?

You understand, after we first began the band, I used to be very conscious of histories of bands. So it appears like a giant milestone, hitting 20 years and 11 albums. However then for those who simply take into consideration, like, Guided by Voices, it’s like, oh, OK, they’ve been round for 35 years they usually’ve made 50 data. I imply, I believe it’s cool to see bands like Interpol, whose first report got here out proper across the similar time as ours, nonetheless making music. And The Strokes, clearly.

I believe that for me and Dan, we’ve at all times tried to be extra of a significant band… you understand, we wish to be heard, that’s the entire level. We spent a lot time not being heard that I believe it was so vital for me to get issues again on monitor as a result of we put a lot time into this band. We switched administration a pair months in the past, which is a bit scary as a result of we had been with the identical supervisor for an extended, very long time. However we needed to show to ourselves that we are able to nonetheless do it on our personal. As a result of that’s how the band actually began, as a DIY challenge. And right here we’re. I imply, we’re millionaires, clearly, and have, you understand, fancy-ass studios, however we’re nonetheless doing every little thing ourselves.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Photographs

Do you and Dan ever reminisce concerning the early days of the band, outdoors of whenever you’re requested to in interviews? Are you ever sentimental or nostalgic about it?

I’ve solely ever seen Dan sentimental a few instances. However we get nostalgic in a method. We go to this point again that, you understand, years earlier than we began the band, we grew up in the identical neighborhood. We received picked on by the identical motherfuckers, we handled the identical bully and received ripped off by the identical children after we had been buying and selling our baseball playing cards. Once I watch, like, The Surprise Years, it’s really not that far off, actually. I imply, the music was so much worse, it was lots of Vanilla Ice. However we had been positively simply driving bikes, taking part in Wiffle ball, lighting off firecrackers.

I believe the one factor that we do reminisce about is like, I believe round 2009, it felt like we’d been doing it for a very long time and we hadn’t damaged by means of. And after we speak about every little thing that’s occurred, I believe we’re each very grateful to have spent a lot time in that zone within the early 2000s struggling. It at all times put a very good perspective on success. And after we took 5 years between data, it felt like an eternity, and I believe we type of received to underdog standing once more, which is the place we thrive. Particularly being from Northeast Ohio. It’s laborious to win. We’re taught how you can lose and to take it on the chin. I used to be telling somebody just lately that Cleveland sports activities followers are simply so good at shedding. We misplaced the title of our baseball workforce, and we had been all fucking cool with it.

I really grew up in Cleveland, so I really feel you on a deep stage there.

So that you get it. I believe it’s a part of that Northeast Ohio factor. It’s not a contrarian mind-set. It’s simply, you understand, failure. I believe watching Devo not get into the Corridor of Fame was probably the most Northeast Ohio factor of all time. It was like, if the fucking Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, can’t even get one artist from fucking Northeast Ohio in there. I imply, they’re probably the most influential band, presumably, except for like, The Conflict and The Intercourse Pistols. However you understand what? It’s comforting to see them lose. As a result of I do know that they want that power. It’s most likely gonna make them reside longer.

I believe normally the Rock Corridor is getting additional away from its roots. I imply, the induction ceremony is in L.A. this yr, which most likely tells you all it is advisable to know.

I believe that, you understand, I don’t know the ins and outs of how they vote on who will get in, however I believe there’s a panel, and I assume it’s nearly who you placed on these issues. Like for those who put individuals who actually know their shit about music, might you make an argument that Pat Benatar shouldn’t be within the Rock & Roll Corridor of Fame? I don’t know. I don’t actually know something about Pat Benatar.

I do know, watching the Grammys yearly, it’s probably the most infuriating factor as a result of there’s just one award given to the kind of music that I hearken to, which is I assume various. I used to be requested to be on this Grammy blues panel the place we had been tasked with deciding which Grammy data belonged in conventional blues or modern blues, and it was probably the most infuriating nonsense that I used to be ever subjected to. It lasted eight hours over two days, and it was a few of the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. Individuals arguing about what was modern and what was conventional. Nobody had a definition. In the end, I used to be like, that is loopy that there’s even two album classes for this style. I imply, there’s not lots of creativity happening. There’s not lots of new development there. However various, there’s tons. It’s bizarre. However then once more, I believe it’s all rigged anyway.

So did you watch the Grammys this previous yr? You guys had been nominated, proper?

We had been nominated for Greatest Modern Blues. Though we had been taking part in songs that had been like 60 years previous. I don’t fucking know. Nonsense. We misplaced to some man who I’m positive might use a Grammy greater than we might. It’s all good. However you understand, after I see the report that received, the Jon Batiste report, I don’t know one person who listened to that report. I simply don’t.

I nonetheless haven’t, admittedly.

I don’t assume many individuals have. However I do surprise, did that basically get all of the votes? As a result of I don’t know one particular person. I’m a musician, and I’m solely pals with musicians, and I don’t know one one that listened to that fucking factor. So I don’t fucking know what’s happening. All people I do know voted for Billie Eilish, together with me.

When I see the record that won, the Jon Batiste record, I don’t know one person that listened to that record. … So I don’t fucking know what’s going on. Everybody I know voted for Billie Eilish, including me.

That was a fantastic album. And a fantastic efficiency, as a result of she introduced some much-needed rock illustration to the present. I really feel like folks say it yearly, however there’s persistently a major lack of rock on the Grammys telecast, though this yr that was partially as a result of the Foo Fighters couldn’t carry out.

Yeah, and I believe rock is such a tour-heavy style, and I believe everyone postponed their data that had been as a consequence of come out. However I believe this yr’s gonna be actually good for rock. There’s already been… like The Struggle on Medicine report, I preferred the report by Midlake, the Spoon report’s actually good, what I’ve heard of the Arcade Hearth report is basically good. I hold ready for my stepdaughter, who’s 16, and her pals to get turned on to that sort of music. Certainly one of them likes emo so much, and I’ll take that, that’s high quality.

Yeah, nicely, punk and emo is what appears to be making the largest splash on TikTok today, in order that’s not shocking.

I used to be into that. I’m going to see Jawbreaker tomorrow. I used to be into Expensive You after I was 14, 15, 16. Yeah, fuck it.

You understand, I at all times thought the Rock Corridor was a fantastic place for a crash course in that type of music. Simply rising up in Cleveland, I used to go there so much as a child. What about youcoming from Akron, did you go whenever you had been youthful?

I believe it opened after I was about 14, and I’ve solely ever been to the foyer.


I’ve by no means been inside, yeah.

You simply by no means needed to?

No, I simply… each time I went to Cleveland I went late at evening to a live performance or one thing. It’s really certainly one of my greatest regrets concerning the time I spent in Ohio, was that I didn’t rise up to Cleveland extra usually, as a result of it’s certainly one of my favourite cities. I discover myself simply naturally drawn to the Midwest. I really feel actually at house there.

Effectively, it’s solely one other 5 years or so till you’re eligible to get into the Corridor, so perhaps you’ll see it then.

I do know, perhaps. However I don’t know, it’d destroy our power to win.

It wouldn’t be very Northeast Ohio of you.

Actually, the final time we received stuff was just like the Grammys in 2013 after we had been making Flip Blue, and we had been actually struggling to attempt to discover inspiration. Now it’s simply popping out, it’s flowing.

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Photographs

Does that contribute to the entire “underdog” mindset you talked about earlier than? It’s type of a shallow factor, however would you like extra recognition on your latest work?

In fact I need folks to listen to it, however I don’t want recognition. However I do nonetheless get excited when folks prefer it, and it’s at all times been a thrill to listen to our stuff at a baseball recreation or one thing.

Truly, the very first thing I assumed after I heard “Your Team Is Looking Good” was that it could make a enjoyable stadium track.

The story behind that track is superb. It was the very very last thing we recorded for the report. We had already despatched it off to mastering however Dan was like, I believe we must always do that track. We had these area recordings from Mississippi of those blues performances from the ’70s. Dan was listening by means of these cassettes and located one from a highschool marching band, and there was this track that was like, “Holly Springs, you’re looking good, but not as good as us.” It was this complete cheer squad. Dan received the melody caught in his head for days, so we went and recorded this track and simply modified one phrase. I referred to as our lawyer afterwards and I’m like, hey, we simply recorded a area recording of a marching band from Mississippi from the ’70s, and also you’re going to have to determine how the publishing is credited. That was in November, they usually simply cleared it a few week in the past.

That’s slicing it shut!

Effectively, all the cash goes right into a fund that can go to the people who they deem wrote the track. As a result of it’s unimaginable to determine who wrote these phrases. We employed a musicologist who decided that the melody comes from a Little Richard track.

Talking of excellent tales from this album, I’ve to think about you’ve gotten one about Billy Gibbons. What’s it like within the studio with him?

We first met him after we had been taking part in a present in Columbus. We had performed Louisville the evening earlier than and his supervisor referred to as us on our method up and requested for us to cease at Skyline Chili and purchase eight cans of chili for him. So the primary time I ever met him, I handed him like 10 kilos of Skyline Chili. We bumped into him right here and there, after which final yr Dan received wind that he was on the town and we invited him to the studio. He introduced a bottle of wine, popped it, and poured himself a glass. And he stayed so long as that wine lasted, which was about an hour.

We received a guitar in his palms and we sat down and we simply jammed. The method we write songs is we provide you with a riff or a drum half and simply jam. By the point he left, we had about half-hour of music recorded and three robust track concepts, and the one which was probably the most fashioned was “Good Love.” And you’ll hear on the very finish of the track, Billy’s guitar type of goes away. I believe he ran out of wine and put his guitar down and stood up and began strolling out the door.

Like, “OK, I’ve done my part, bye?”

Yeah, precisely. However he was superior. He was very complimentary to me, which took me unexpectedly, as a result of all Dan and I do is bust one another’s balls.

Has there been anybody else like that through the years who you’ve been shocked to be taught is a Black Keys fan?

There was a time the place each time I opened up {a magazine} on a flight, I’d see our title get talked about by an actor or one thing, which… I didn’t actually watch that many motion pictures. However yeah, Brad Pitt name-dropped us as soon as, and Jennifer Lawrence stated we had been her favourite band one time. However I additionally attribute it to, like, a misquote, as a result of that does occur. So I don’t know.

What, like they meant to say The Black Crowes as a substitute of The Black Keys? Give your self some credit score!

I’m simply saying, like, “favorite.” I don’t actually have a favourite band. I’m prepared to say perhaps 5 – 6 bands are my favourite band, however I actually don’t have a favourite band.

Not even Devo?

Not Devo, as a result of I solely actually like the primary two data and the reside stuff earlier than that. They’re certainly one of my greatest inspirations, as a result of as a child my dad received me Devo Dwell: The Mongoloid Years, which was a CD compilation of three early Devo performances. There’s this one from Kansas Metropolis from 1977 and there’s an entire story within the liner notes about them driving from Akron of their van to New York, and the way David Bowie got here to the present, and Iggy Pop and Andy Warhol, and the way they performed the present after which drove proper again. After which their telephone began ringing and it was Richard Branson at Warner Brothers. As a child, this was like my bedtime story. I’d learn it time and again and be like, how superb is that? All I needed to do was be in a band.

After which when Dan and I lastly received the band going, I discover myself in a van, driving to New York, after which driving straight again, not not like the Devo factor, though there was no Andy Warhol, there was no Lou Reed. It was just a few shitty fucking ska band that we needed to open up for in Brooklyn. However nonetheless, we did get that telephone name from Seymour Stein [former VP of Warner Bros. Records]. He ended up flying in to test us out proper round then. And after we first received that buzz taking place, I imply, it was magical. I’ll always remember coming house and ready by the telephone for calls from Warner Brothers. And we in the end determined to not signal with them and we selected a label in the course of nowhere Mississippi. So we mainly signed up for the minor leagues. Which might be sensible.

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