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 think about 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 not too long ago instructed The Daily Beast in regards to the hiatus that adopted 2014’s Turn Blue.

And whereas lots’s modified within the musical panorama within the ensuing years—together with the diminishing reputation of rock music as an entire—The Black Keys have managed to emerge stronger, extra united, and extra targeted than ever. Their 2019 comeback report, Let’s Rock, was principally a throat-clear, paving the best way for final 12 months’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 Big Come Up.

This 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 attempting to reinvent the wheel. As lead single “Wild Child” proved, they will nonetheless make a easy, sub-three-minute tune electrifying with out overthinking it (a number of of the tracks on the brand new album are first takes, with imperfections left in). But that’s to not say they received too soft for Dropout Boogie, which marks their most collaborative album to this point, with contributions from Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and Greg Cartwright of the Memphis rock band Reigning Sound.

Below, Carney talks to The Daily Beast about getting comfy with outdoors collaborators, his love of Devo (and subsequent frustration with the Rock & Roll Hall 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 vitality you introduced into this one?

You know, 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. But in 2018, I used to be like, we should always do one thing, and Dan’s like, yeah, let’s make a report. So that was precisely what Let’s Rock was—it was type of a transitional report and us determining find out how to work collectively once more. It was enjoyable, however I knew we may make a greater report. When Dan referred to as me to do what turned Delta Kream, it was precisely what we have been trying 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 12 months, as a result of I used to be dwelling in my home with my teenage stepdaughter, my spouse, and her sister, and it felt actually good to love, get round Dan.

During 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 finest pals. And it felt that means within the studio. This report is us fully on the identical web page, having enjoyable, and being actually artistic and dealing actually effectively. I assume perhaps there was a bit of 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 of insecurity there. But 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 stored 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.

Just for enjoyable, or do you assume that may flip into something?

I imply, now we have most of one other report full. We’ve discovered through the years that when it’s occurring, to only let it go and let it occur. When we completed Brothers, I knew that it was our greatest report, however I knew that we had much more gas within the tank then that we didn’t actually seize as a result of we spent all of it on tour. But fortunately we did cancel some exhibits and get within the studio, and we made El Camino. This time, it feels much like that and, you recognize, touring is means much less of a dedication than after we have 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 essentially the most collaborative album you’ve ever made. Was it that you simply and Dan didn’t really feel such as you wanted to contain a whole lot of different folks earlier than, otherwise you simply didn’t need to?

When we labored with Danger Mouse, that was absolutely collaborative. And I believe we by no means even thought of anyone else. We knew we didn’t need another producer. We by no means have issues with the music; it’s probably not a difficulty, the music simply flows. But generally 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 ought to be pleasurable, and in addition you’ll be able to’t knock it until you attempt 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 spotted, wait a second, after we’re not engaged on Black Keys stuff, like once I’m producing and Dan’s producing, all we do is co-write with different folks, so we ought to 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. But that’s the place my head went, was similar to, now we have a really deep Rolodex, and we ought to be tapping into our pals.

I used to be at all times curious, why did you cease working with Danger Mouse after that scorching 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 lots. 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 of 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 observe, the place it ought to be, as a result of there have been years the place we didn’t actually have telephone calls. We would textual content and hang around backstage and joke round, however we have been getting sick of one another. We have been spending an excessive amount of time collectively. But now, we discuss 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. But actually, when it comes right down to it, at this level, my relationship with Dan is an important side of it. So I believe it simply looks like the best way it’s purported to.

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

You know, after we first began the band, I used to be very conscious of histories of bands. So it looks like an enormous milestone, hitting 20 years and 11 albums. But 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 information. I imply, I believe it’s cool to see bands like Interpol, whose first report got here out proper across the identical 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 an important band… you recognize, we need to be heard, that’s the entire level. We spent a lot time not being heard that I believe it was so necessary for me to get issues again on observe 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 of scary as a result of we have been with the identical supervisor for a protracted, very long time. But we wished to show to ourselves that we are able to nonetheless do it on our personal. Because that’s how the band actually began, as a DIY venture. And right here we’re. I imply, we’re millionaires, clearly, and have, you recognize, fancy-ass studios, however we’re nonetheless doing all the things ourselves.

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

Do you and Dan ever reminisce in regards to 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. But we get nostalgic in a means. We go to date again that, you recognize, 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 youngsters after we have been buying and selling our baseball playing cards. When I watch, like, The Wonder Years, it’s really not that far off, actually. I imply, the music was lots worse, it was a whole lot of Vanilla Ice. But we have been positively simply using 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. And after we speak about all the things 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 information, it felt like an eternity, and I believe we type of received to underdog standing once more, which is the place we thrive. Especially being from Northeast Ohio. It’s exhausting to win. We’re taught find out how to lose and to take it on the chin. I used to be telling somebody not too long ago that Cleveland sports activities followers are simply so good at shedding. We misplaced the title of our baseball staff, and we have been all fucking cool with it.

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

So you get it. I believe it’s a part of that Northeast Ohio factor. It’s not a contrarian frame of mind. It’s simply, you recognize, failure. I believe watching Devo not get into the Hall of Fame was essentially the most Northeast Ohio factor of all time. It was like, if the fucking Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, can’t even get one artist from fucking Northeast Ohio in there. I imply, they’re essentially the most influential band, presumably, other than like, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. But you recognize what? It’s comforting to see them lose. Because I do know that they want that vitality. It’s most likely gonna make them reside longer.

I believe generally the Rock Hall is getting additional away from its roots. I imply, the induction ceremony is in L.A. this 12 months, which most likely tells you all it’s essential know.

I believe that, you recognize, 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, may you make an argument that Pat Benatar shouldn’t be within the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame? I don’t know. I don’t actually know something about Pat Benatar.

I do know, watching the Grammys yearly, it’s essentially the most infuriating factor as a result of there’s just one award given to the kind of music that I take heed to, which is I assume various. I used to be requested to be on this Grammy blues panel the place we have been tasked with deciding which Grammy information belonged in conventional blues or modern blues, and it was essentially the most infuriating nonsense that I used to be ever subjected to. It lasted eight hours over two days, and it was a number of the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. People arguing about what was modern and what was conventional. No one had a definition. Ultimately, I used to be like, that is loopy that there’s even two album classes for this style. I imply, there’s not a whole lot of creativity occurring. There’s not a whole lot of new progress there. But various, there’s tons. It’s bizarre. But then once more, I believe it’s all rigged anyway.

So did you watch the Grammys this previous 12 months? You guys have been nominated, proper?

We have been nominated for Best Contemporary Blues. Even although we have been taking part in songs that have been like 60 years outdated. I don’t fucking know. Nonsense. We misplaced to some man who I’m certain may use a Grammy greater than we may. It’s all good. But you recognize, once I see the report that gained, 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. But I do surprise, did that basically get all of the votes? Because 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 who listened to that fucking factor. So I don’t fucking know what’s occurring. Everybody 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 an ideal album. And an ideal 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 12 months 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 information that have been as a result of come out. But I believe this 12 months’s gonna be actually good for rock. There’s already been… like The War on Drugs report, I favored the report by Midlake, the Spoon report’s actually good, what I’ve heard of the Arcade Fire report is de facto good. I hold ready for my stepdaughter, who’s 16, and her pals to get turned on to that kind of music. One of them likes emo lots, and I’ll take that, that’s advantageous.

Yeah, properly, punk and emo is what appears to be making the most important splash on TikTok nowadays, in order that’s not stunning.

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

You know, I at all times thought the Rock Hall was an ideal place for a crash course in that type of music. Just rising up in Cleveland, I used to go there lots as a child. What about youcoming from Akron, did you go whenever you have been youthful?

I believe it opened once 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 wished to?

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

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

I do know, perhaps. But I don’t know, it’d destroy our vitality to win.

It wouldn’t be very Northeast Ohio of you.

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

Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images

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?

Of course I need folks to listen to it, however I don’t want recognition. But 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 sport or one thing.

Actually, the very first thing I assumed once I heard “Your Team Is Looking Good” was that it will make a enjoyable stadium tune.

The story behind that tune is superb. It was the very last item we recorded for the report. We had already despatched it off to mastering however Dan was like, I believe we should always do that tune. We had these discipline recordings from Mississippi of those blues performances from the ’70s. Dan was listening by these cassettes and located one from a highschool marching band, and there was this tune 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 tune and simply modified one phrase. I referred to as our lawyer afterwards and I’m like, hey, we simply recorded a discipline 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 couple of week in the past.

That’s slicing it shut!

Well, all the cash goes right into a fund that may go to the those who they deem wrote the tune. Because it’s unattainable to determine who wrote these phrases. We employed a musicologist who decided that the melody comes from a Little Richard tune.

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

We first met him after we have been taking part in a present in Columbus. We had performed Louisville the night time earlier than and his supervisor referred to as us on our means 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 12 months 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 fingers and we sat down and we simply jammed. The means we write songs is we provide you with a riff or a drum half and simply jam. By the time he left, we had about half-hour of music recorded and three sturdy tune concepts, and the one which was essentially the most fashioned was “Good Love.” And you’ll be able to hear on the very finish of the tune, 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. But he was superior. He was very complimentary to me, which took me abruptly, 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 stunned 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. But yeah, Brad Pitt name-dropped us as soon as, and Jennifer Lawrence stated we have been her favourite band one time. But 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 an alternative 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 keen to say perhaps 5 or 6 bands are my favourite band, however I really don’t have a favourite band.

Not even Devo?

Not Devo, as a result of I solely actually like the primary two information and the reside stuff earlier than that. They’re certainly one of my largest inspirations, as a result of as a child my dad received me Devo Live: The Mongoloid Years, which was a CD compilation of three early Devo performances. There’s this one from Kansas City 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. And then 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 again and again and be like, how superb is that? All I wished to do was be in a band.

And then 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. But 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 occurring, 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 principally signed up for the minor leagues. Which might be good.

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