Why Do The Black Keys Still Feel Like Underdogs?

After six Grammys, numerous business 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 5 years between information, it felt like an eternity, and I feel we form of obtained to underdog standing once more, which is the place we thrive,” he not too long ago informed The Daily Beast about 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 recognition of rock music as an entire—The Black Keys have managed to emerge stronger, extra united, and extra centered than ever. Their 2019 comeback document, Let’s Rock, was principally a throat-clear, paving the way in which for final yr’s Delta Kream, a collection 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’ll nonetheless make a easy, sub-three-minute music electrifying without overthinking it (just a few of the tracks on the brand new album are first takes, with imperfections left in). But that’s to not say they obtained too soft for Dropout Boogie, which marks their most collaborative album thus far, 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 snug with exterior 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 belief that they’re “one another’s finest buddies.”

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 must always do one thing, and Dan’s like, yeah, let’s make a document. So that was precisely what Let’s Rock was—it was form of a transitional document and us determining the way to work collectively once more. It was enjoyable, however I knew we might make a greater document. When Dan referred to as me to do what grew to become Delta Kream, it was precisely what we have 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 dwelling in my home with my teenage stepdaughter, my spouse, and her sister, and it felt actually good to love, get around Dan.

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During the making of Dropout Boogie, we bonded more durable than we ever have prior to now. I assume as you become older… guys simply have a tough time making buddies, and I assume Dan and I simply realized that we’re one another’s finest buddies. And it felt that method within the studio. This document is us utterly on the identical web page, having enjoyable, and being actually artistic and dealing actually effectively. I assume possibly 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 possibly there was a bit insecurity there. But for this album, it felt like once we made Brothers. It was simply flowing out. And we’ve been within the studio working since we completed this document. We simply by no means stopped.

You’re nonetheless engaged on new music now?

Yeah, we’ve simply saved recording.

I assume Dan and I simply realized that we’re one another’s finest buddies. And it’s felt that method within the studio. … It felt like once we made ‘Brothers.’ It was simply flowing out.

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

I imply, we have now most of one other document full. We’ve discovered through the years that when it’s taking place, to simply let it go and let it occur. When we completed Brothers, I knew that it was our greatest document, 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. But fortunately we did cancel some shows 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 once we have been in our late twenties. So we’ve been ready to spend so much of time within the studio.

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You’ve talked earlier than about how that is essentially 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 individuals earlier than, otherwise you simply didn’t wish to?

When we labored with Danger Mouse, that was absolutely collaborative. And I feel 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 an issue, the music simply flows. But 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 fulfilling, and in addition you’ll be able to’t knock it until you strive it.

So we started with Greg Cartwright, and it was insanely productive and useful and a lot enjoyable, that it form of opened up this different door the place Dan and I noticed, wait a second, once 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 individuals, 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 form of want we started doing it earlier, as a result of there’s so many individuals I want we obtained an opportunity to work with, like David Berman, who’s a good friend of ours. I by no means obtained 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, we have now a really deep Rolodex, and we must be tapping into our buddies.

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

I feel it simply had run its course. Brian and I are very shut buddies. We’re in a fantasy soccer pool collectively and we textual content lots. And I feel it was simply time for us to… I imply, we took form of an inadvertent break, and once we reconvened, we knew the state of affairs between Dan and I used to be a bit bit too tense to carry a 3rd individual in, as a result of we needed to work on our relationship. And it labored, as a result of right here we’re.

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I knew that our relationship had gotten again on observe, the place it must 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 around, however we have been getting sick of one another. We have been spending an excessive amount of time collectively. But now, we speak on the telephone twice a day, simply to shoot the shit. And I understand that truthfully, the band is superb. It’s my life’s work. And it’s additionally very profitable. But actually, when it comes all the way down to it, at this level, my relationship with Dan is crucial side of it. So I feel it simply appears like the way in which it’s imagined to.

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

You know, once we first started the band, I used to be very conscious of histories of bands. So it appears like an enormous milestone, hitting 20 years and 11 albums. But then in case you simply assume about, like, Guided by Voices, it’s like, oh, OK, they’ve been around for 35 years they usually’ve made 50 information. I imply, I feel it’s cool to see bands like Interpol, whose first document got here out proper around the identical time as ours, nonetheless making music. And The Strokes, clearly.

I feel 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 feel it was so vital 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 scary as a result of we have been with the identical supervisor for an extended, very long time. But we needed to show to ourselves that we will nonetheless do it on our personal. Because that’s how the band actually started, as a DIY venture. And right here we’re. I imply, we’re millionaires, clearly, and have, you understand, fancy-ass studios, however we’re nonetheless doing every part ourselves.

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

I’ve only ever seen Dan sentimental a few instances. But we get nostalgic in a method. We go to this point again that, you understand, years earlier than we started the band, we grew up in the identical neighborhood. We obtained picked on by the identical motherfuckers, we handled the identical bully and obtained ripped off by the identical children once we have been buying and selling our baseball playing cards. When I watch, like, The Wonder Years, it’s truly not that far off, actually. I imply, the music was lots worse, it was lots of Vanilla Ice. But we have been undoubtedly simply driving bikes, enjoying Wiffle ball, lighting off firecrackers.

I feel the one factor that we do reminisce about is like, I feel around 2009, it felt like we’d been doing it for a very long time and we hadn’t damaged by way of. And once we speak about every part that’s occurred, I feel 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 once we took 5 years between information, it felt like an eternity, and I feel we form of obtained to underdog standing once more, which is the place we thrive. Especially being from Northeast Ohio. It’s laborious to win. We’re taught the way 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 dropping. We misplaced the title of our baseball workforce, and we have been all fucking cool with it.

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

So you get it. I feel it’s a part of that Northeast Ohio factor. It’s not a contrarian mind-set. It’s simply, you understand, failure. I feel 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, apart from like, The Clash and The Sex Pistols. But you understand what? It’s comforting to see them lose. Because I do know that they want that vitality. It’s in all probability gonna make them dwell longer.

I feel on the whole the Rock Hall is getting additional away from its roots. I imply, the induction ceremony is in L.A. this yr, which in all probability tells you all that you must know.

I feel that, you understand, I don’t know the ins and outs of how they vote on who will get in, however I feel there’s a panel, and I assume it’s simply about who you placed on these issues. Like in case you put individuals who actually know their shit about music, might 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 only 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 up to date 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 among the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. People arguing about what was up to date and what was conventional. No one had a definition. Ultimately, I used to be like, that is loopy that there’s even two album categories for this style. I imply, there’s not lots of creativity occurring. There’s not lots of new development there. But various, there’s tons. It’s bizarre. But then once more, I feel it’s all rigged anyway.

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

We have been nominated for Best Contemporary Blues. Even although we have been enjoying songs that have 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. But you understand, after I see the document that received, the Jon Batiste document, I don’t know one person who listened to that document. 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 individual. I’m a musician, and I’m only buddies 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 document that received, the Jon Batiste document, I don’t know one person who listened to that document. … So I don’t fucking know what’s occurring. Everybody I do know voted for Billie Eilish, together with me.

That was an awesome album. And an awesome efficiency, as a result of she introduced some much-needed rock illustration to the present. I really feel like individuals say it yearly, however there’s constantly 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 feel rock is such a tour-heavy style, and I feel all people postponed their information that have been on account of come out. But I feel this yr’s gonna be actually good for rock. There’s already been… like The War on Drugs document, I appreciated the document by Midlake, the Spoon document’s actually good, what I’ve heard of the Arcade Fire document is actually good. I preserve ready for my stepdaughter, who’s 16, and her buddies to get turned on to that kind of music. One of them likes emo lots, and I’ll take that, that’s positive.

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

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

You know, I at all times thought the Rock Hall was an awesome place for a crash course in that form of music. Just growing 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 feel it opened after I was about 14, and I’ve only ever been to the foyer.

Really?

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 truly one in every of my largest regrets about the time I spent in Ohio, was that I didn’t rise up to Cleveland extra usually, as a result of it’s one in every of my favourite cities. I discover myself simply naturally drawn to the Midwest. I really feel actually at house there.

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

I do know, possibly. 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 received stuff was just like the Grammys in 2013 once we have been making Turn Blue, and we have been actually struggling to try to discover inspiration. Now it’s simply popping out, it’s flowing.

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

Of course I would like individuals to listen to it, however I don’t want recognition. But I do nonetheless get excited when individuals 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 after I heard “Your Team Is Looking Good” was that it will make a enjoyable stadium music.

The story behind that music is superb. It was the very very last thing we recorded for the document. We had already despatched it off to mastering however Dan was like, I feel we must always do that music. We had these area recordings from Mississippi of those blues performances from the ’70s. Dan was listening by way of these cassettes and located one from a highschool marching band, and there was this music that was like, “Holly Springs, you’re trying good, however not so good as us.” It was this entire cheer squad. Dan obtained the melody caught in his head for days, so we went and recorded this music 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 about per week in the past.

That’s reducing it shut!

Well, all of the money goes right into a fund that can go to the folks that they deem wrote the music. Because it’s unimaginable to determine who wrote these phrases. We employed a musicologist who decided that the melody comes from a Little Richard music.

Speaking of excellent 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 once we have been enjoying 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 obtained 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 obtained a guitar in his arms and we sat down and we simply jammed. The method we write songs is we give you 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 music ideas, 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 music, Billy’s guitar form of goes away. I feel he ran out of wine and put his guitar down and stood up and started strolling out the door.

Like, “OK, I’ve achieved my half, bye?”

Yeah, precisely. But he was superior. He was very complimentary to me, which took me without warning, 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 might see our title get talked about by an actor or one thing, which… I didn’t actually watch that many movies. But yeah, Brad Pitt name-dropped us as soon as, and Jennifer Lawrence mentioned 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 a substitute of The Black Keys? Give your self some credit score!

I’m simply saying, like, “favourite.” I don’t actually have a favourite band. I’m keen to say possibly 5 or 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 only actually like the primary two information and the dwell stuff earlier than that. They’re one in every of my largest inspirations, as a result of as a child my dad obtained 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 started ringing and it was Richard Branson at Warner Brothers. As a child, this was like my bedtime story. I might learn it over and over and be like, how superb is that? All I needed to do was be in a band.

And then when Dan and I lastly obtained 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 verify us out proper around then. And once we first obtained that buzz taking place, I imply, it was magical. I’ll by no means forget 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 midst of nowhere Mississippi. So we mainly signed up for the minor leagues. Which might be good.

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