Their cookin’ mix of Motown, Delta blues and glam rock has propelled The Black Keys to huge success, but what they really want, Dan Auerbach tells KEVIN COURTNEY, is lots of spuds
‘HOW YE BE doin’?” chirps Dan Auerbach down the phone from Gothenburg, in an accent that, frankly, sounds more Swedish Chef than Irish leprechaun. Luckily, he stops there, and doesn’t continue with “top o’ the morning” or “let’s wear green, drink a lot and have fights”. You see, we’re still a bit sensitive about cultural stereotyping after the flood of Oirish cliches that followed Katie Taylor’s Olympic win. The last thing we need is some blues-breaking scuzzball from Ohio getting all Darby O’Gill on our asses.
Oh, what the hell, let’s go for it. These days, everyone has some far-fetched claim to Irish ancestry, so tell me, Dan, in what way are The Black Keys Irish?
“We like potatoes,” offers Auerbach. “What way do we like potatoes? I dunno, man, any way you can make ’em. Mashed is good. Gotta have plenty of butter on ’em. Is that Irish enough?”
Your passport’s in the post, Dan.
We’ll be welcoming Na hEochracha Dubha home on Wednesday when they play the O2, their biggest Irish gig to date. Before they hit the big-time with their 2010 album Brothers, then hit the even bigger time with last year’s El Camino, Auerbach and his bandmate, Pat Carney, swore they’d never get themselves locked in an endless tour/tour/record/tour again cycle. Now that their albums are big potatoes, their concert calendar is stretching further into the future, and the venues are just getting bigger and bigger. Looks like the pair won’t be stepping off the treadmill anytime soon.
“The tour is never-ending. It does not end. We’ve been touring for like 10 years! I mean, we finish this, and we go to the west coast of America, South America, then Australia, New Zealand, then we come home and we’re gonna be in the studio, and then we go out again . . . it just doesn’t end. That’s just sorta how it is for right now. Someday it’ll change, but not right now.”
When Auerbach does manage to get time off from touring, he heads straight into his Easy Eye Sound Studio in the band’s adopted home town of Nashville, usually in the company of a bona fide musical legend or serious up-and-coming talent. Recent visitors to the studio have included Dr John, LA band The Growlers, Tuareg guitar prodigy Bombino and garage rockers Jeff the Brotherhood and Hanni El Khatib.
“My favourite place to be is in the studio, so when I’m home, I try to get into the studio whenever I can and work with different people. Try to get together with musicians that I like and I admire. I’m very fortunate cos I get to work with bands that I like.”
He’s also found time in between collaborations and production work to devote some time to the day job. Just last month, he and Carney got back into the studio to start work on their eighth album, the follow-up to El Camino.