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21 Years In, The Black Keys Are Still Boogieing

Dan Auerbach breaks down the group's eleventh album: "It's a kind of record you can put on start to finish"

the black keys interview
The Black Keys, photo by Jim Herrington/Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    Few bands comprised of only two members have managed to achieve the unity and spirit that Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have championed as The Black Keys. Now in the 21st year of their lengthy careers in the rock world, Auerbach and Carney have laid an impressive foundation for their band: festival headliners, Grammy winners, radio and sync specialists, and so many more accolades are associated with The Black Keys in 2022.

    And when Auerbach and Carney reunite to create music, it’s remarkably easy for them to pick up where they left off. “I feel like Pat and I’s relationship might be better than it’s ever been right now,” says Auerbach ahead of the release of The Black Keys’ eleventh(!) studio album, Dropout Boogie (out Friday, May 13th). “I think the longer that we get to make music together, the more we know how special it is.”

    Indeed, the chemistry between the two is undeniable, both in the studio and onstage. Since their early days jamming blues covers in Akron, Ohio, Auerbach and Carney have applied their work ethic, improved their overall musicianship, and narrowed down exactly what it means to be The Black Keys. But on Dropout Boogie, there is definitely a sense of throwing all that out the window to channel a pure rock and roll ethos without trying too hard.

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    This sort of organic creation mindset has always been a part of the band, but last year’s Delta Kream, an album of Hill Country Blues covers, helped cement the process for Dropout Boogie. The Black Keys recruited some classic blues musicians to round out the process, incorporating new elements to songs that they had never played in full before. “It was all these new experiences wrapped up in some sort of familiar sound,” says Auerbach of recording both Delta Kream and Dropout Boogie, “it’s been really good momentum since then.”

    Dropout Boogie’s announcement in March came along with “Wild Child,” which hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Alternative Airplay chart in April and is shaping up to be The Black Keys’ biggest single yet. It’s easy to see why — “Wild Child” has all the positive traits that characterize many of their previous hits, but with an increased emphasis on the band’s ability to take a simple song and make it genuinely electrifying.

    “Wild Child” also arrived paired with a wonderful music video, which showed Auerbach and Carney as high school faculty members seeming completely out of touch with the nuance of today’s youth. And yet, it’s all done with a wink and a nudge; an implicit pledge to not take themselves too seriously. Throughout their lengthy career, this has always been an aspect to their ethos, regardless of the collective hours, days, and weeks they’ve spent in the studio writing music. And with each record — especially Dropout Boogie — that attitude is proudly on display, channeled through fuzzy guitar solos and unpolished drum beats.

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    When all is said and done, The Black Keys will remain a staple of American rock music in the 21st century, but to Auerbach and Carney, none of that matters. They just want to get together and play.

    Ahead of the release of Dropout BoogieConsequence chatted with Dan Auerbach about the making of the album, having the LP released a day before the 20th anniversary of their debut album, and what it means to be in The Black Keys in 2022.


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