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The Power of Love** : The Line of Best Fit meets The Black Keys

The Power of Love** : The Line of Best Fit meets The Black Keys

17 November 2011, 15:00

The brilliant and extremely boisterous Black Keys talk to Francine Gorman about their forthcoming record El Camino, winning Grammys and the best methods to train your wrists for upcoming tours.

The Line of Best Fit: … So let’s have a bit of a catch up about what you’ve been up to…

Patrick Carney: Let’s have a mustard as well! While we catch up… ketchup… I’m relishing in this, actually.

Dan Auerbach: Fuck, man… Did you just say I’m relishing in this?!

Patrick: Boy, I’m caught in a pickle right now…

From the moment The Black Keys step into the super swish hotel room that has been booked to host their interviews, it’s clear that these boys are feeling boisterous. They’ve just arrived in the UK to commence a pretty gruelling press tour (“We have 11 days to do. We’re three hours into it” says Patrick) but there is a definite sense of school boy excitement and energy about the pair, who are currently readying themselves to release their seventh studio album El Camino. Certainly one of the more colourful interviews that this journalist has been involved with recently, the content of our conversation will occasionally veer dangerously close to the ‘unpublishable’ line, and at other times, it’ll jump right over that line without a backwards glance or a moment’s hesitation. They’re feeling feisty, excited and mischievous. It’s good to have them back.

“We’re not influenced by anybody, actually” says drummer Patrick Carney dryly of the influences over the duo’s latest effort. “We’re innovators. Everything we’ve done is completely original… I bet say something like that” he continues, referring to a certain floppy haired NME pin-up boy that came in for a character assassination earlier in our conversation.

“What a fucking prick” singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach adds.

“By looking at pictures of him, I’d never pre-judge him as being a piece of shit prick, that wouldn’t be the first thing that came to mind. But we went to a bar yesterday and saw a picture of him on the wall, and it irritated the shit out of me…” Patrick continues.

“…wearing a fucking bowler and a fucking scarf… Jesus Christ” says Dan.

He‘s one of a range of figures from popular culture that will take a hit through the course of our interview, but one character that will emerge victorious and smelling of roses from this conversation is Danger Mouse, who was brought on board to produce the duo’s forthcoming album.

“I don’t know who talked about it first, but we’re such good friends with him now that it’s just easy” says Dan of the partnership. “We get along, and he always has interesting suggestions. He was there all the time and he had equal say in everything, so it was just the three of us.”

“He brought a third vote, and he helped to write a lot of melodies and to arrange stuff” explains Patrick. “He helped make everything about the record. We like Brian’s taste, we like where he comes from. We all come from the same spot I guess, but slightly different so it was good to have his perspective in there. When we made Brothers, we didn’t have a producer except that Brian did ‘Tighten Up’ and that turned out pretty good, so we thought we’d try it.”

Since the release of the duo’s last album Brothers in May 2010, the story of The Black Keys has changed dramatically. Until that point, the pair were a successful rock duo who’d managed to travel around the world on the back of five very well received records, and have a very good time in doing so. Over the past 18 months, this journey has been taken up a notch (or ten). In March of this year, they were awarded Grammys for the Best Alternative Music Album for Brothers, Best Recording Package for Brothers and Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for ‘Tighten Up’. Their music, although already widely heard on adverts and football round-ups became inescapable and The Black Keys’ reputation as being the Kings of all things alternative and rock ‘n’ roll was well and truly sealed.

“That just comes with the territory” jokes Patrick of the band’s recent success. “We’ve had all of this success, we’re used to it. We’re entitled to it. We expect nothing less.”

With so much attention thrust in the band’s direction over the past year then, was there a sense of pressure to repeat that success with a new album? “I think that we went into the studio maybe sooner than we normally would’ve, just to keep things moving along” Patrick responds. “We didn’t want to relish in… the sauce of success! We started recording in March, two weeks after the Grammys. And we spent about 40 days in the studio. In the middle of recording, we had a couple of tours – we played Coachella and did shows in Paris and Amsterdam. I don’t think there was any pressure. There should have been, but I think if there was, we just worked through it. If Brothers was our first record, there’d have been tons of pressure.”

El Camino is a record which is dripping with energy. The riffs are huge, the tempo is much faster than that of its predecessor and the pace of the record is lightning quick. “That was a sub-conscious reaction to what we were listening to, I think. We were listening to a lot of 50s rock n roll, and 70s rock n roll” says Dan. Is their record collection always a source of inspiration? “Absolutely,” he continues, “like when we made Brothers, we were listening to a lot of soul and things like that –it always informs what we end up doing, for sure.”

A track from El Camino that stands out as hugely representative of the power, ambition and melodic prowess of this duo is a song called ‘Little Black Submarines’, a powerhouse of a track which begins with a gentle acoustic intro before turning into a grinding, driving adventure of a song. “That was the only song where the lyrics had been written before the actual session” says Dan of the track. “But we did a bunch of arrangements for it, trying to figure out what would work and we just stumbled into the intro being an acoustic. I think maybe I was strumming the acoustic thinking it was going to be on top of something. And then I started finger-picking and singing and we just kept that. That song’s going to be fun to play. This whole record actually, I think that’s the biggest difference. Brothers is such a studio record. It’s really hard to recreate the feeling on stage, that openness and space.”

“Especially the slower songs” adds Patrick.

“This whole record’s going to be fun as fuck to play. I can’t wait. We already started playing ‘Lonely Boy’, just trying it out with the band and it sounds awesome, it’s going to be fun.” says Dan, before his band-mate makes a quip about the exercises he’s been doing to ‘train’ his wrists for the forthcoming tour, which subsequently sends Dan into fits of laughter.

It’s been a colourful interview, it’s been an eye-opener and it’s been an amazing insight into the banter and sparring that goes into the creation of a Black Keys record. The fact that the duo manage to capture their close relationship, energy and adoration of a massive riff on each record is something of a rare and special gift in the world of musical partnerships, but The Black Keys manage to succeed every time. The past year has been a testament to not only their hard work ethic and spirit, but also to the fact that they’re just brilliant musicians. Here is a pair that are incredibly good at what they do and if people thought it couldn’t get any better than Brothers, they’re in for a pretty special treat when they hear what’s to come.

Anything to add? “Can you title the article, ‘The Power of Love’?” **

El Camino will be available on the 6 December through Nonesuch Records, and The Black Keys will be returning to the UK for the El Camino live shows in March.

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