Despite the Black Keys' knack for cranking out indie-style blues rock that's authentic-sounding and undeniably catchy, there was a nagging concern that the hard-hitting Akron, Ohio, duo might max out their straightforward style. But the past two years have seen singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney leave behind the basement haze to team up with eclectic hip-hop producer Danger Mouse (Attack & Release) and members of Wu-Tang Clan (Blakroc). Carney talks to NOW about new influences and the Keys' sixth offering, Brothers (Nonesuch), ahead of sold-out shows Tuesday and Wednesday (August 3 and 4) at Kool Haus.
You did the Blakroc sessions right before recording Brothers. What effect did they have?
Working on Blakroc, Dan started using the guitar less and I played a lot of keyboard. We threw down every musical idea we had. So when we went into the studio to make Brothers, like, three days later, it felt like we'd had our minds wiped clean. We wrote and recorded almost all on instinct.
What major differences will fans hear?
Recording Brothers, we started every song with bass and drums. The next instrument we added was always keyboard, and finally guitar as a finishing touch. We could play these songs as a two-piece, but we'd have to rearrange them. Instead, we're going to play them live as a four-piece [featuring Nick Movshon on bass and Leon Michels on keys].
Do you worry about how fans will react to the new sound?
They way I see it, there are fans who probably don't like anything we've done since our second or third record, and there are new fans who love this record who are only now getting into our old stuff. Then there are people who say they're our fans but complain about every single thing we do. It'll drive you fucking crazy if you worry about it too much.
What's the Black Keys philosophy about making new music?
It's simple: the goal for Dan and me is to make music we're excited about. Touring is repetitive enough, so if we toured records that all sounded the same, we'd feel like the human equivalent of Applebee's.
You recently played on Leno. What's a late-night TV gig like?
It feels like a job interview. You get dressed up and sit around waiting to play. Its fun, but nothing like playing a concert. Actually, it's like a cross between playing a concert and getting your high school yearbook photo taken.