National Post (National Edition)
THE BLACK KEYS CELEBRATE 10 YEARS OF THEIR GRAMMY-WINNING ALBUM
That the Black Keys are still making music as the rock duo celebrates the 10th anniversary of their 2010 album, Brothers, isn't a surprise to co-founding drummer Patrick Carney. Looking back on it, the part that still shocks him is how that multiplatinum, Grammy-winning sixth studio LP changed the course of the Ohio rockers' careers.
“It's pretty crazy to think how we went from playing to 5,000 to 15,000 in one year,” Carney says in a phone interview.
Until the release of Brothers, Carney and his bandmate Dan Auerbach, who sings and plays lead guitar, had made a pretty good living doing the club and theatre grind in North America.
“We went from making these records that we loved and having this cult following, to getting played at bumpers at the Super Bowl,” Carney says. “It was pretty wild.”
The twosome had planned to spend much of 2020 on the road touring in support of last year's Let's Rock album. But with the pandemic putting live shows off until at least next summer, Carney and Auerbach decided to revisit their commercial breakthrough. A Brothers reissue has been released in three formats: a seven-inch box set, a two-LP vinyl edition and a deluxe CD set. Each edition comes with three bonus tracks: Keep My Name Outta Your Mouth, Black Mud Part II, and Chop and Change. The re-release will be the first in an annual series of archival releases.
“I've gone through a bunch of stuff and I'm surprised by how many things we have that weren't included on our records that were really good,” Carney says.
Ringing up from Nashville, Carney looked back on the landmark record and how the release of Brothers changed the course of the band's career.
Q Brothers was your sixth record, but it was the one that took the Black Keys to the next level. It must have been a crazy period for you.
A I was going through a divorce with my college sweetheart. We had been together for nine years, but things had just come to end. When that happened, and that decision was made, it coincided with Dan and I starting work on Brothers … So every change you could fathom, happened to me during that period. I got divorced, I moved, and we became famous (laughs).
Q What's it like for you listening back to that album now?
A Every time I listen to any of our records, I get a wave of nostalgia. I put on Thickfreakness and I can remember that time in 2002 when we made it in my basement. For Brothers, it's the same thing, but I think, `What if we didn't make this record?' It literally changed my entire life. That's the thing that probably makes Brothers the most special to Dan and I. There's a profound respect for that record and what it did for us.
Q What if Brothers had come out and not been a hit and you guys had just stayed a cult band. What do you think would have happened with you and Dan?
A I think we'd still be doing it, but obviously things would be a lot different. I remember how we almost didn't include Tighten Up on the album. I played it for a friend of ours, who said to me, `You guys are idiots if you don't put that on the record.' If I hadn't played him that song … if I hadn't listened to him … that was our first big hit.
Did you and Dan worry that the success might be fleeting?
A In January of 2011, eight months after the album had come out, we were supposed to fly to Australia to play the Big Day Out festival. We had just played SNL for the first time and we were supposed to fly the next day. But we cancelled Australia and decided to make another record. We did something a lot of bands would never have done, which is to double down. We wrote (El Camino) and within 18 months we put out two hit records back-toback, which solidified us.
Q We're 20 years into the Black Keys. How did your rock star dreams measure to where you are today?
A At the beginning of our career, back in 2002, Dan's dad asked me, `Where do you think you guys could go?' I remember saying to him, `I'll be really happy if we can play to 500 people,' which was the small room at the Agora in Cleveland. That would have been peak for me. I saw a few shows there when I was younger that were a major influence. One of them was Pavement in '95. So I thought if we can play where Pavement played in 1995 that would mean I was really successful. The biggest show I saw in high school was Dinosaur Jr. at the Agora — the big room. But in 2007, we played the Agora and Dinosaur Jr. went on before us. So within five years, we got to this place where we had peaked. We played the venue of the biggest show I saw in my teenage years and not only that, the band I saw play, played before us. So literally every single thing that's happened after that has blown my mind.
The Black Keys' Brothers reissue is out now.