A Dan Auerbach Story, From Way Back
The Black Keys as they looked back when I interviewed them.
With The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach's solo record, Keep It Hid, having come out last Tuesday and his protégé, Jessica Lea Mayfield coming to town tomorrow, I thought this would be a good time to share a story I wrote on Auerbach for my college paper back when his band was still an up-and-coming act in our shared hometown of Akron, Ohio. The story is on the jump.
If nothing else, it goes to show that sometimes pissing off a source works out -- we couldn't get these guys to return a call until we called them "pompous bastards," the subject of the tongue-in-cheek correction at the top of the story. Is it too much to hope the same thing will happen with local porn star Taryn Thomas, who we pissed off a few days ago? Ahem.
Actually, while the story seemed to please the Keys themselves, Dan Auerbach's dad was still not pleased, and left an angry voice mail, castigating me for the whole sordid affair. Unfortunately, I didn't record that voice mail, otherwise I'd hope to use a transcript of it in much the same way the Keys did with a telephone message from Junior Kimbrough's wife on Chulahoma. Well, except, you know, not praising my fine work in capturing the essence of a legendary bluesman's work. But otherwise similarly.
Call me Taryn!
Unlocking The Keys
The Buchtelite , March 4, 2004
By Martin Cizmar
Correction: In last Thursday's issue the Buchtelite erroneously reported that the Black Keys were "pompous bastards." This statement was made because the band ignored the paper's numerous requests for an interview. The band finally met with the paper on Tuesday. They are, in fact, nice guys. We have also confirmed both band members to be of legitimate parentage. The Buchtelite apologizes for this error.
The Black Keys march into Café Momus with chips on their shoulders. They've read last Thursday's Buchtelite and they appear to be a bit miffed. Nevertheless, they've agreed to do an interview.
"Are you guy's driving a blue Cavalier?" asks Pat Carney, the band's gangly drummer. "Because there's one out in the parking lot with its lights on."
Pat then displayed his altruism, leaning his lanky frame over several tables to locate the car's owner among the early afternoon patrons. Dan, the band's shorter and quieter frontman, approaches the counter and orders a cup of coffee.
A few minutes later the blues-rock duo is seated in the upper-floor smoking section, ready to grind a few axes with the University of Akron.
The Buchtelite is first. After a brief explanation and apology, the paper is offered forgiveness. In exchange, the paper agrees to communicate the band's feelings about another student media outlet.
"We're trying to drop a bombshell on you," Pat says with contrived conviction. "WZIP saved our lives."
"Playing all that horrible music was the best thing they ever could have done for us," Says Dan.
"I would like to take a giant shit on the antenna," Pat says, shaking his head in disgust.
"There's no excuse for a college station to be playing Britney Spears," he continues. "And there's no excuse for them to have community polka shows but not community rock shows...You're supposed to be able to sign up for a show if you want to play music."
The campus radio station isn't the only thing about the university that irks the Keys, who both attended the school briefly.
"I wasted my time, and I still owe money," said Dan, who has a few regrets. "I just took the basics. I was doing English, but I had just declared that to myself -- I hadn't officially declared it."
"I got bummed with Akron U once they banned smoking in the library and the student center," added Pat. "That made it just like high school."
Following a few quick impressions of WZIP plug spots, the band talked about music.
The Keys are currently working on their third record in the old General Tire factory downtown. They love the location.
"It's great," says Dan. "It's a big building; there's nobody there. It's pretty creepy."
The band's first two records were both recorded in Pat's basement. The debut, The Big Come Up, was upbeat and unfussy. The follow-up, Thickfreakness, was drowsier and more bluesy. The band is tight-lipped about what the new record will sound like.
"It's gonna be more technotronic," says Pat.
"It's gonna be a mix between Next shit and Nexter shit," Pat adds.
"It's like, past Next," explains Pat.
Technotronic, Nexter or not, the record will probably have roots in the blues.
Both Pat and Dan are Akron natives, but you'd never know it just from hearing their records. Dan's gruff howl sounds too old, too big and too black to come out of a little white kid from the 'burbs. Saucy riffs and jarring drumwork come together to make a spellbinding, and amazingly authentic, southern sound.
The Keys seem to have approached the Blues in the same way many suburban kids from their generation tackled hip-hop, wrapping rock around the guts of the genre and merging the music.
"I was into blues music," said Dan. "When I was learning to play guitar that's what I was listening to. It was a foundation for what I knew about music so it had to be there."
"I was in to more Caribbean shit. Zydeco shit," said Pat wryly.
"When we first played together Pat had a Zydeco tie," says Dan, playing along. "I had to wean him off of that."
The Keys have a well-deserved reputation for putting on thrilling shows which all but eclipse their outstanding albums. The Keys say this isn't so much a product of in-stage energy as it is practice.
"Some of those songs on the album we never played before. Those were like the first or second time we ever played them," says Dan.
"We played over 100 shows last year so we played those songs over 100 times."
"Now we're ready to make the first two albums again," adds Pat.
Considering the band's potential for fame and fortune, some people are surprised they stick around town.
"We've been to all the major cities and cultural meccas," says Dan. "This is tops."
"I like Akron a lot but there's nothing to do," adds Pat. "At least there's a place like the Lime Spider now."
"Think about that: The Lime Spider used to be Bilbo's," Dan muses.
Pat picks up on Dan's point almost immediately.
"They missed it by like a month," Pat says. "They went out of business and then Lord of the Rings came out."
Dan lets out a hearty laugh.
"Talk about fucking bad luck," he says. "I think I heard that guy jumped off the Y-bridge."
As the interview winds down the band returns to their main point.
"Make sure you put stuff in the article about how much we hate WZIP," says Pat. "If you think of something really funny that's about WZIP make it up and put it in one of our mouths."
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.