The Black Keys have come along way since their days of recording lo-fi blues records back in Akron, Ohio. Their latest album, El Camino, reached number 10 on the Billboard 200 chart. It was reported that the band entered the studio to record the follow-up in January of this year, with the hopes of completing the album by March. While we wait for news on a release date for the band’s eighth studio album, we list 10 things about The Black Keys you may not have heard before.
The Black Keys was formed when guitarist Dan Auerbach had rented drummer Patrick Carney’s basement for a recording session. When none of Dan’s band mates showed up, Patrick and Dan started jamming together. The rest is history.
2. The Band Name
The name The Black Keys comes from an expression used by a schizophrenic artist friend of Dan and Pat, Alfred McMoore. He would call the Carney’s home number and leave references to “black keys,” on the voicemail.
3. Basement Blues
The recording session of The Black Keys first album, The Big Come Up, was a lo-fi affair. Dan and Patrick recorded the entire album in Pat’s basement studio on 8-track recording equipment.
The album, which was a mix of blues covers and originals, already had the band’s trademark sound of dirty garage blues. The follow up, Thickfreakness, was also recorded in the basement setup. It was reportedly recorded during a single 14-hour recording session.
4. Gray Ghost
Before The Black Keys reached the level of fame they’re at now, they would drive themselves from gig to gig. Their “tour bus” was an old Chrysler van that they nicknamed the Gray Ghost.
5. Rubber Factory
When time came for Dan and Pat to record their third album, they were left without a studio. The building where they had their basement studio had been sold. The Keys found themselves setting up a temporary studio in an old tire factory. Subsequently, they ended up naming the album after the recording studio, simply calling it Rubber Factory. That album was The Black Keys first recording to enter the Billboard 200 chart, reaching 143.
6. From Akron to Nashville
The Black Keys hail from Akron, OH, a fact that they’ve been quick to point out in interviews, since they love their origins. But like so many other artists, Jack White among them, Dan and Pat have relocated to Nashville, TN.
While The Black Keys sound like a blues rock outfit to the casual listener, the band themselves are quick to point out that they draw quite a bit of inspiration from rap and hip hop acts like Wu-Tang Clan. This became more apparent when the duo provided the music to Blakroc, a collaboration album with several rap and R&B acts.
8. Danger Mouse
When Dan and Pat set out to record Attack & Release it was the first time they deviated from their simple recording sessions of the past. The band enlisted the help of producer Danger Mouse, whom they’d met while writing songs for an Ike Turner album (the project was never completed since Turner passed away before the recording sessions). Danger Mouse helped The Black Keys refine their sound, making Attack & Release their biggest success up until that point.
9. Not The White Stripes
Many critics have drawn parallels between The Black Keys and The White Stripes. It’s easy to do so, because on the surface the two bands may seem similar: Both bands have only two members, and the only two instruments are drums and guitar. But to say that The Black Keys would be copying Jack and Meg White in any way is quite inaccurate. When they started out The Black Keys’ music was mainly inspired by blues greats like Junior Kimbrough, and R.L. Burnside. They basically sounded like an old-school blues act. The White Stripes on the other hand mainly used the blues for inspiration, while their sound was more on the alternative side of rock music.
10. Playing with the Stones
The Black Keys got the honor to play with the Rolling Stones during Mick Jagger & Co’s anniversary tour last year. The Keys joined the band on stage at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, on December 15, 2012, where they did a cover of Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?”