Listen to the debut album by The Arcs and you'll hear the sound of a man who has been to the top of the pop-music mountain and enjoyed its view, and is now leaping off the edge with nothing to lose. Dan Auerbach is best known as the singer-guitarist of The Black Keys and a producer for the likes of Dr. John, Valerie June and Lana Del Rey.
Yours, Dreamily is Auerbach's first album as the leader of The Arcs — but as he explains to NPR's Rachel Martin, his new band is populated with "old flames."
"These are people that I either met in the studio, or was a fan of the records that they made before I even met them," he says. "Richard Swift, I met him six years ago; we made a record together, and we've been great friends and made music ever since. And Leon Michels — every single day I was listening to this record by Lee Fields called My World. It just inspired me so much. And that was Leon — Leon, Nick and Homer, they made that record together. So it's weird how it's always been so connected."
Members Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss and Nick Movshon all belong to the loose family of musicians that orbits Daptone Records, a prolific exporter of 1960s- and '70s-style soul and funk. And yet the influences on Yours, Dreamily vary wildly. For a song called "Pistol Made Of Bones," the band called in some help to fill out the instrumentation — and got a surprise.
"We got to New York City and we hired a mariachi band, thinking that some old-timers were gonna show up, and all of a sudden, in walk eight mid-20s girls. It was an all-girl mariachi band," Auerbach says. "And they were just loud, very huge personalities. We put them on the track; they killed it. We decided to try them on another — same thing happened. We did another, and another, and then I said, 'Hey, can you guys sing?' And they were like, 'Of course we can sing.'"
That band, Flor De Toloache, ended up singing on half of the new album, and will join The Arcs on tour this fall. Hear more of Dan Auerbach's conversation with Rachel Martin at the audio link.