In A New Band Of Old Friends, Dan Auerbach Finds A Few Surprises The Black Keys guitarist and sought-after producer discusses his new album with his band The Arcs. Titled Yours, Dreamily, it finds Auerbach working with some of his favorite past collaborators.

In A New Band Of Old Friends, Dan Auerbach Finds A Few Surprises

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And that is the sound of a man who has been to the top of the pop music mountain, enjoyed its view and is now jumping off the edge of said peak. Dan Auerbach is taking new musical risks with nothing to lose. He's the frontman for the Black Keys, but his new album called "Yours Dreamily" was made with his new band, The Arcs. Dan joins us now from studios in Nashville, Tenn. Thanks so much for being with us, Dan.

DAN AUERBACH: How you doing?

MARTIN: I'm doing well, thanks. I called this your new band, but you've been making music with these people for a long time, right?

AUERBACH: This is my new, old band.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

AUERBACH: Yeah. These are my old flames.

MARTIN: Tell me about these people.

AUERBACH: These are people that I either met in the studio or were fans of the records that they made before I even met them, you know? So, like, Richard Swift - I met him six years ago. We made a record together, and we've, like, been great friends and made music ever since. And Leon Michels - so, you know, it's just weird how it's all always been so connected.

MARTIN: And forgive the over-the-top metaphor in the intro that I read, but does any of that ring true to you? Do you feel like you're at a new point in your career where you don't necessarily have to prove anything to anyone anymore?


MARTIN: ...Maybe you never did.

AUERBACH: Yeah, I never did. But I do feel like something's happening. I feel strange and excited and, you know, lots of beautiful metaphors.

MARTIN: What does that mean? You feel like something's happening. Are you just giving me a hard time, or you feel like you're at a different place?

AUERBACH: No, I feel like this Arcs thing is starting, and making music on a stage is completely different from making it in the studio, you know? It's almost like a different part of your brain. So all of that is very exciting - all the unknowns - very exciting. Releasing music to people is - all that unknown is exciting.


MARTIN: Let's play another track from the album. This one is called "Everything You Do." Let's take a listen, and we'll talk on the other side.


AUERBACH: (Singing) We put the horse before the cart, got so high we burned the paper on. All your premonitions of our condition came true because everything you do, you do for you.

MARTIN: There's a lot happening in that song. And when I first heard it, I wrote down the words creepy carnival, but I mean that, like, in a good way.


MARTIN: (Laughter).

AUERBACH: No, I take that as a compliment.

MARTIN: I hope you take it that way. It's evocative. Can you unpack it for me? I mean...

AUERBACH: There isn't necessary a line of lyrical content that connects everything. But there is - and from song to song, they're all little dreams - little dreamscapes that these characters live in. And you know, that one's the creepy carnival landscape.


AUERBACH: (Singing) You do, you do for you.

MARTIN: Did you have a dream like that?

AUERBACH: I always have a dream like that. As soon as I close my eyes, that's what it sounds like.


MARTIN: Can you tell me about the band you brought in to do some backup vocals?

AUERBACH: Yeah, well, Leon and I and Swift, we'd written a song called "Pistol Made Of Bones," and there was a little section that we thought would be cool to have a mariachi instrumentation happen.


AUERBACH: We got to New York City, and we hired a mariachi band, thinking that, you know, some old-timers were going to show up. And all of a sudden, in walks eight, you know, mid-20s girls. And so it was an all-girl...

MARTIN: Mariachi band 2.0.

AUERBACH: ...Mariachi band. And then they're just loud and, like, very huge personalities. They - 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...

MARTIN: ...You were like, do you want to join the band?

AUERBACH: Yeah. And then I say, hey, can you guys sing? And they're like, of course we can sing.


THE ARCS: (Singing) Chains of love...

AUERBACH: And then they just, you know, blow our minds. And so they end up singing on half the record. They sing - got solo vocals on "Chains Of Love."


THE ARCS: (Singing) Chains, chains of love...

AUERBACH: And you know, that's kind of the thing with this Arcs thing, is just all of these things are so exciting, and we're just keeping myself and keeping ourselves open to anything that could just walk through the door.

MARTIN: So the mariachi band is going on tour with you?

AUERBACH: Mariachi band is going on tour, yes.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

AUERBACH: If you'd told me a year ago that I'd be going on tour with a mariachi band, I would ask you for whatever it was you were smoking.


THE ARCS: (Singing) Chains of love...

MARTIN: There's another track on here called "The Arc." Is that just the name that worked for the band so you named a track off of it, or which came first?

AUERBACH: The song came first. But they're not really - it's not really related to the band...

MARTIN: It's just a coincidence.

AUERBACH: ...Other than being on a record. That make sense, right?


MARTIN: Sure. What do you like about the image of an arc?

AUERBACH: Well, I like the arc of the story, especially this guy in this story. He was trying to get out of the business, and he just had one more drop to make. And something happens at the end of the song. But thinking about your life, thinking about the arc, you know, of your own story and, you know, whenever - every song that you write is kind of like a different journey.


AUERBACH: (Singing) I gotta get a little more time to shine. I just need a little more time.

MARTIN: There's a lot of different vibes on this album. This just feels like straight up - this is just a - like, a - it's a narrative, but it's a rock song.

AUERBACH: Yeah. It's a groover.



AUERBACH: (Singing) I gotta get a little more time to shine. I just need a little more time. Workin' just to be there on clock. Alls I need is one more stop. If you even knew the things I do for you, you'd pray like I do.

MARTIN: You clearly are a collaborator. You've done it your whole career. But you did go in a different direction and make a solo album at one point. What's different about working with other people? What is that - what do you get to tap into that you didn't when you were doing your solo project?

AUERBACH: Well, for me making music with other people, the experience of trying to work things out as a group has always been the most satisfying. It always feel like has so much more depth when you get all those minds together, do you know what I mean? You're absolutely creating something out of nothing with sometimes perfect strangers

MARTIN: Also, I imagine if you're working by yourself, does self-doubt creep in? I mean, there's not someone else in the room to be like, that is a bad idea.

AUERBACH: When I made the solo record, I mean, I'm working with other people, also.


AUERBACH: But I mean, I was doing the songwriting. So this one - it was different. It's just a different experience, you know? And you have to be comfortable with taking criticism. And I'm completely comfortable with these guys throwing me criticism because I trust them, and I respect what they do. And when you get into a groove in an environment like that, it's just is like you're on the moon walking. Every step is like 10 feet.


AUERBACH: (Singing) I just need a little more time, uh-huh.

MARTIN: Dan Auerbach - he's one half of the Black Keys. His new album with his band The Arcs is called "Yours Dreamily." Thanks for talking with us, Dan.

AUERBACH: Thanks so much.

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