The Black Keys are a Blues Rock duo from Akron, Ohio, who formed in 2001. They consist of Dan Auerbach (guitar, vocals) and Patrick Carney (drums). They began life as a bunch of college dropouts, but started to gain more coverage as part of the “garage rock revival” scene of the early 2000s, alongside the likes of The White Stripes and The Strokes.
They have so far released seven albums in total, with the last two, Brothers and El Camino, released in 2010 and 2011 respectively, garnering wider exposure in the mainstream, propelling the duo into the big leagues.
This year’s sub-headline spot at Reading and Leeds, is their first appearance at the twin festival, since their spot on the then-Carling Stage in 2003. It has been a meteoric rise for the band, who will also be headlining this year’s Coachella Festival in California.
With influences including Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, The Cramps and Lynryd Skynryd, as well as old Blues musicians, their rough and tough blues-psychedelic rock has earned them a steady, growing fan base. With the recent album, El Camino, the duo have began to incorporate glam rock into their sound, as seen on songs such as “Gold on the Ceiling”.
- 2010 – MTV Video Music Awards – “Best New Artist”
- 2010 – Brothers certified Platinum in the US and Silver In the UK
- 2011 – Grammy Awards – “Tighten Up” – Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
- 2011 – Grammy Awards – “Brothers” – Best Alternative Album
- 2011 – Grammy Awards – “Brothers” – Best Recording Package
- 2011 – El Camino Certified Platinum in the US and Gold in the UK
- 2012 – Named Coachella Headliner
The Big Come Up (2002)
The duo’s first album was released in May 2002. It was recorded entirely in Auerbach’s basement, on an 8-track lo-fi recorder. It consisted of 8 original songs and 5 covers, from artists such as Muddy Waters, John Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. The track “I’ll Be Your Man”, was used as the title track to the HBO programme, Hung. Although it was a poor seller, it garnered positive critical praise and a cult following, which saw the duo signed to indie label Fat Possum Records.
Again recorded in Auerbach’s basement, in 14 hours, their sophomore record was released in April 2003 and was home to singles “Set You Free”, “Hard Row” and a cover of Richard Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”. Their popularity began to build, and they saw themselves compared to The White Stripes, with both bands sharing two-piece line ups, colour coded names, bluesy sounds and Midwest origins. They toured extensively for the promotion of this album, acting as a support band for the likes of Sleater-Kinney and Beck.
Rubber Factory (2004)
After the building that housed their basement studio was sold by their landlord, the Black Keys were forced to find a new recording space. Their third album was eventually recorded in an abandoned tire-manufacturing factory, hence the title. The album was released in September 2004, and saw the tracks “10am Automatic” and “Till I Get My Way/Girl is on My Mind” released as singles. They gained more mainstream exposure, after “10am Automatic” was used in an American Express advertisement, whilst “Girl is on My Mind” appeared in a Sony Ericsson cyber shot commercial and “Grown So Ugly” in the film Cloverfield.
Magic Potion (2006)
Their first foray into a major label, Magic Potion was released in September 2006 on Nonesuch Records, a subsidiary of Warner Music Group. It saw the release of singles including “You’re the One”, “Your Touch”, “Strange Desire” and “Just Got to Be”. The latter was featured on the video game NHL ‘08, whilst “Your Touch” appeared towards the ending of Zombieland and on HBO series, Eastbound & Down.
Attack & Release (2008)
The Black Keys’ fifth album was produced by Danger Mouse, one half of Gnarls Barkley. Released on April 1, 2008, it spawned the singles “Strange Times”, “I Got Mine” and “Same Old Thing.” They would also play a benefit show for presidency candidate Barack Obama around the time of the release. Inbetween the release of Attack & Release and Brothers, the duo would release a self-titled album called, Blackroc, a collaboration between them and hip hop stars, including Mos Def, Ludacris, RZA and Q-Tip.
The band released their sixth album, Brothers, on May 18, 2010. It was produced by themselves and Mark Niell, whilst Danger Mouse helped produce single “Tighten Up.” They began to gain a much more commercial sound on this album, and they were nominated for five Grammy Awards, as well as winning the “Best New Artist” at the MTV VMAs, which gained criticism seeing as they had released six albums at this point. Spin magazine labelled them the “Artist of the Year”.
The tour for this album, also saw them supporting Kings of Leon at their Hyde Park shows.
El Camino (2011)
Their biggest release to date was last year’s El Camino. It was recorded in the duo’s new home of Nashville, Tennessee. Danger Mouse returned as producer, as well as co-writing all the tracks on the album with them. The record draws strong influences from rock and roll, rockabilly, glam rock and soul. Their popularity escalated off the back of this record and saw the band selling out Madison Square Garden in fifteen minutes, as well as three shows at Alexandra Palace.
Clickable Black Keys Playlist: