The Black Keys 

Soul Brothers: The Black Keys craft an instant classic.

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Just more than a week ago, the two men who make up The Black Keys were holed up in New York City doing all manner of work to promote the release of their stellar, soulful new album, Brothers.

Pat Carney and Dan Auerbach were doing a series of phone interviews about their upcoming tour, playing network TV shows and basking in the afterglow of a splashy feature in Rolling Stone. Monday afternoon, after talking to City Weekly, they were scheduled to have their picture taken by legendary rock photographer Mick Rock while anxiously awaiting the Tuesday record release.

The duo has come a long way since they spent the record-release eve for their sophomore album, Thickfreakness, right here in SLC. Back then, Carney says, no one was paying them much mind.

“We were touring in a Buick Century, like April 2003, and we were driving from Akron to the West Coast,” Carney recalls. “The one main promo thing we had the whole tour—because we had, like, no press at all going on—was a show called Good Morning Salt Lake City [Ed. Note: It was actually Good Things Utah]. We got up at like 4:30 in the fucking morning, and we got there and it was so bizarre.

“We just straight-up lied to them on TV, told them we were normally a 12-piece jazz band, but today we’re going to be doing a two-piece blues thing. Right after our segment, they taught you how to make a lobster bisque wrap or something like that. It was the weirdest bit of promotion we’ve ever done.”

The days of driving a sedan cross-country are long gone for Carney and Auerbach. The Black Keys have grown by leaps and bounds since that first Salt Lake City stop for a gig at the Zephyr Club; last year, they played the Twilight Concert Series for a crowd that had to be in the 15,000 range.

Brothers is bound to make them even more popular. The collection of 15 songs retains their bluesy base, while expanding The Black Keys’ sound in new, more soulful directions. They recorded most of the album at the famous Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama, where icons ranging from the Rolling Stones to Aretha Franklin recorded some of their best stuff.

Carney credits the duo’s experience working on last year’s Blakroc project with helping push The Black Keys out of their comfort zone, incorporating more keyboards and using less guitar on Brothers than previous efforts. Blakroc paired Carney and Auerbach with a slew of hip-hop’s finest MCs, including Q-Tip and Mos Def, creating a hybrid of hip-hop, soul and R&B that stuck with them as they went to record Brothers immediately after wrapping work on Blackroc.

Last week, Carney was excited for Brothers to see the light of day, since he and Auerbach had completed work on it nearly three months ago. But he remained pissed that Brothers leaked on the Internet a month ahead of time, ruining the communal experience of “people on the same page, experiencing something together for the first time, at the same time.”

“Instead you have a bunch of fucking fat teenagers sitting around stealing people’s music,” Carney says. “It makes it shitty for everybody.

“It’s like when our manager posted something on our Web page about how we have a song in a Twilight movie, and we get like 400 comments about how we’re sell-outs. But you have these people out there on the Internet who are stealing our record, and it’s like, this is why we have to put a song on the Twilight soundtrack, because we’re not fucking selling any records!”

That becomes less of a problem with each new Black Keys release, though. Brothers will likely bring The Black Keys a slew of new fans. And many of them will surely earn Carney’s scorn when they steal the duo’s next album. 

THE BLACK KEYS
With Brian Olive
The Depot
400 W. South Temple
Wednesday, June 2
8 p.m., $30
DepotSLC.com

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Dan Nailen

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