By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer
It’s the dream of millions of people, young and old, but it’s hard being in a working rock band.
The endless traveling; having people you’ve never met claim to hate/love you and the sounds you create; the throngs of fans, journalists, managers, record label folks and other hangers-on lapping up the creative juices flowing from your artistic teat.
But it beats having a 9 to 5 any day.
Akron’s own fuzzy blues rockers the Black Keys have been doing the working rock band thing for a couple of years now and it has taken the duo to new territories.
Though they often don’t see much of the local landscape of whatever city they’re in beyond the performance venue, the hotel room and whatever food place they happen to stop and eat, there is much to learn from all that globe hopping, isn’t there?
“We know which hotels have Nick at Nite,” drummer Pat Carney said during a recent lunchtime conversation at the Post in the Ellet area of Akron.
“We know which fast food places are the worst,” he added.
The duo, which also features Dan Auerbach on guitar and vocals, is performing Friday and Saturday (already sold out) at the Lime Spider. They spent much of 2003 on the road promoting their second CD Thickfreakness. The tour took them all over the United States, Australia and Europe and they’ve returned home to Akron to record the follow-up, so they can do it all over again.
Though they haven’t been doing much dedicated touring since late last year, and skipped a planned European tour when Auerbach fractured a few of his toes, duty still calls often enough that they’ve made several weekend jaunts to perform for their growing fan base and have had to turn down several shows just to maintain their sanity.
In April, the Keys are flying to Australia and then in the summer they’ll play one show at a festival in Japan and come right back home.
Oh, yeah, and there’s an album to be completed before May 15.
“This is the best part,” Auerbach said of being home and spending days in the new Ellet studio/rehearsal space tentatively dubbed General Record-Com Studios.
“I hate touring. I hate flying. Even going out once a month gets to be too much,” he said.
But creating music is always a good time, especially when the average work days starts “around noon or 1” and goes to “around 3 to 7 p.m.” So far, Auerbach said, they’ve demo-ed six songs and a couple of those may make it into the set lists for the Lime Spider shows.
The burning question, of course is, what’s the new stuff sound like? Is there a new direction for the band? Will there be signs of the dreaded “maturity?”
“I don’t know what it’s shaping out to sound like, but it sounds good,” lyricist and main riffmeister Auerbach said. “Pat’s so much better from all the touring and he just bought a Rhodes (electric piano), so that’ll probably make it on the record somewhere.”
As usual, Carney has his own cogent analysis of what fans can expect to hear from the next as yet untitled album.
“It’s sounding a lot like pre-Move That Body Technotronic,” he deadpanned. “No, really I think it’s better, I can keep a steady beat and this is the first time we’ve had isolation areas (in the studio) and area mikes, so the production will be better.”
Carney is the band’s sonic alchemist and he has been fiddling with knobs on a soundboard that once belonged to Loverboy and even came with an instruction manual emblazoned with a sexy, glossy photo of the band. Carney has said his fervent hope is to re-create the guitar and drum sound heard on the Canadian rockers’ radio rock masterpiece Hot Girls In Love. OK, I made that last bit up, but the upgrade in equipment and space -- their old rehearsal/studio space was in the bottom of a house on Richmond Place -- will keep the next record from sounding like it was played on “toy drums and guitars.”