Last Friday fell on the 13th of May, a date which, according to your trusty search engine, only comes around an average of 1.72 times a year. This year’s is extra special. 2022 will only see one Friday the 13th, and boy was this one something in the world of music. A staggering number of today’s seminal artists released new music in honor of this ominous date. Among them were Florence + The Machine with Dance Fever, Tank and the Bangas with Red Balloon, Max Creeps with reunion album Nien, and of course Kendrick Lamar with his first album in five years, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers.  

Also in the lineup last Friday were prolific The Black Keys who delivered their eleventh studio album Dropout Boogie on Nonesuch Records (available to stream and purchase here). Led by singles “Wild Child” and “It Ain’t Over,” Dropout Boogie features collaborations with Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright, Billy F Gibbons (ZZ Top), and Angelo Petraglia (Kings of Leon), and arrives one day before the twentieth anniversary of The Black Keys’ first LP, The Big Come Up.   

As the sun set on Friday the 13th, the superstitious among us stayed home––our mothers’ cautionary “Better safe than sorry” echoing somewhere in the back of our brains. But others, like Dan Auerback and Patrick Carney, braved the night in celebration of Dropout Boogie with a live performance and interview at iHeartRadio. They also stopped by Jimmy Kimmel Live! to perform the album’s leading tracks “Wild Child” and “It Ain’t Over.” 

Dropout Boogie marks a return of sorts for The Black Keys, harnessing the bluesy side of their alt. Rock repertoire. The new album captures a number of first takes that hark back to the stripped-down blues rock of their early days making music together in Akron, Ohio basements. But according to Pat Carney, this switch-up didn’t make the creative process any harder. “Making music, for us, has always been fun, and we were lucky enough to have grown up five doors down from each other a long long time ago.”

In fact, Dropout Boogie was, in many ways, a simpler and eye-opening undertaking for the Grammy Award-winning duo. Perhaps to the surprise of some, Pat Carney told iHeartRadio host Chris Booker last Friday that making Dropout Boogie was one of the first times The Black Keys have solicited others to help with the writing process. “It took us twenty years to start doing that,” said Pat, “We’re idiots!” Getting by with just a little help from their friends, Pat and Dan asked Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound) to join them in the studio, and he helped them write part of “Wild Child.” They also asked Kings of Leon songwriting partner Angelo Petraglia for some help with Dropout Boogie

Courtesy of Pitchfork

But perhaps the most fun collaboration was happenstance. In the spirit of blues, of camaraderie, and of one-take wonders, Billy F Gibbons made his way onto Dropout Boogie for the album’s fifth track “Good Love.” When Dan heard that Billy was in town, he shot him a cold text. An hour later his phone buzzed: “I’m on my way amigo!” Billy had responded. The legendary ZZ Top guitarist showed up at The Black Keys’ studio door with a bottle of wine in hand––no guitar, nothing. Pat and Dan poured Billy a glass of the wine he’d brought, gave him a guitar, plugged him into one of their amps, and started playing. When the bottle was empty, Billy left, and “Good Love” was snuggled into the middle of Dropout Boogie. 

Not everyone can have Billy Gibbons on speed dial, but for guys like Pat and Dan who have been making stellar music for the last 20 years, little things like that just sort of turn out in their favor from time to time. It’s what makes music-making so enjoyable for the pair who have been friends and creative partners since childhood. 

Photo by Jim Harrington

And speaking of kids, impish antics are all over this album. Not only does “Wild Child” kick off Dropout Boogie with bluesy, groovy playfulness, but “It Ain’t Over” has its own childhood origin. According to Pat, the album’s second track started out with an old ‘80s toy called an Optogon––a record player, for kids, that came with a slew of flimsy disks with cheesy, pre-recorded tracks. “Our [new] record would be Martini Lounge or something,” Pat jokes. Pat says that his uncle, a fellow musician, told him as a teenager that if you flipped the Optogon disc over it would play backwards for a totally new sound––Uncle Ralph himself had a song called “Backwards Wolfman” made in just this fashion. The Black Keys asked their engineer do the same for “It Ain’t Over,” proving that the Pat and Dan’s inner child really is here to stay. 

You can check out more from the Black Keys on Spotify, including 2011 album El Camino that won three Grammy Awards. Stay up to date on their website, and follow them on Instagram

Carlie Houser Author
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