Among Thickfreakness' converts were Sleater-Kinney and Beck, both of whom offered the Black Keys opening spots on tours last year. Those bits of good fortune were tempered by the fact that singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney barely left the road all year, a rugged schedule that prompted them to postpone a European tour late last year due to exhaustion.
"We were given opportunities we really couldn't pass up," Auerbach says. "But that touring really kicked the shit out of us. I just saw some pictures from Europe and we looked so fucking miserable. So we took a little time off, because we didn't want to have anything to do with each other."
Auerbach had started to write some of the songs for Rubber Factory while on tour last year, but the bulk of the new material began to take shape after he and Carney were able to spend a few weeks apart. When the time came to record, the Black Keys had to find a new haven to do so, as Carney's landlord sold the house he was renting, depriving the duo of the basement that yielded Thickfreakness. Earlier this year, Auerbach and Carney hopped in the car and began to scout new locations. "There's no shortage of old, empty industrial buildings in Akron," Auerbach says. They settled on a warehouse that housed a tire manufacturer, a locale that gave the new album its title.
"I guess it's probably not ideal for a studio," Auerbach says, "but then, we don't really know what ideal would be. The first floor of this place is a cavernous room where they stored the tires. The second floor was the lab with the offices. They just put us in the corner by ourselves, where no one could hear us."
Auerbach promises a bit of evolution from the Black Keys, as on "The Lengths," a song that he says features a "hypnotic vibe." "There are a few slower songs, some acoustic guitar, there's a more atmospheric thing going on," he says. "And I'm happier with my songwriting. It's still simplified and raw, but more experimental."
But Rubber Factory won't be a shocking departure from the spare racket of their previous two albums. "We still know what we want to do," Auerbach says, "the same as we did when we were seventeen. I've heard enough records with bands changing their format that end up sucking ass to know better. We upgraded our tape player -- the tape is now a bit thicker. That's about the only thing that changed."