“This guy looks like he was created by Wes Anderson,” says Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach as Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker gambols across the stage. It’s a couple of hours before the duo’s show on the first night of this year’s Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, and Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney are hanging on a couch in a backstage trailer, checking out Pulp’s opening set on a flat-screen TV.
“Holy smokes,” Auerbach continues, as Cocker gesticulates at the huge crowd just a few yards from where the Keys sit. “Man, he’s going for it.”
Carney stares at the screen. “Maybe we should take some theater lessons.”
“I know, man,” says Auerbach with a wry grin. “We suck.”
This year marked the Black Keys’ fifth trip to Coachella, and their debut as mainstage headliners. “I like to remember the first time we played Coachella, in ’04,” Carney says. “It was hot as fucking balls. We were sweating our asses off, and there were very few people there.”
“It was in a tent with no ventilation,” Auerbach adds. “It was the kind of hot where you’re completely drenched, except for the top of your head where the heat’s coming out of.”
Carney chuckles. “So if we can make it through that, which is basically, like, Navy SEALs hell week for rock & roll – this is, like, the Palm Springs retirement.”
“Yeah,” Auerbach says. “We made it. We’re, like, super-tough now. Tough as nails.”
Tonight, the Keys return to Coachella as the festival expands for the first time to a two-weekend blow-out. “We actually had a blue-light special at our agent’s office,” Carney deadpans. “Buy one, you get two.”
But they weren’t planning any major setlist changes. Says Carney, “We were told not one person from this festival will be there next weekend.”
“That’s what they told us,” Auerbach adds slyly. “We’ve also been told that 99 percent of the people here came to see us. We’ve also been told that we’re Number One on the radio everywhere. We’ve surrounded ourselves with yes-men.”
Carney struggles to keep a straight face. “Yeah. We actually hired some of LeBron’s old people.”
The Keys have a busy year ahead, with gigs booked in Europe, North America and Australia, but they hope to get cracking on the follow-up to this year’s El Camino during breaks from the road. “We’re going to start soon,” Carney says. “We’re not sure how long it’ll take, but I think we’d both like to put another record out next year. We’ve got to keep rolling the dice.”
“Daddy needs a new car,” says Auerbach.
“Yeah,” Carney adds. “We have to buy our dads new Yugos.”