It's been nine months since the Black Keys released their big-boned, glam-rock riot of a seventh album, El Camino. But as guitarist Dan Auerbach tells Rolling Stone, the Akron duo have already returned to the studio to lay down ideas for their next LP.
"We spent a week in the studio," Auerbach says of a July session in Nashville sandwiched between a string of tour dates. The guitarist admits it wasn't "the most focused studio session," but he and drummer Patrick Carney did "get some ideas down and started the ball rolling." Auerbach and Carney plan to regroup in early 2013 to begin officially recording, and as Carney told Rolling Stone earlier this summer, they hope to finish quickly.
"We might not finish it until March since we have to tour so much, but we'll see," Carney said then. "After July, we'll be able to know how long it'll take."
Does Auerbach expect a sonic evolution for the Keys' next album? The 33-year-old says it's too early to know for sure, noting that the band's albums tend to take shape rather sporadically.
"We never know what's going to happen," Auerbach explains. "We don't talk about it. We don't plan it. We start recording, and then all of a sudden it starts to take shape and we have an idea." Auerbach adds that each Black Keys album, to him, represents "a snapshot of a moment in time. We like to let them be like that," he says. "Sort of a spontaneous thing."
Though the Keys hit the studio with producer Danger Mouse for their last three albums, Auerbach says there are no set collaborators yet for the upcoming LP. "Not sure who we're gonna work with or if we're going to [produce] it ourselves," he says. "We haven't planned it out yet."
When he's not touring the globe or hunkering down in the studio with Carney, Auerbach has certainly stayed busy: he's begun fully flexing his own production-game muscle.
"That's what I live for, honestly," he says. "To be in the studio making music and being part of a team trying to make something interesting or cool. That's everything for me." In the past year, the singer has produced albums for Dr. John ("One of the best experiences I've ever had in the studio," he says) and Jeff the Brotherhood, and he's currently finishing up work on collaborations with African guitarist Bombino, L.A. singer-songwriter Hanni El Khatib and country singer Nikki Lane.
The fun, it seems, never stops for Auerbach. "There's no reason it should," he says, laughing. "I like to stay busy."