Why mess with a good thing when a mere tweak will suffice? As the singer and guitarist for the Black Keys, Dan Auerbach earned rock star status with his modern mastery of hyper catchy blues and garage rock. That core remains the same for his new band the Arcs, but a fresh supporting cast adds a distinct flair to his sound.
The psychedelic neo-noir of the Arcs' debut album Yours Dreamily can be attributed to Auerbach's collaborative cohesion with his new bandmates: drummer and keyboardist Richard Swift (the Shins, producer), keyboardist Leon Michels (El Michels Affair), bassist Nick Movshon (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson), drummer Homer Steinweiss (Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings), guitarist Kenny Vaughan (Lucinda Williams), and the women of Mariachi Flor de Toloache. Catch the group's soul and R&B-infused rock sound when the Arcs makes its Seattle debut at the Moore Theatre on Tuesday, April 12.
For the latest edition of our Points of Reference series, we chatted with Auerbach about the pop culture—from Captain Beefheart to an obscure gospel record—that influenced the creation of Yours Dreamily.
My World by Lee Fields and the Expressions
[Being a fan of My World] was the whole way that I met Leon. So the Arc’s wouldn’t exist without the Lee Fields record. There was something about it… it wasn’t just like so retro. You know, how those things kind of can be? A lot of times soul music, lyrically, can be throw away. But this… it just went a little deeper. More care was taken. There were interesting melodies. Great horns. I just loved it.
So when I went into make the Brothers record with Pat [Carney of the Black Keys], it just really inspired me. When we went to tour Brothers, I called up Leon to see if he might want to come cover the keyboard parts that we’d done on the album. So that’s how I met him. I was a fan of his before I actually met him face to face.
Safe as Milk by Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band
Pat introduced me to Captain Beefheart. He’s been an influence ever since. I heard Safe as Milk, and was kind of hooked. I didn’t really know about that whole world; I didn’t know about Frank Zappa or anything. But I heard that Beefheart album, and I still love it. It’s one of my favorite records.
I was playing lots of guitar and had these specific blues guitar players that I really loved, and then I could hear some of that in the songs. And I was like well that’s cool. I didn’t know anything about Ry Cooder, that he played with people like Sleepy John Estes. But I understood it without having to know any of that stuff, and it just helped me connect the dots. That got me in the front door.
And it’s sort of always there to remind you not to settle, and it’s always been helpful to remind me to get some variation on any group of songs. I think that variation on this record, something about it is just really nice. It really makes you pay attention. It’s a different kind of record, you know? It’s not so awesome to just put it on in the background. Not for me, anyway, because I kind of end up paying too much attention to it.
Everything – God Is Love 78 by Otis G Johnson
There is record that the Arcs end up listening to a lot by Otis G Johnson. For us, it is the definition of dreamy. It’s literally like a hazy dream. We love it because the recording quality is just atrocious, but perfectly atrocious. It wouldn’t work without it. It just flips us out every time we listen to it, and we end up listening to the entire record. And then when it stops and we’re like woah, we feel werid. Or it stops it’s just ooough, what is this awful silence? Ugh! [Laughs]
El Oms (Omar Juarez)
I started collaborating with Omar, who did all the artwork for the album. We started doing a video really early on because we had that song “Put a Flower in Your Pocket” recorded pretty early. So he and I were working on that while we were doing the record, and it definitely influenced the album. The whole mariachi thing, Flor de Toloache girls on the record, it was kind of all connected.
I first connected with Omar after I saw some of his stuff online and I just loved it. He did this one painting of a boxer. And it was weird because my dad collected folk art and was a folk art dealer, and he has this one painting that I love in his living room, and it’s a boxer made by a local Akron guy. It’s a boxer, but his legs are kind of ghosted out, it’s like he stopped painting and his legs just turn into nothing, turn into the background. And Omar had almost the same drawing with the ghost legs, he had this ghost boxer, and so it kind of grabbed my attention right away. And I loved his whole aesthetic, how he created his own little universe with the monster guys, and all the men had werewolf noses.
The Prior Projects of the Arcs Members
I love playing with the Arcs. And they just happen to be people who love doing the exact same thing. That’s kind of like how we hit it off. Everybody in the Arcs has their own studio. Everyone in the Arcs produces their own record. It’s just great fun.
When we were growing up Leon and Homer and all of us, independently of each other, were doing the exact same thing with soul and rock records we loved. We were like wow, Green Onions [by Booker T and the M.G.’s] sounds so cool, what else did these guys play on? And then we started doing like music archeology. That’s just so much fun for me, I can’t really get enough of it.
Well that’s one of the cool things about the Arcs, people who might only be familiar with the Black Keys can dig and maybe find like a Damien Jurado record Richard produced or something.
Yeah. Foxygen, and Lee Fields, and the Sha La La’s, and you just start getting deep into a lot of music. And it’s like my favorite music. [Laughs] It’s not new, it’s not old, it’s just really good. Very thoughtful production. I love it. We’ve talked about trying to put together like an Arc’s radio program: just play records, play productions, and talk to people for fun.
Apr 12 at 7:30, Moore Theatre, $33