Black Keys need sleep before Big Day Out

20:28, Jan 18 2011
black keys
DEADLY DUO: The Black Keys are coming to New Zealand for the Big Day Out.

Patrick Carney is tired.  He doesn't just sound it, he says it. More than once.

The Black Keys drummer is counting down the days until the band's current tour around the States winds down. 

"It's going good, but it's been going on too long now," Carney yawns down the phone from California.

Carney might have a reason to feel exhausted. The band was on the road for the majority of 2010 - not exactly what he signed up for, he says.

"When we first started the band I thought we could make thousands of dollars and all you'd have to do is play on stage for 90 minutes, what a breeze.

"But I think I added it up and this year it's 166 days I've been not at home. And then the days I have been home I think I've spent 50 of them in the studio or doing TV shows or rehearsing.  I basically am always working."


Fans might fear none of this bodes well for the blues-rock duo's trip Down Under for this week's Big Day Out. 

But Carney insists he and band mate Dan Auerbach like New Zealand, very much - they've been here almost every year since 2003 and say they love it every time.

"We've had good shows there. I think every time we've played in New Zealand it's always been at the end of an Australian run and we are so wiped out, but I guess this time will be different."

It will be the Akron, Ohio band's first time on the Big Day Out circuit, which kicks off in Auckland before hitting Australia, but they have heard all the stories. And they are afraid.

"Everyone we've talked to has scared us into thinking it is a drunken party that doesn't stop. At this stage I don't think either of us could handle that."

Despite, or perhaps because of, the apparent trepidation, Carney says fans can expect a performance that comes with a little bit of help in the form of two extra musicians on stage.

"We're bringing our friends to help us.  We've never attempted to play any of the songs as a two-piece. I'm sure we could figure it out, but it probably wouldn't be that great."

Great or not, Black Keys had one hell of a year. Their latest album, Brothers, is one of the best of the year if the band's place in almost every album of the year list is to be believed. 

Oh, and then there are the six Grammy nominations. 

Not bad for a duo who have put out six albums in eight years and up until now, have flown somewhat under the radar.

"Yeah it's been kind of mind-blowing really. It was not expected. But we don't expect anything, ever."

In their nine years together, Carney and Auerbach have done it all; performed for Barack Obama, had their track Lies covered by an American Idol (Kelly Clarkson) and provided songs to a handful of TV shows and films.

But after a year like 2010, it's time off, not plans for a new album, at the forefront of Carney's mind for 2011.

"I think Dan's been writing lyric, because he's always writing lyrics. And we might do a two-week tour next summer, but I'd prefer to take the time off. We want to put the record out later next year, so if we want to do that I'd like to have the summer completely off.

"I had a lot of time off last year, kind of, and I guess I enjoyed it - maybe too much."

* Since this interview was carried out, the Black Keys have cancelled their Big Day Out appearances and all related sideshows, citing "exhaustion".