Behind The Band Name: The Black Keys

The Black Keys are hard to define. While they got their start with a blues-rock-inspired musicality, they have expanded their purview heavily over the last few decades.

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The duo— consisting of Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach—has gone above and beyond the typical confines of a rock band. From rich psychedelic projects to collaborations with hip-hop producers, The Black Keys have long been operating in rarified air.

[RELATED: The Black Keys’ Top 10 Songs]

It’s likely almost everyone is familiar with their name by now. Given their stature in the rock community, how could you not be? But, do you know how they came up with the name? Find the story below.

Behind The Band Name

Auerbach and Carney have been friends since childhood. The pair decided to drop out of college together and mow lawns to make ends meet before starting what would become The Black Keys in 2002.

Their name has interesting origins. As the story goes, the moniker comes from a phrase a fellow Akron native—who happened to be a schizophrenic artist—would use to describe people who “weren’t quite right.” Auerbach and Carney apparently resonated with the idea and used it as the label on their burgeoning music project that would go on to be quite the fruitful endeavor…

“The idea was for people to be able to sit on a porch in Akron with a can of beer and blast the record through a boom box,” Auerbach once said of the onus behind the duo. “People can depend on Pat and me to play music and be around for life. We have to: It’s the only job skill we have.”

From the Start

The duo released their first album, The Big Come Up, in 2002. They followed that project up soon after with Thickfreakness in 2003. The latter was recorded in a single day—a testament to their atypical creative process. Their eclectic inspirations also helped to set the duo apart from their peers.

The pair made the leap to the major labels with Magic Potion in 2006. The follow-up, Attack & Release had a similar sonic direction and became their biggest album to date.

The Black Keys took a long hiatus in 2015 to focus on side projects until 2019 when they joined forces once again for the album, Let’s Rock.

Their latest release, Dropout Boogie, was released in 2022.

“That’s always been the beauty of the thing Pat and I do,” Auerbach said of their process of making Dropout Boogie. “It’s instant. We’ve never really had to work at it. Whenever we’d get together, we’d just make music, you know? We didn’t know what we were going to do, but we’d just do it and it would sound cool.

“It’s the natural chemistry Pat and I have. Being in a band this long is a testament to that,” he continued. “It was a real gift that we were given. I mean, the odds of being plopped down a block-and-a-half from each other in Akron, Ohio–it just seems crazy.”

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