Earlier this week, building on the breakout success of their Brothers album and powered by current single “Lonely Boy,” the Black Keys’ El Camino roared to a #2 debut on the Billboard albums chart , by far their biggest bow to date.
And though many were surprised by the first-week numbers, the Keys themselves weren’t. After all, they’ve known the stakes were higher from the minute they started recording El Camino — even though they tried very hard to ignore that fact.
“We were aware that more people were paying attention to us than ever had, but we tried not to let it get into our heads,” drummer Patrick Carney told MTV News. “It definitely didn’t affect the making of the album, but, you know, we were trying to take advantage of the situation, because we’ve been a band for a decade and the whole point, for us, was to play to as many people as possible without compromising. So we put a lot of time and effort into the new record. We’ve made records in 14 hours before; this one we spent 40 days on.”
Of course, that extended stay in the studio had just as much to do with the band’s increased stature as it did with El Camino‘s expanded scope. From its skuzzy, fuzzy guitars to the pealing organs and keening backing vocals, it packs a whole lot into just 38 breakneck minutes, taking the Keys’ signature two-man racket to newfound places and spaces.
“When we started the songs, it was completely organic, but once we start going, and we get the foundation done, we really start to concentrate on the little details that sort of make it what it’s going to be, because sometimes those little details can be really impactful,” frontman Dan Auerbach said. “And that’s why it took us longer than it’s ever taken us to make a record.”
Though most are quick to chalk that expansion to the band’s work with producer Danger Mouse (whom they’ve collaborated with since 2008′s Attack & Release), the Keys say that it was mostly due to them wanting to take full advantage of everything Brothers provided. In fact, the majority of their conversations with the Mouse involved nothing more than chicken.
“Most of our discussions were about Chick-fil-A,” Carney laughed.
“Yeah,” Auerbach added. “The distance to and from Chick-fil-A.”