Why the Black Keys Stopped Worrying About the Charts
Black Keys drummer Patrick Carney said he’s come to believe that his pursuit of a No.1 album was “meaningless” and other matters were much more important.
The duo recently released its ninth studio album, Let’s Rock, which came after a four-year hiatus that involved a reconsidering of priorities.
“Our mentality was, ‘Let’s just make something that we like, and hope that people like it,’” Carney told Rolling Stone in a new interview. “And that’s what we did. We didn’t think about the context of the state of music in 2019, which is very complex and freaks me out. … None of the bands I liked were really getting played on the radio anyway. And I just have faith that there’s some stuff brewing underneath that is really good, I know that to be the truth.”
Asked if the charts were a consideration, he said, “To be completely straight with you, when Turn Blue came out [in 2014], after all the work we put in, and all the luck that had happened to get us into the position to potentially have a No. 1 record, I really wanted it. I wanted to have a No. 1 album. It meant something to me. And what’s changed since 2014 is, if I look at the charts, there’s so much streaming manipulation. And if you look at how is it that artists can have, like, a billion streams, but can’t sell out an arena in Sacramento? … Like, what the fuck’s happening?”
He noted that "it’s all meaningless. But this year … my uncle passed away, I had a close family member have a serious, life-or-death medical thing. [Former bandmate] Richard Swift passed away. It all started being like, ‘Life is fucking short.’ I share a huge part of my life with Dan, and it’s important to me to make something with him, because it made me feel happy, and it made me feel reconnected to a part of me that I’d been kind of putting on hold for a few years. And because of this, I realize putting things in perspective of what’s important. It’s like, are the charts important? No. Is making music with Dan important? Yes.”
Demonstrating another example of changed perspective, Carney recalled the release of “Lo/Hi,” the first single from Let’s Rock. “I saw a couple of things written about it that were snarky and a couple of things that were positive,” he said. “But in the YouTube comments people were genuinely excited about the band. … It’s like, ‘Oh yeah, Dan and I’ve been doing this for nearly 20 years, and we’ve had an impact on people.’ And how incredible is that? Does it matter about getting on the charts? No, and it never did.
“I care about my family, I care about making music, I care about rock ’n’ roll. And there’s a lot of stuff on the radio that I don’t give two shits about. Which hasn’t changed since I was 16, back then the shit that was getting played on the radio was, like, Savage Garden. And I never cared about that. I was listening to Modest Mouse.”