When the Black Keys last played a festival together in 2015, there was no grand plan to go on an indefinite hiatus. They just stopped booking shows and went back to Nashville, Tennessee, to sleep in their own beds.
Now four years after their performance at Outside Lands in San Francisco, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are ready to hit the stage again with their first new record in five years, Let's Rock, and a tour starting September 20 in Los Angeles.
Carney has noticed a difference since the band last toured. He recently woke at 6am to change a nappy for his 1-year-old son that he shares with wife and fellow musician Michelle Branch and then dropped his stepdaughter off at school.
"That's a big change for me from five years ago," Carney said. "I would have been waking up at 11."
"Changing his own diaper," retorted Auerbach, himself a father of two.
While their latest music video for their single, Go, pretends that the reason for their hiatus was because they hated each other, Carney likened their relationship to the closeness of brothers.
"I love the guy, but also at the same time, man, sometimes I want to wring his neck," Carney said.
Auerbach responded: "I've never had those feelings about Pat."
But jokes aside, the four-time Grammy winners behind hits such as Lonely Boy, Howlin' For You, and Tighten Up needed a break from the road. Their tour schedule was taking a toll on them and they had to put the brakes on it.
"No one who is working for us or with us is going to say, 'Yeah, don't generate any income for five years'," said Carney. "We had to realise we needed to take a break and that's okay."
Inspired by blues rock and low-fi garage rock, Carney and Auerbach met in high school in Akron, Ohio, in the 90s, tinkering around with four-track recording systems at Carney's house.
In the break, both continued to work on separate projects as producers and collaborators. Auerbach, who won has won a Grammy for non-classical producer of the year, built up his label Easy Eye Sound with emerging acts and highlighting unknown blues players, as well as working on his own solo album and producing Cage The Elephant's Grammy-winning rock album Tell Me I'm Pretty. Carney worked as a producer on his wife's last album, as well as producing Nashville artists.
"It's been really good for us," said Auerbach. "We really had fun making the new record when we did get back together. And I think it was because we were able to do all that different work during the time off."
There was little preparation for their return to the studio. They went into Auerbach's Nashville studio with no songs or lyrics prepared and no producer.
"We just set a date and showed up here at Dan's studio and it was the first time we had recorded music together in five years," said Carney.
The album came out in June and the tour features 33 dates in North America.