Akron, Ohio, is known as the Rubber City, home to Goodyear, Firestone, and General Tire to name just a few tyre companies. It’s also home to Dr Bob, the guy who started Alcoholics Anonymous. By strange coincidence, Dr Bob’s home is just 12 steps away from Patrick Carney’s – the drummer of duo The Black Keys. Following on from 2004’s brilliant Rubber Factory (named after their makeshift studio) comes new album Magic Potion. It’s a heady brew of heavy blues and swamp rock – perfect for a beer drinking session on the porch.
You guys are heavily devoted to Akron, Ohio. Is it just as easy to base yourselves there as anywhere else?
I think so. As far as touring the US, it’s a perfect location. Within eight hours you can get to pretty much half the population.
Were you trying anything different?
Yeah, I think we wanted it to sound more cohesive. I think on other records each track sounds different, which is cool, but on this record we wanted it to be heavy and solid the whole way through; guitars and drums sound the same from track to track. As far as sound that’s what we were going for, and as far as music we were going for a more heavy feel.
Have you ever been tempted to diversify beyond the guitar and drums?
No, I don’t think so. We’ve thrown in other instruments. On this record we had bass on two songs, but we’ve thrown on lap steel on other records. But as far as playing live, there’s no interest in changing that.
Some artists are happy to record their album and work out how they’ll do it live later. Is that the way with you?
We’ve done that with certain songs in the past where we thought we’ll we figure that out later, and for this idea we just wanted to play all our songs live.
What do you think has brought on the recent resurgence in the blues?
I have no idea really. Maybe it was all that bullshit music in the late ‘90s everyone was putting out, like POD or whatever the fuck that was, heavy-hop.
So you just wanted to strip it back?
Yeah, I mean who wants to listen to some arsehole with cornrows play real ugly guitar?
You’re the type of band that I can imagine playing behind a wire fence in a whisky bar somewhere in the US. Have you actually ever played to a scene like that?
I guess, but not intentionally. When we first started out we played some pretty weird places. We played somewhere in Denver called the Lion’s Den. It was a rock ‘n’ roll bar full of young people but it looked like that and it would attract a very strange crowd and I remember playing that place and being sorta scared.
Any other fearful moments when you first started out?
At that point, yeah. It felt like every other night. We’d end up having a good response but it was one of those things, especially playing New York for the first time where, you know, being from Akron and 21 you think that New York is this really special music town and you get nervous when you play there. But now, being 26 and having been there a lot I think if you can impress an audience in Akron, Ohio, that’s more of an achievement. Akron and Cleveland are probably the hardest audiences to play to.
But the crowds treat you well now. I recently sang you Happy Birthday at The Great Escape with about 5,000 others. How was that tour?
Yeah, that was embarrassing. I had a feeling that might happen. That was a good show though. It was a good crowd.
How’s your response in the UK?
We played there for the first time about a year-and-a-half ago. We were kind of inadvertently avoiding it due to scheduling and stuff, but we’re ready to get back there. In London we played to 2000 people.
You recently toured North America with Radiohead. Did it surprise you Thom personally asked after you guys?
We found out that they were fans in 2003 and that was suprising as hell just ‘cos we’re so different. They were really nice guys and it was a lot of fun. It was crazy ‘cos their audience was so receptive to us.
On your website you mention that you’re a fan of fellow Akronites, Devo. Are you ever tempted to get into the studio or the basement and do some tweeky electronic stuff?
Yeah. I’m into that kinda of stuff. Every once in a while I’ll get some friends over and we’ll noodle and shit.
– Magic Potion is out now on Modular.