The Survivors: The Black Keys

Today’s exclusive Q+A is with frontman Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who talks to GQ’s Devin Gordon about (finally) leaving Akron, his bandmate’s rough romantic life, and the MTV video music award trophy they received that was made out to “The Black-Eyed Peas.” Tomorrow at Jim James of My Morning Jacket.

Do you think the word “survivors”—our theme for this portfolio—accurately applies to you and Pat?
Dan Auerbach: Um, do we feel like survivors? Well, I don’t know. It’s a little over-the-top, you know what I mean? I wouldn’t use the term survivor. Like, my uncle was a survivor. He survived the Holocaust. Me? I’m a fucking musician. I play music. I got lucky.

GQ: Maybe persistence is more like it.
Dan Auerbach: Yeah. Persistence. There you go. Hard-headedness.

GQ: Why have you guys managed to stick together for so long?
Dan Auerbach: I don’t want to be a dickhead, but honestly, it’s because we’re good and because we’ve worked harder than any band I’ve ever met, without a question. We’ve toured harder and done more dates and played for less money. Not mixing a record over and over again, trying to change and grow. But I’ve got to say: it’s probably easier to change and grow when there’s just two of us. Everybody is always like, “Beck is such a chameleon.” And I’m always like, “Of course he’s a fucking chameleon. Nobody tells him what to do. He has to answer to no one—he can do whatever he wants, whenever.” And I think that when you’re in a group, it’s harder to change, because you’ve got to pull everybody with you. Pat and I—you’ve just got to convince one person to try something.

[Photograph by Mark Seliger]