The Arcs became a band following sessions for what was anticipated as the new solo album for The Black Keys singer-songwriter-guitarist Dan Auerbach with Leon Michels, who was a member of the 2010 touring ensemble of The Black Keys. Joining them were Auerbach’s boyhood friends and longtime bandmates Homer Steinweiss, Nick Movshon, and multi-instrumentalist-vocalist Richard Swift, noted for his work in The Shins, and for producing artists such as Nathaniel Rateliff, Damien Jurado, and Valerie June. The group ultimately became a new band, The Arcs, whose 2015 debut album Yours, Dreamily received kudos from Rolling Stone, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, NPR and others.
A U.S. and European tour did not interfere with their recording work, Auerbach says. “Every time we would get together, we would be in the studio making music. Whether it was New York City, Nashville, or Los Angeles, or Swift’s hometown of Cottage Grove, Oregon, wherever we were we, we would always be getting in the studio together. Always. It was our favorite thing to do. It’s rare that you meet a group of people that you click with like that, who you instantly bond with. And we didn’t have to think about touring, making money, anything. We were just having fun in the studio.”
Michels adds, “When we toured with The Arcs, even if we’d take a day off the road, we’d always go in the studio. There are probably 80 to 100 tracks that we’d laid down, because we constantly recorded after we put out that record. It was so much fun to be in the studio again, so we were just making music all the time. I think there was always a plan to make a follow-up record.”
Following The Arcs tour the band had a large number of songs that they recorded while on the road, but the release of a second album was put on hold. According to Auerbach, “We all had day jobs. We had to go back to our day jobs. There were Black Keys albums and touring. Leon was making El Michels records and producing other albums. We had to go back to work on other stuff.” He adds, “Swift was doing the same thing – producing records. At the same time, Swift was beginning to go dark on us. He was starting to go disappear even before he was gone.” Swift died on July 3, 2018 in hospice care in Tacoma, WA. His family acknowledged that his death was the result of the musician’s long battle with alcoholism.
Electrophonic Chronic is The Arcs latest release, which was co-produced by Auerbach and Michels at Easy Eye Sound in Nashville, and Michels’ Diamond Mine in Queens, NY. The album features a collection of original songs written by the band together, with Auerbach writing the lyrics. The songs reflect the melding of soul, blues, funk and rock, similar to the songs on Yours, Dreamily. Four singles were be released in advance of the album’s January 2023 release, all greeted happily by radio, with almost three quarters of the JBE panel on the record. Just some of those stations include The Current, Lightning 100, WXRV, KUTX, and KXT.
Photo by Alysse Gafkjen