Dan Auerbach's first concert was Whitney Houston at Blossom Music Center. His second was the Grateful Dead at the Richfield Coliseum. His mother was a fan of the soulful Houston; his father was a Deadhead.
"I thought, Holy shit, what is going on here?" recalls Auerbach from his Nashville home. "They were both totally adored by all the fans."
Decades later, the 36-year-old Auerbach now finds himself on the other end of that boyhood scenario, reaching rock 'n' roll star status with the Black Keys. While the former captain of the Akron Firestone soccer team and his high school friend Patrick Carney routinely sell out arenas worldwide, Auerbach prefers the studio, challenging himself to produce new material.
His new project, the Arcs, recently released Yours, Dreamily, a ghostly, psychedelic debut that sounds like a weekend spent with David Lynch, Jerry Garcia and Lana Del Rey. The Arcs make a stop in Auerbach's hometown with a Dec. 8 show at the Akron Civic Theatre.
The band includes friends, Black Keys members and a female mariachi band from Brooklyn, yet Auerbach's bluesy guitar remains intact.
"We were messing around with sounds and pulling stuff out of thin air," he says.
The Arcs let their music fandom shape their sound.
"The record is a reflection of everyone in the group's record collections," says Auerbach. "Every song is kind of like a little daydream. ... It has this hazy feel to it. Everyone in this group listens to all kinds of ridiculous stuff."
Working with an ensemble of musicians is a fresh experience for Auerbach. "Everyone's different perspectives is what makes this fun for me," he says. "I love being in the studio. It's like a really expensive hobby for me."
As a part of Record Store Day's Black Friday event, the group also released The Arcs vs. The Inventors Vol. 1. The album features two of Auerbach's influences: Dr. John and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.
"That was unreal," he says. "Music is always passed on. If you've got the goods, it's magic. This was like putting smelling salts under your nose — it cuts through all the f---ing bullshit of the music business."
Auerbach is excited for his return home during the upcoming tour. "Akron is important for me," he says. "It's a totally different scene than when Chrissie [Hynde] and Devo started. But there are always cool underground things happening there."