meta-scriptThe Black Keys' Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney On Why Recording Freewheeling Blues Covers Led To Inspired New Album 'Dropout Boogie' |
(L-R) Patrick Carney, Dan Auerbach

Photo: Jim Herrington


The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney On Why Recording Freewheeling Blues Covers Led To Inspired New Album 'Dropout Boogie'

If you've been in a rock band as long as Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have, you know the experience is cyclical — hot and cold. So what made the Black Keys tap back into their original spirit for their new album, 'Dropout Boogie'?

GRAMMYs/May 11, 2022 - 04:08 pm

After a five-year break partly precipitated by a wave slamming Patrick Carney against the ocean floor, the Black Keys reconvened for their first record in that many years: 'Let's Rock.' The result was solid, lively, and well-received. But despite drummer Carney's description of their first self-produced album in years as "an homage to electric guitar," 'Let's Rock' felt uncharacteristically restrained. At least compared to early albums like Thickfreakness.

"I don't think 'Let's Rock' is going to go down as our best record or our worst record," Carney tells over Zoom. "It was a new thing, because we hadn't made a record without a producer in a decade." This sheds some light on the part of the Black Keys' catalog that made them world-famous: Danger Mouse produced or co-produced everything from 2008's Attack & Release to 2014's Turn Blue, and they won four GRAMMYs in the process.

Without Danger Mouse, Carney and his lifelong creative partner, singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach, found themselves much as they started as teenagers: two nonbiological brothers, writing and performing blues-based rock. But despite its merits, 'Let's Rock' acted as a throat-clearing for the Black Keys' third chapter.

Afterward, they recorded 2021's Delta Kream, a shot-from-the-hip album of hill-country blues covers. That album begat Dropout Boogie, the Black Keys' rewarding new album, out May 13.

Eleven albums in, the four-time GRAMMY winners and 11-time nominees seem to have nailed exactly what Black Keys music in 2022 should sound like: raw, electrified, leaping from the speakers. Dropout Boogie also bears evidence of Auerbach's increasingly prodigious stature as a producer for outside artists — as well as both men's development as musicians.

Read More: From The Black Keys To Behind The Board: How Dan Auerbach's Production Work Ripples Through The Music Community

Yet  the top-down-cruising vibe of "Wild Child," "Your Team is Looking Good" and "Baby I'm Coming Home" shows they haven't forgotten the appeal of the albums that truly put them on the map, like 2010's Brothers and 2011's El Camino. And their bond seems more ironclad than ever, to hear the pair tell it, which says a lot with years of spats, disappointments and breaking their bodies on the road — as well as the pressures of joint global fame — in their rearview.

"We're probably better than we've been in years — in a really great, great place," Auerbach tells, also over Zoom. Carney concurs, remembering meeting Auerbach in the early days while hungering to play in a band. "I always thought I could help this guy make better music than he could on his own," he says. "And I think that is mutually true for me."

To understand Dropout Boogie, you have to frame it within the context of Delta Kream. That album consisted of covers of interpretive artists associated with the Mississippi hill country subgenre of blues, including John Lee Hooker ("Crawling King Snake"), Mississippi Fred McDowell ("Louise"), R.L. Burnside ("Poor Boy a Long Way From Home," "Going Down South") and, on half the album, Junior Kimbrough.

"This is basically folk music on a certain level, and a lot of this music is like hand-me-downs from generation to generation," Auerbach told Rolling Stone in 2021. "I'm singing lyrics that are like third-generation wrong lyrics. I'm singing a certain version that Junior recorded where maybe he messed up a line, but that's the only one I know. So we were really just kind of flying by the seat of our pants."

The GRAMMY-nominated Delta Kream was just supposed to be a jam between Auerbach, Carney, R.L. Burnside's electric guitarist Kenny Brown and Junior Kimbrough's bassist Eric Deaton. "There are absolutely no overdubs on the entire record, and we just sang everything once," Auerbach reports. "We made this thing, and it was so simple." The quartet recorded the album in a day and a half, then didn't listen back for months.

When they finally revisited the Delta Kream sessions, the Black Keys had a lightbulb moment. That embrace of looseness, that surrender to the seaswell of tradition, hadn't just an interesting diversion: it had completely revitalized the band and renewed their purpose. "When I finally went back to check it out, I was like, 'Oh, shit. That's the energy there. That's it. That's the feeling I want to come through the speakers when someone listens to our band.'"

Wanting to make that feeling last, the Black Keys dove straight into Dropoff Boogie, an album of originals with writing contributions from ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Greg Cartwright of the Memphis rock band Reigning Sound, and GRAMMY-winning Nashville producer Angelo Petraglia, who's worked with everyone from Trisha Yearwood to Kings of Leon to Taylor Swift. Gibbons co-wrote and played on "Good Love"; Cartwright and Petraglia helped tighten up "Wild Child."

"Your Team is Looking Good" contains an indirect — and obscure — writing credit, one that the Black Keys' attorney had to hunt down. "I was like… there's this obscure field recording of a cheerleading squad from the middle of nowhere, Mississippi. I need you to find the writing credit so that we don't get sued,' " Carney told ABC News."It turned out to be "The Girl Can't Help It," which Bobby Troup wrote and Little Richard performed; Troup got the credit.

The inclusion of outside writing voices alone makes Dropout Boogie stand apart from past Black Keys albums. "Dan and I tend to… work on co-writes or work on stuff that's been co-written, but we, ourselves, never do it," Auerbach told The Star in 2022. "And it was really refreshing, honestly."

Another way Auerbach and Carney leveraged the freewheeling spirit of Delta Kream for Dropout Boogie was by killing their darlings when necessary. "Any song that felt a little bit forced, we just dropped it off the record. We left four or five on the table and moved on," Carney says. "They were good songs — they would have made it on 'Let's Rock' — but they just didn't vibe for what we were doing."

At its best, Dropout Boogie sounds like yesterday's dirty soul, R&B and blues refreshed for 2022. "It Ain't Over" digs into a deep, winding groove to underline its theme of circularity and ruts; the darker-hued "Good Love," brambled with layers of fuzz, makes the search for devotion sound suitably treacherous; "Burn the Damn Thing Down" gorgeously juxtaposes Auerbach's buttermilk singing with a growling, droning, one-guitar-lesson riff.

Plus, here's a treat for fans of simple, swinging drumming: Carney is arguably playing the best he's ever played. When considering his drumming on Dropout Boogie, Carney plugs it into the classic rock tradition, noting that even AC/DC, a band largely beholden to 4/4 and not exactly tethered to jazz influences like the Rolling Stones or Black Sabbath, still had an underdiscussed sense of swing.

"When I hear it just come down the pipe, like straight aligned to the grid, it feels very weird to me," Carney says, surveying a landscape of nominally "rock" music that misses that crucial element. "It can work as a pop song or something, but it never translates as a rock thing to me."

"I'm in awe of a guy who can control his swing," he continues. "Even the worst jazz drummer is better than me when it comes to that, but I swing, push and pull off the beat, moving around the one." Says Auerbach: "Pat's just an amazing drummer, and he keeps getting better — and more and more open-minded when he's in the studio with me. Hopefully I'm the same."

Lyrically, the Black Keys still rely on somewhat stock idioms from "streets of gold" to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," but maybe that can be chalked up to some of their bluesy forebears' MO: keep it simple. Overall, the strength of the melodies, singing, vibe, and production — the latter an intriguing mix of thin and buzzy, and dense and wooly — makes Dropout Boogie a winner.

"I'm pretty critical of the music we make, and I think this record is one of our better records. It's in the top couple," Carney says. He zooms out, considering the Black Keys' early-2000s peers who are now hitting the two-decade mark, like Interpol and the Strokes: "I'll always be glad to know that after 20 years, we made a record that I would be f***ing stoked to have put out, like, right after El Camino."

Despite the Black Keys being on an upswing, Carney is aware that Auerbach holds his production work to equal importance — and that the band could be put on ice again. "It's very cyclical, a band. There's hot and cold moments. And when there's a hot moment, you've got to keep going," he says. "I realize that a couple of years from now, Dan might not be as interested in doing the Black Keys as much, so we might go through another break."

But, as he says, the Black Keys are seizing on this period of momentum. Not only do they have a North American tour with Band of Horses kicking off in July and stretching into mid-October; on the day of the interview with Carney, he had been in the studio with Auerbach.

"We have not stopped working, and we're having a blast," Carney says. In that regard, Dropout Boogie isn't just a return to their roots in sound and approach, but in spirit. If the ultimate point of playing rock music is to have one hell of a time, Auerbach and Carney fulfill it here.

They may be castigated in a public school in the "Wild Child" video, but on Dropout Boogie, the Black Keys — as the kids say — understood the assignment.

How Do You Follow Up A Blockbuster Album? Let Royal Blood, Who Just Released Typhoons, Explain

The Black Keys
The Black Keys

Photo: Larry Niehues


11 Black Keys Songs To Know With New Album 'Ohio Players': From "I Got Mine" To "Beautiful People (Stay High)"

The Black Keys' discography is chock full of smooth, yet deliciously grungy top-down jams. With their new album, 'Ohio Players,' out now, press play on 11 essential songs by the four-time GRAMMY winners.

GRAMMYs/Apr 5, 2024 - 04:20 pm

Two guys can sure make a lot of noise. That's the throughline when it comes to Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney's brotherhood in their long-running indie-garage-blues band the Black Keys — but that noise doesn't just come from their lungs and hands.

Sometimes, they're channeling the gut-bucket sound of hill country blues, like on their 2021 covers album Delta Kream. Other times, that noise has been refracted through the lens of outside producer Danger Mouse.

And on their new album, Ohio Players — out today — the once-musically insular Auerbach and Carney have opened up that noise to collaborators, like Noel Gallagher, Dan "the Automator" Nakamura, superproducer Greg Kurstin, and most prominently, Beck. (He co-wrote seven songs on the album; he sings lead on "Paper Crown," which also features Juicy J of Three Six Mafia.)

"We had this epiphany: 'We can call our friends to help us make music,'" Carney said in a statement — adding that this is especially rich, given they always co-write with others. "What we wanted to accomplish with this record was make something that was fun. And something that most bands 20 years into their career don't make, which is an approachable, fun record that is also cool."

As a ramp-up to Ohio Players, take a spin through 11 great songs from the four-time GRAMMY winners and 13-time nominees' catalog — whether you're a newbie or a longtime player.

"Girl is On My Mind" (Rubber Factory, 2004)

If you've heard the Black Keys' breakout hits like "Tighten Up," but prefer their sound a little rawer, all their early, pre-Attack and Release records should vibe with you. "Girl is On My Mind" has all their hallmarks — a sexy crawl, controlled-demolition drums, an abundant lo-fi buzz.

"I Got Mine" (Attack & Release, 2008)

Attack and Release is an album of two important Keys firsts: their first in a professional studio, and their first with Danger Mouse. With said six-time GRAMMY winner and 22-time nominee at the helm, their sound gains depth and resonance — yet remains gloriously stripped down.

"Tighten Up" (Brothers, 2010)

This is where the Black Keys zoomed up to the top, and the tired "car commercial rock" criticisms really got rolling. (Maybe so, but they do it better than anyone.) When Carney's four-on-the-floor rhythms collide with Auerbach's effortless melodic gifts, magic transpires.

"Howlin' For You" (Brothers)

The Keys' discography is something of one uninterrupted, glorious buzz — but at this point, they were teasing new colors out of it left and right. The fuzzy, buzzy "Howlin' For You" represents the flipside of Brothers — a more finicky, angular and wired feel.

"Lonely Boy" (El Camino, 2011)

After the smash success of Brothers, Auerbach and Carney returned with the even more brazen and brassy El Camino — a direct shot of Keysiness to the arm. "Am I born to bleed?

Any old time, you keep me waitin'," Auerbach pleads in this rollicking, uptempo favorite.

"Gold on the Ceiling" (El Camino, 2011)

Ain't it wild that for a decade, there were equal and opposite rock acts called the Black Keys and the White Stripes? While both have always been loath to be lumped in with each other — Auerbach and White have a history of bad blood — "Gold on the Ceiling" shows that Auerbach's serrated fuzz could occasionally rip a hole in the firmament, much like his sometime rival.

"Fever" (Turn Blue, 2014)

After the rush of riotous success surrounding Brothers and El Camino, Auerbach and Carney took a two-year cooldown to produce for other artists. The album they made upon their return was moodier and more midtempo: "Fever" is one laser-focused example of this approach.

"Lo/Hi" (Let's Rock, 2019)

As they approached 20 years as a band, the Black Keys relaxed into their own skin with Let's Rock, a happily middle-of-the-road offering with idiosyncratic charm galore. (The title is a reference to convicted murderer Edmund Zagorski's last words before getting the chair.) "Lo/Hi" is a deep, satisfying rumble from the core of their well-explored aural aesthetic.

"Shine a Little Light" (Let's Rock, 2019)

This equally appealing Let's Rock cut is commensurately dreamy and guttural, showing off their still-sharp dynamics over a gospel-like heft.

"Wild Child" (Dropout Boogie, 2022)

Dropout Boogie isn't altogether different from its predecessor — again, this is the Black Keys, and it's all a continuum. But the choruses are even sharper — and the underdog video, where Auerbach and Carney get verbally torn apart by public school staff, is just as memorable.

"Beautiful People (Stay High)" (Ohio Players, 2024)

A sizable leap forward from the already very good Let's Rock and Dropout Boogie, Ohio Players shows not only their range more than two decades in, but their chemistry with their old friends.

And it's all boiled into "Beautiful People (Stay High)" — which, admittedly, leans on something on a shopworn lyrical trope about getting high and never coming down. But it's impossible to quibble with that when that indelible chorus shakes the cheap seats.

It serves as a reminder that the Black Keys draw from a universal canon of blues, rock, psychedelia and much more — and it's less what they say than how they say it.

From The Black Keys To Behind The Board: How Dan Auerbach's Production Work Ripples Through The Music Community

(L-R) Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney attend the 'This is a Film About The Black Keys' world premiere as part of SXSW 2024 Conference and Festivals held at The Paramount Theatre on March 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas.
(L-R) Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney attend the 'This is a Film About The Black Keys' world premiere as part of SXSW 2024 Conference and Festivals on March 11, 2024 in Austin, Texas.

Photo: Astrida Valigorsky/Getty Images


5 Memorable Moments From SXSW 2024: A Significant Protest, The Black Keys, De Facto, & More

More than 340 new bands played SXSW for the first time in 2024, while many others returned to the annual fest. Read on for some of the most inspiring and exciting moments from SXSW 2024 — from performances by legends to groundbreaking new acts.

GRAMMYs/Mar 18, 2024 - 10:57 pm

The 2024 South By Southwest Festival got off to a dramatic start: approximately 80 artists, speakers, and event sponsors pulled out of the event to protest the sponsorship of the U.S. Army and defense companies and then a hit-and-run traffic incident in a crowded festival area resulted in a fatality and serious injury early Tuesday.

SXSW spokespeople issued statements about both. They were "saddened" by the tragic traffic incident, and reiterated that they are an organization that welcomes diverse viewpoints and therefore saw no issue in allowing the military sponsorships. They also did not criticize anyone who pulled out of the festival to show solidarity with Palestine and protest genocide. Republican Texas Governor Ron Abbott was not as diplomatic.

And yet the music portion of the festival pushed on. 

Some of the bands who pulled out of the festival performed "unofficial" shows, and as with previous SXSW festivals, the diversity of music offerings was staggering: artists played genres such as folk, pop, indie rock, psychedelic cumbia, punk, electronic, and Americana, but also offered regional lenses to musical styles — Texas rap, Southern California soul-jazz  — and social justice viewpoints like indigenous hardcore. Artists also offered global perspectives on jazz, hip hop, and psychedelic funk.

Read on for TK of the most inspiring and exciting moments from SXSW 2024 – from performances by legends to groundbreaking new acts.

The Black Keys Take Audiences Behind The Scenes (And Back To Their Salad Days)

Music keynote offerings felt slim compared to previous years, but festival goers did get an authentic, revealing glimpse into the world of the Black Keys — there to promote a new documentary film about their band history and to perform two shows. 

Drummer Patrick Carney stole the show with humorous, deadpan anecdotes —including that time he slept in the van to guard the $500 they made at a show and woke up in the middle of the night to a crowd of drunk people dressed like Santa Claus in the middle of July — and self-effacing jokes about himself and the group: "The first time we came to SXSW we couldn’t afford to stay in town." 

One thing the film makes clear is that two key elements of the Black Keys are simplicity and technology. They kept things simple by being a two-piece band: a few bass players auditioned early on but Carney and Dan Auerbach preferred the sound of drums and guitar. But the key element was Carney’s four-track recorder: he taught himself how to use it, which enabled the band to record themselves in Carney’s basement and fine-tune their nuanced approach to rock music.

 "We wanted the kick drum to sound like the speakers were blown," Carney said in an interview

Carney and guitarist/singer Auerbach later performed a blues-driven sold-out show at Austin’s Mohawk, joined by artists on Auerbach’s Nashville-based record label Easy Eye Sound. There was no banter, just music.

Bootsy Collins Brings The Funk & A Lot Of Flair

Legendary funk bassist, singer, and producer Bootsy Collins — who played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic, boasts a long solo career, and collaborated with artists like Deee-Lite, Fatboy Slim, Silk SonicKali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator — hosted high-energy shows with the Ohio group Zapp and his entourage of collaborators and proteges at the 2024 festival. 

A long line of people snaked down Austin’s busy Red River Street waiting to get into the packed Mohawk club for a March 15 show, which featured guest artists Henry Invisible, Tony “Young James Brown” Wilson, and FANTAAZMA. A few fans wore big hats and star-shaped sunglasses to emulate Collins’ distinct look.

Collins, who announced in 2019 he wouldn’t play bass in live performance anymore, was in town to promote his anti-violence initiative, "Funk Not Fight," and a new song and album of the same name. He also promoted his Bootzilla Productions company and Funk University, which aims to mentor younger creatives like Hamburg-based FANTAAZMA, who joined Collins for a SXSW Studio interview with TikTok creator Juju Green.

“At some point James Brown saw something in me, you know, and grabbed us in, and I’ll never forget that, and so that’s what I try to do,” Collins said about his efforts to help mentor younger artists. 

Omar Rodríguez-López & Cedric Bixler-Zavala Get Weird

What a journey these two have had: they met as teens in the hardcore scene in El Paso, Texas, formed two influential alternative rock bands — At The Drive-In and The Mars Volta — and one obscure dub project — De Facto — that earned them rock and roll acclaim from the music press and respect from musical peers in bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers

Omar and Cedric: If This Ever Gets Weird, a new documentary about the creative partnership between Rodríguez-López and Bixler-Zavala, premiered  at the 2024 festival. The film illuminates the duo’s struggles with bandmates, addiction, racism, Scientology, and their ups and downs in the music industry. 

Rodríguez-López recorded loads of footage over the years of them on the road, in recording studios, and in live performance. Those intimate, up-close moments used in the film reveal a partnership that begins in solidarity, drifts apart, and comes back together stronger than when they started. It’s essentially a film about friendship.

The two appeared briefly onstage before the film’s screening, alongside director Nicolas Jack Davies, but said nothing. For the first time in 21 years, the two performed at this year’s SXSW festival as De Facto, their lesser-known reggae-influenced side project, to promote the new film.

Cumbia Is The Real Soundtrack To SXSW 2024

Cumbia in 2024 is conscious party music, still closely linked to its Colombian origins but expanded and modernized by elements of psychedelia and the young players from across the country and the world interpreting the genre. 

Cumbia could be heard throughout the festival, in particular at a heavily attended party March 12 at Hotel Vegas in Austin, which featured more than 10 bands on four stages. A few fans could be seen wearing T-shirts with the phrase “Cumbia is the new punk,” the title of a song by Mexican cumbia fusion group Son Rompe Pera

Bands mostly from Texas — including the “barrio big band” Bombasta and Latin psych bands like Combo Cósmico and Money Chicha —  and the rock-influenced Denver band Ritmo Cascabel played dance music driven by hand percussion, heavy bass lines and guitars drenched in reverb.

Earlier this year, Billboard predicted that cumbia music in all its entirety and subgenres — chicha, sonidera, norteña, villera — would see a massive growth in 2024, citing higher-profile artist collaborations and social media viral hits.

Classical Music Unveils Its Changing Profile

Classical music is most often associated with beautiful concert halls and polite, well-dressed audiences who sit quietly as music is being played. This was not the case for Vulva Voce, an all-female Manchester-based string quartet that played their unique blend of modern classical music at various SXSW stages this year. 

Band members wore one-piece jumpsuit coveralls with Doc Martin boots and performed mostly original, high-energy, uptempo compositions to loud crowds at dive bars throughout Austin. They shredded strings and swayed and bounced onstage as if it were a rock show, and said they loved every minute of it.  Vulva Voce also performed live with Ash, a Northern Irish rock band whose career in music spans 30 years.

Vulva Voce’s modern approach to classical music comes at a good time. Mid-week, a group of classical music artist managers, lawyers and classical music label executives spoke about classical music’s revival in gaming and soundtracks

Traditional classical music performance continues to struggle with attendance, but the genre has gained traction on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and has seen a surge in interest in film scores, Netflix soundtracks, video games, and sports broadcasts. 

More than 340 new bands played SXSW for the first time this year. Each year, SXSW awards three emerging artists The Grulke Prize, in honor of festival Creative Director Brent Grulke, who passed away in 2012. Sabrina Teitelbaum, who performs as Blondshell, won for developing U.S. act, the South Korean alternative K-pop band Balming Tiger won for developing non-U.S. act, and British psychedelic pop band the Zombies won the career act award

Creed's Scott Stapp On New Solo Album 'Higher Power,' Processing Decades Of Jokes & Being "A Child With No Filter"


Bootsy Collins
Bootsy Collins performs at PNC Music Pavilion on July 22, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photo: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images


10 Must-See Acts At SXSW 2024: The Black Keys, Automatic, Slick Rick, BALTHVS, Vulva Voce & More

As South by Southwest 2024 kicks off, preview some of the most exciting performances, music film screenings, and music-related keynotes that will hit Austin stages.

GRAMMYs/Mar 11, 2024 - 01:41 pm

South By Southwest lures more than 250,000 people to Austin each year to learn about a range of topics, including education, the cannabis industry, technology, film, and video gaming, but music is the heart and driving force of SXSW. The festival kicks off March 8, and a dizzying array of musical performances brings the festival to life from March 11 to 16.

The festival has grown exponentially since its inception in 1987 as a showcase for mostly unknown alternative acts. Roughly 2,000 musical artists will perform on more than 100 stages spread out across Austin and the possibilities for discovery feel endless.

SXSW can generate much buzz and help launch careers: Odd Future, the hip-hop/R&B collective that provided the springboard for Tyler, the Creator and Frank Ocean, played just a few short sets there in 2011, and Diddy declared them the future of rap music. HAIM, Janelle Monáe, John Mayer, M.I.A., and countless others have had significant early-career moments at SXSW. And legacy artists like New Order and RZA also come to the festival each year to share their wisdom in interviews and perform new material.

As the 2024 festival kicks off, check out some of the emerging and legacy artists appearing at SXSW, including a multiple GRAMMY-winning garage duo, an all-female post-punk group from Los Angeles that embraces "nihilism and loneliness," a modern Texas cumbia collective, an '80s light rock icon, a funk pioneer, modern funk innovators, Glasgow '90s post-rock, and more.

The Black Keys

The Black Keys helped usher in the garage rock revival of the early 2000s on just two instruments: drums and guitar. Their stripped-down sound, originally just made up of "old blues rip-offs and words made up on the spot" in Akron, Ohio, eventually grew to become a well-crafted, major-label rock sound that landed them in arenas and earned more than two dozen award nominations and multiple GRAMMY wins. They’ve released 11 studio albums.

The duo will perform at the 2024 festival in support of a new documentary, This Is A Film About The Black Keys, that traces their trajectory from jamming in basements to major-label rock band. Rolling Stone Senior Writer Angie Martoccio will interview members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in a keynote event.


Since the release of their 2019 debut album, Signal, the gloomy post-punk band Automatic has toured the U.S. and abroad, composed the soundtrack for Hedi Slimane’s 2020 Paris Fashion Week show for Céline, and opened for legendary post-punks Bauhaus ( drummer Lola Dompé is a daughter of the English goth rock band’s drummer Kevin Haskins).

The band’s three members — Dompé, Izzy Glaudini, and Halle Saxon-Gaines — draw inspiration from krautrock, dub reggae, and the off-kilter, moody atmosphere of films by auteurs like David Lynch. Their live performances are uptempo and melancholy at the same time, and have shared stages with Parquet Courts, Tame Impala, and Thee Osees. Automatic  once described their music as "fixated on the intersection between ’70s underground culture and the ’80s mainstream, ‘That fleeting moment when what was once cool quickly turned and became mainstream, all for the sake of consumerism.’"


When the Glasgow-based rock band released their first single in 1996, they were anxious to replace the '90s Britpop of well-known UK bands like Oasis and Blur with something a bit more emotional and dark: lengthy guitar-based instrumental pieces full of distortion and heavy effects that offered dynamic contrast and melodic bass guitar lines. 

They’ve since gone on to embrace electronica and instrumental music, and over the years has provided music for multiple film soundtracks. Their basic song formula typically begins with something low-key that grows into something gentle and melodic, and then pushes toward louder, layered driving rock. 

"Calling it ‘art’ would be a pretentious step too far, but it’s certainly something that feels exciting and different to most other pop," one British newspaper wrote. A new documentary from Antony Crook, If The Stars Had A Sound, which follows the independent Scottish band’s trajectory, will premiere at SXSW 2024. 

El Combo Oscuro

Modern-day interpretations of cumbia — a percussion-heavy genre of Latin American music originated in Colombia — have become more widespread in recent years, with some calling cumbia "the new punk" for a young generation of rockers who are politically engaged but want to have a good time.

On organ, guitars, bass, drums, and conga drums, El Combo Oscuro sounds modern and retro at the same time, by weaving together an "impenetrable wall of psychedelic Cumbia and Latin sounds" that "throws neon Tex-Mex tribalism," according to the Austin Chronicle

Almost immediately after forming in 2020 in Austin, El Combo Oscuro were nominated for an Austin Music Awards’ Best Latin Act, and their debut EP, Que Sonido Tan Rico, was No. 15 on the Austin Chronicle’s Top 100 Records of 2021. A second EP, 2022's Cumbia Capital, further showcased the sound of Texas. Their 2024 SXSW performance will also feature songs from their latest release, a 2023 debut full-length titled La Danza de las Sirenas.

Bootsy Collins

In addition to showcasing thousands of emerging acts, SXSW each year also honors legacy artists who continue to write, produce, and perform music. Bassist Bootsy Collins — who played with James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic throughout the late '60s and '70s and, in recent years, has collaborated with Kali Uchis and Tyler, the Creator — will perform with the group Zapp. 

The performance is part of Bootsy's own anti-violence initiative, "Funk Not Fight," which includes a Cleveland-based (Collins is from Ohio) anti-violence hub designed to offer music recording and mentorship to local youth. During a free performance on March 15, Collins will release a new song and album of the same name. 

Collins’ previous album was 2021’s Nobody’s Perfect Experience. The GRAMMY-winning bassist was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997 with other members of Parliament-Funkadelic. Collins played on some of James Brown’s best-known and most political records – "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine" and "Superbad" – and also had a hand in pop hits like Deee-Lite’s "Groove Is in the Heart" and Fatboy Slim’s "Weapon of Choice."

At 72 years old, Collins shows no signs of giving up the funk. "Funk just brings people together, from the ground up," he told the Guardian. "It doesn’t have nothing to do with color. It has nothing to do with status. It just brings you to ‘the one’, and the one thing that we all have in common is that we all just want to live. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s making something from nothing, like me." 

John Oates

John Oats is one half of five-time GRAMMY-nominated pop-soul duo Hall & Oates. Twenty-nine of their 33 singles charted on Billboard’s Hot 100 between 1974 and 1991, and six of those songs — like "I Can’t Go For That" and "Private Eyes" — peaked at No. 1 . The two were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014 and their music has been sampled by artists like 2 Chainz.

Oates, 75, has released five studio albums as a solo artist and published a memoir in 2017 titled Change of Seasons.

"I made a move to Nashville in the late '90s, early 2000s. The move, and the musicians and people I surrounded myself with, allowed me to rediscover the musician that I was before I met Daryl Hall," Oates told "Because I was a blues, folk, rootsy musician, and I tapped back into my earliest influences.

At SXSW 2024, Oates will discuss fame, fortune, and managing a hit music career. His talk will be moderated by Alex Heiche, CEO & Founder of Sound Royalties. Coincidentally, Oates has been in the middle of a legal battle with his former songwriting partner. 

Slick Rick

When asked about hip-hop icon Slick Rick, Roots drummer and Tonight Show bandleader Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson told Rolling Stone, "Slick Rick's voice was the most beautiful thing to happen to hip-hop culture. Rick is full of punchlines, wit, melody, cool cadence, confidence and style. He is the blueprint." 

Slick Rick "The Ruler" — largely considered the most sampled hip-hop artist in history — launched his career performing with Doug E. Fresh’s Get Fresh Crew in the mid-80s, and his 1988 breakout solo album reached number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Slick Rick has recently collaborated with Soul Rebels Brass Band. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, to honor his legacy as a masterful storyteller and pioneering melodic rapper who raps in a British accent with a leisurely cadence and an unforgettably nasal voice that sometimes swerves into cartoony vocal tones. 

In recent years, Slick Rick has collaborated with Missy Elliott, Mos Def, and the Black Eyed Peas. He performed a duet with Mariah Carey at Radio City Music Hall in 2019, and was signed to actor Idris Alba’s record label. He will perform an all-ages showcase performance — badge-required — at The Mohawk on March 12.  


Funk music in recent years has taken on a more global sound, incorporating elements of Asian and Middle Eastern music, surf rock, reggae, and cumbia, thanks to bands like Khruangbin and BALTHVS, a Colombian psychedelic funk trio that has toured the world and released three full-length albums since forming in 2019. The band aims to make "cosmic music" that can combat anger and anxiety.

Band members Balthazar Aguirre (guitar), Johanna Mercuriana (bass), and Santiago Lizcano (drums) produce, mix, and master all of their music and design all of their artwork. Their most recently release, Third Vibration, incorporates funk, disco, dream pop, vaporwave, soul, and R&B into their songs.

Aguirre hypes those genres and more on his Cubensis Records YouTube page, where subscribers can better understand the BALTHVS universe by exploring a vast library of eclectic music, like the mystical 1968 Gabor Szabo album "Dreams," or Stefano Torossi’s 1974 Italian jazz fusion album "Feelings." For super fans, it’s a giant rabbit hole of discovery that helps illustrate the band’s musical recipe.


Brainstory is another modern funk outfit with an eclectic musical blueprint: the three members of Brainstory grew up in the Inland Empire area outside Los Angeles, and by the mid-2010s, they were developing a version of California retro soul music that combines jazz and funk with psychedelic rock and 70s R&B. 

"That's what we were all into at the time—jazz," says guitarist and singer Kevin Martin, who happens to be a big Bob Dylan fan. "And that's what we wanted to do with our first EP in 2014—take our songs and expand them, improvise, weld jazz onto them. We wanted to trick people into listening to jazz, basically." 

The band, made up of Kevin, his brother Tony Martin, and Eric Hagstrom, has released one full-length album, an instrumental album, and an EP. Their new record, Sounds Good, produced for Big Crown Records by Leon Michels — who recently collaborated with Black Thought of the Roots — drops on April 19. The band is touring this spring. Previously they’ve performed with soul singer Lady Wray, and singer Claire "Clairo" Cottrill has a guest feature on the new album.

Vulva Voce

SXSW is more associated with rock music than classical, but the UK-based, all-female string quartet Vulva Voce has applied a rock attitude to their ensemble. Formed during Covid lockdown, they compose much of their own music — which combines elements of folk, jazz, contemporary, and experimental music.

"In terms of our identity — and especially in terms of our business model — we treat ourselves like a band rather than a classical string quartet," violist Nadia Eskandari said

Vulva Voce also employ a bit of a punk attitude, performing outside classical concert halls, at open mic nights and pop-up performances. They also play a wide range of music written by female composers.

"We want all the music we play to feel accessible to anyone, because when you are playing music by women, it is even more important that anyone can connect to it, not just classical audiences,"  Eskandari adds.

Artists Who Are Going On Tour In 2024: The Rolling Stones, Drake, Olivia Rodrigo & More

Kendrick Lamar GRAMMY Rewind Hero
Kendrick Lamar

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic


GRAMMY Rewind: Kendrick Lamar Honors Hip-Hop's Greats While Accepting Best Rap Album GRAMMY For 'To Pimp a Butterfly' In 2016

Upon winning the GRAMMY for Best Rap Album for 'To Pimp a Butterfly,' Kendrick Lamar thanked those that helped him get to the stage, and the artists that blazed the trail for him.

GRAMMYs/Oct 13, 2023 - 06:01 pm

Updated Friday Oct. 13, 2023 to include info about Kendrick Lamar's most recent GRAMMY wins, as of the 2023 GRAMMYs.

A GRAMMY veteran these days, Kendrick Lamar has won 17 GRAMMYs and has received 47 GRAMMY nominations overall. A sizable chunk of his trophies came from the 58th annual GRAMMY Awards in 2016, when he walked away with five — including his first-ever win in the Best Rap Album category.

This installment of GRAMMY Rewind turns back the clock to 2016, revisiting Lamar's acceptance speech upon winning Best Rap Album for To Pimp A Butterfly. Though Lamar was alone on stage, he made it clear that he wouldn't be at the top of his game without the help of a broad support system. 

"First off, all glory to God, that's for sure," he said, kicking off a speech that went on to thank his parents, who he described as his "those who gave me the responsibility of knowing, of accepting the good with the bad."

Looking for more GRAMMYs news? The 2024 GRAMMY nominations are here!

He also extended his love and gratitude to his fiancée, Whitney Alford, and shouted out his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates. Lamar specifically praised Top Dawg's CEO, Anthony Tiffith, for finding and developing raw talent that might not otherwise get the chance to pursue their musical dreams.

"We'd never forget that: Taking these kids out of the projects, out of Compton, and putting them right here on this stage, to be the best that they can be," Lamar — a Compton native himself — continued, leading into an impassioned conclusion spotlighting some of the cornerstone rap albums that came before To Pimp a Butterfly.

"Hip-hop. Ice Cube. This is for hip-hop," he said. "This is for Snoop Dogg, Doggystyle. This is for Illmatic, this is for Nas. We will live forever. Believe that."

To Pimp a Butterfly singles "Alright" and "These Walls" earned Lamar three more GRAMMYs that night, the former winning Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song and the latter taking Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (the song features Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat). He also won Best Music Video for the remix of Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood." 

Lamar has since won Best Rap Album two more times, taking home the golden gramophone in 2018 for his blockbuster LP DAMN., and in 2023 for his bold fifth album, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.

Watch Lamar's full acceptance speech above, and check back at every Friday for more GRAMMY Rewind episodes. 

10 Essential Facts To Know About GRAMMY-Winning Rapper J. Cole