Accompanied by haunting circus music, the introduction states, “The only thing for you to do is to do absolutely nothing” — except listen to the new psychedelic rock release.
This is the beginning to “Yours, Dreamily,” the debut album of the newly-formed band, The Arcs, released on Sept. 4
The Arcs is a collaborative project featuring The Black Keys’ singer and guitarist Dan Auerbach and longtime musical friends Richard Swift, Leon Michels, Homer Steinweiss and Nick Movshon, along with guests Kenny Vaughan and New York-based all-female mariachi group Mariachi Flor de Toloache.
Swift, the touring bassist and backup vocalist for The Black Keys since April 2014, said the new band formed accidentally.
“It seems like maybe a couple of years ago we started working on different tracks here and there,” Swift said. “Some of the stuff was written already. There were some ideas that Dan had been working on. Then it started to morph into this other thing where we would show up with no material and we all have little demo sketches and song ideas and little scraps and stuff on our phones. It became way more of a collaborative sort of thing, as opposed to Dan coming with a fully-finished song or something. It just kind of evolved out of getting together over a couple of weekends here and there and just putting our heads down and getting the work done.”
Now, Swift mans the drums, keyboards, backing vocals and even more with The Arcs.
After the intro, the rigid “Outta My Mind” begins which includes an Auerbach-esque blues-sounding fuzzy guitar riff. This is just the beginning of several riffs throughout the debut album.
The sixth song on the record, “Stay In My Corner” was released as a single in conjunction with the Floyd Mayweather Jr. / Manny Pacquiao fight in May 2015.
The catchy chorus includes the lines “I will fight for you / if you fight for me, too.” When the song transitions into the bridge, the piano melody creeps in as Auerbach sings in a falsetto range “We’ll sit together / forever / by the color of TV,” putting listeners in this transported dreamland of sitting with legs crossed in front of a television set back in the day.
As the album progresses, “The Arc” brings the sound of a perfect road trip backing.
Another highlight of the album is the tenth track, “Velvet Ditch,” which Swift said includes a “really special” moment between Auerbach, Michels and himself while recording the track at Brian “Danger Mouse” Burton’s studio in Los Angeles, California.
“Being in The Arcs is really, really fun,” Swift said. “There’s something that happens when we play together, that’s a lot more powerful than anything I’ve experienced in a band. We laugh a lot when we’re not playing.”
All members of the band share songwriting credit for the album.
In addition, the all-female mariachi band Mariachi Flor de Toloache performs backing vocals on several album tracks and lead vocals on “Chains of Love.” They add a flair to the album with their harmonies. The unique mixture of trumpet and violin which they add to the songs blends in to create a sound rarely heard before.
Swift said the idea to include Mariachi Flor de Toloache into the mix came when thinking about throwing a party at his house and wanting to hire a mariachi band, as opposed to putting on a mixtape that they would normally do when the group of musicians had a community meal.
From there, Auerbach wanted to include a mariachi sound into some of the tracks. Michels made a phone call and the all-girl band arrived and displayed their talents.
“Now, as far as I’m concerned, they’re part of the band,” Swift said. “I don’t know what we’d do without them live. They’re all just incredibly talented. They can sing their hearts out, and they’re really, really good players. We’re constantly changing arrangements of songs and they’re right there with us, it’s really great.”
As a whole, the album has a groovy feel to it. Between the buzz of the guitar riffs and blend of the brass, it sounds like something straight out of the 1970s with a bunch of soul.
With its hazy vibes, “Yours, Dreamily,” also delves into setting a jazzy, 1920s club feel during the 12th track “Come and Go.”
The closing track, “Searching the Blue” is backed by a gentle, piano melody. With the blend of Auerbach’s falsetto lead vocals and Swift’s strong backing vocals, this is the ultimate concluding track.
With over 70 tracks recorded, the band is almost finished with a second album.
As The Arcs prepare to hit the road for a two-month tour in November and December, Swift said.
Despite having a sense of anxiety while on the road, he is looking forward to how the band will perform live in front of an audience.
“I always kind of go into tour with a certain amount of anxiety because I really don’t like traveling,” Swift said. “I don’t like planes, I don’t like being stuck on a bus. I don’t like that part of traveling. For me, the thing that I’m looking forward to is how do we pull this off in front of a bunch of people. Our Boyle Heights gig was really great, it felt great. Like I said, I’m just kind of excited to finally play this music for other people.”
The Arcs played the Bowery Ballroom in New York City on Sept. 26. They will tour Europe from Nov. 5 to Nov. 16. After that, they will return to the United States to play around the country from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20, including another New York show at Terminal 5 on Dec. 9.