Nashville-based rock quartet — and Jack White’s first side project after the breakup of the White Stripes — released its Grammy-winning sophomore effort, “Consolers of the Lonely,” in 2008 and hadn’t been heard from since
It was a bit of a surprise last month when The Raconteurs returned with their third album, Help Us Stranger.
The Nashville-based rock quartet — and Jack White’s first side project after the break-up of the White Stripes — released their Grammy-winning sophomore effort, Consolers of the Lonely, in 2008 and hadn’t been heard from since.
So when White, co-songwriter/singer/guitarist Brendan Benson, bassist Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler decided to break their 11-year hiatus, not a lot of people saw it coming. Perhaps even more so given the fact that White’s latest solo album, Boarding House Reach, had only been around for a year.
And it’s not like White hasn’t been busy. In that decade-plus, the 44-year-old bandleader has released three albums with his other side project, the Alison Mosshart-fronted Dead Weather, and another three under his own name.
Somehow, he’s also found the time to open a pair of physical locations (as well as a pressing plant) for his independent record label, Third Man Records.
But if there were any doubts about getting The Raconteurs back together, Help Us Stranger has already squashed them. Not only did the album debut in the top spot on both Billboard and Rolling Stone’s Top 200 chart, it hit number one in the UK, Denmark and Canada as well.
While the band appreciates the accolades, it’s actually something else they see as the new album’s greatest success.
“It’s a total DIY project,” White said from a recent tour stop in Minneapolis as he sat in a hotel room with Benson. “Most number one albums nowadays have 10 to 12 producers, 15 songwriters and a lot of money behind it. We wrote and produced this ourselves. So it shows you that times are changing. You don’t really need a major label to pull something like that off like you used to.”
Additionally, Help Us Stranger was recorded in White’s own studio, pressed at his pressing plant and put out by Third Man. Yet despite it being the first Raconteurs album without a major label partner, it’s their highest charting release to date.
And it came to be much in the same way that the band itself did. Although White and Benson have known each other since they were part of Detroit’s burgeoning garage rock scene in the 90s, it wasn’t until they wrote the Raconteurs’ debut single, Steady As She Goes, together that they considered turning it into a full-blown project.
This time around, it was a leftover track that didn’t make it onto White’s latest solo album that brought the songwriters together once more. Again, there were no plans beyond the one song, but funny things tend to happen when the pair collaborates.
“I told Brendan I thought it sounded like The Raconteurs,” said White. “He agreed. We kind of took baby steps from there. We thought maybe we’d just record a bit, maybe release a 7-inch, see if we could still play and write together. I mean, we hadn’t done it in a decade.”
“It was very much like before the first record,” added Benson. “Jack and I started working on the song, and by the end of it, we knew we wanted to write more. So we got together and started jamming and it was like, ‘Oh, this is great. We gotta make another record.’ I like the connection it has to our first album in that way.”
As it tends to go with The Raconteurs, there aren’t many plans beyond the current tour dates they already have scheduled in support of Help Us Stranger. But if it’s any consolation, that’s the way they’ve always done it.
“It’s kind of nice like that,” said White. “I really try not to plan too far ahead. But we haven’t talked about making another record or touring another year. It’s pretty early on, but I do believe all things are meant to be. If we can turn another record quickly, then I think it can happen. But there are no concrete plans yet.”
Regardless if they head right back into the studio or spend 11 more years apart, The Raconteurs know this time around they did it all by themselves and completely on their own terms.
“It really doesn’t matter if the album is successful or not,” White said. “It doesn’t matter if it reaches a hundred or a million. It’s just nice to say that the music was in charge.”
When: 8 p.m., July 28
Where: Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre, 5500 Campanile Dr.