5th May 2021
I first became aware of Lake Street Dive when I saw a clip of them performing The Kink’s Lola live about 18 months ago. Since them I have made a point of getting to know them a little better and got the heads-up that they had released a new album in March of this year. It’s time to share some tracks and a bit of background from an extremely talented of Jazz musicians who took their music beyond just that.
When founder Mike ‘McDuck’ Olson decided it would be fun to form a band playing an improvised Avant Garde form of Country music he co-opted the talents of fellow students of Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music and good friends, bassist Bridget Kearny and drummer/percussionist Mike Calabrese. Along with the golden voice of Rachel Price, the earliest incarnation of Lake Street Dive came into being.
Bridget Kearney won $1000 in the John Lennon Jazz Songwriting Competition in 2005 and she used it to press 1000 CD’s of the band’s first album, ‘The Episode’. This was followed by ‘Promises Promises’ in 2008. During the years between their first two albums they toured extensively, juggling engagements with other commitments while building up a local fanbase.
I’m starting the music with a track from the new album. I’ve chosen live recordings today, and this one comes from WFUV studios. Here’s ‘You Go Down Smooth’ from the ‘Bad Self Portraits’ album.
In 2010 the Lake Street Dive was signed to Signature Sounds Records and released their self-titled album. This was a time for commitment. Bridget Kearny left her other music project, Joy Kills Sorrow, and they went into the studio to record Fun Machine. The release date was held back as Rachel Price was under contract to Clear Vision Records and had to wait until her commitment ended. Late in 2013 they announced the release of Bad Self Portraits and toured it in a 300 in 175 different and widespread cities. A full-length concert film and live album ‘Live at the Lizard Lounge’ was recorded in 2010 and released in 2011.
The band embrace YouTube and regularly upload videos for their millions of viewers. The viral success of them performing Jackson 5’s song ‘I Want You Back’ helped them to establish themselves in the early days of their career and has been downloaded over 6 million times.
In 2015 Lake Street Dive signed with Nonesuch Records and worked with renowned producer Dave Cobb to produce the ‘Side Pony’ album. The band released their second album with Nonesuch, ‘Free Yourself Up” in May 2018 and saw keyboardist Akie Bermiss join the band on tour.
Just last month the band’s 7th album was released. ‘Obviously’ was produced by the highly-esteemed and sought-after Mike Elizondo; producer-songwriter and-multi- instrumentalist. The wide range of artists he has worked with has made him as conversant in jazz as in rock, country, bluegrass, and hip hop, and was exactly the sort of genre-juggling influence who would appreciate Lake Street Dive’s versatility. The new album draws on Elizondo’s touch and there is a sense of rhythmic fun that runs through each track.
Here we catch Lake Street Dive at the CBS studios for the Saturday Sessions live performance and the song ‘Hypotheticals’ from the new album, ‘Obviously’.
As previously mentioned, all the founder member met at the New England Conservatory of Music, and all had a musical childhood. Growing up surrounded by music gave the members a wide tapestry to draw from when developing their individual styles. The combination of personalities, skills, and wide-ranging taste in pop, rock, R&B, and jazz have now blended together to make an impressively cohesive sound, both sophisticated and playful, combining retro influences with a contemporary flavour.
Michael ‘McDuck’ Olson summed up the success of Lake Street Dive; “None of us knew it would become what it is. What kept us doing it? We like hanging out with each other from the get-go. We have shared values and interests. We never did it for image or to try to get famous, or even for money for the first six years. We did it for fun. It keeps you doing it. You look for things that keep you doing it. A reason to come back. A reason to suffer for it. There is a lot of struggle involved. It’s got to be fun.”
I’m finishing today with Lake Street Dive’s live recording for NPR’s Tiny Desk series. I hope that existing fans appreciated todays mini-feature. For those for whom this is the first time in the dive, relax, you are in safe hands.