How is it that something so unlikely can also be so infectious, so naturally exhilarating? Pulling in familiar elements and irreverently scrambling and recombining them, Lake Street Dive are at once jazz-schooled, DIY-motivated, and classically pop obsessed. Beginning with catchy songs that are by turns openhearted and wryly inquisitive, this northeastern quartet proceeds to inject them with an irresistible blend of abandon and precision. Composed of drummer Mike Calabrese, bassist Bridget Kearney, vocalist Rachael Price, and trumpet-wielding guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, Lake Street Dive encompasses a myriad of possibilities within its members’ collective experiences, and the resultant music is a vivid, largely acoustic, groove-driven strain of indie-pop. “It seems the only limitation we have,” Kearney explains, “ is that we try to make music that we would like listening to.”
Available November 9th via Signature Sounds, Lake Street Dive’s self-titled third album is not only their national debut – it is also the first album to fully capture their ongoing musical and personal adventure together. As witnessed in a series of ingeniously minimalist performance videos the band has uploaded to YouTube, Lake Street Dive’s sound is marked by McDuck’s ingeniously deployed trumpet parts and snappy rhythm guitar, Kearny’s astonishingly nimble upright bass playing, and Calabrese’s unfailingly musical percussion. Above it all, Price’s vocals are clear and strong, carrying the meaning and melody of the songs with a both declamatory zeal and conversational intimacy. It’s invigorating music that defies genre while simultaneously captivating the head, heart, and feet.
Throughout Lake Street Dive, the band displays mastery of a range of rhythms, from skeletal, eerily metronomic pop of “Neighbor Song” to the British invasion basher “Henriette” (replete with unexpected bass solo!) to the tempered, after-hours R&B of the closing “My Speed,” which boasts a guest vocal from Boston soul man Jesse Dee. The songs, intricate arrangements, and Price’s vocals insure that each ingredient in their sound is personalized and reimagined from the band’s perspective. The confident, unapologetic vibe that runs throughout thealbum is clearly that of a band celebrating a newfound ease with itself.
Hailing from such disparate locales as Tennessee (Price), Iowa (Kearney), Minneapolis (Olson), and Philadelphia (Calabrese), Lake Street Dive first gathered in a room together when they were students at Boston’s New England Conservatory. “Mr. McDuck assembled the four of us, said we were now Lake Street Dive, and we were a ‘free country’ band,” Bridget Kearney remembers. “He wrote this on a chalkboard in the ensemble room that we had our first rehearsal in. We intended to play country music in an improvised, avant-garde style – like Loretta Lynn meets Ornette Coleman. It sounded terrible! But the combination of people and personalities actually made a lot of sense and we had a great time being around each other and making music together.”
Lake Street Dive makes the most of pop music virtues: solid, evocative song craft; propulsive grooves; and Price’s disarming, forthright vocals. However, it’s a personal strain of pop that is refracted through the band members’ rich backgrounds: a sinewy Motown bass line is reborn with woody heft on Kearney’s upright, Calabrese’s drumming mixes timekeeping with more adventurous jazz-inflected outbursts, McDuck’s nimble trumpet is an unexpectedly warm counterpoint to Price’s singing. It all makes for a sound with familiar roots, but with a slant that is entirely their own. Lake Street Dive’s eventual artistic breakthrough came not without struggle, and still surprises original instigator Mike “McDuck” Olson. “Now we’re a pop band, leaning very heavily on soul and rock, with hook-y writing, which I never expected,” he concludes. “If I could travel through time, I’d go back six years and play the new record for my younger self, just to assure him that the awkward, new-band phase doesn’t last forever.”