May 4, 2015
Over the last few yeas, Lake Street Dive has gone from the cool band that you and a few friends knew about, to the cool band that a lot of people knew about. The band’s mix of jazz-pop, early R&B and other influences has gone from small stages to large festivals, and selling out venues like the Neighborhood Theatre in Charlotte, where they’ll return to on May 19th. Such changes can be difficult for any artist, but for the members of Lake Street Dive—singer Rachel Price, bassist Bridget Kearney, guitarist and trumpeter Mike Olson, Mike Calabrese—the music continues to provide a positive reflection of what they’ve accomplished so far, and the endless possibilities to come.
Drummer Michael Calabrese checked in via email to talk about touring, new recordings, and the occasional bicycle ride.
CLTure: This will be your fourth Charlotte show in the last few years. Talk about your memories of playing in Charlotte, starting with your first Charlotte appearance at the Evening Muse.
Michael Calabrese: The first time we played in Charlotte, the only people in the audience were the headlining band members, literally. I think there was a hurricane scare at the time and people were extra freaked to venture out. But we played one of the funnest shows ever, and sat in the audience for their set, which they played only for us. We really bonded and then the Koster family took us all in and we ate nachos until the wee hours of the morning. In the end, a wonderful taste was left in our mouths, pun intended, and we couldn’t wait to get back. Hopefully to play for an actual audience.
CLTure: Over the last few years, the band has gone from playing smaller venues like the Muse, to larger venues like the Neighborhood Theatre. Do you feel that you have to work harder to connect with larger audiences, as opposed to smaller places?
MC: There was a shift that had to take place at some point after we started playing larger shows. Luckily by the time we hit the Neighborhood Theatre, we had more of a big show vibe under our belts. You need to come up with more dramatic events, so that people 40 rows back take notice of something changing. Luckily it allows you to stretch out on stage more, either with banter or your playing, which is a mindset that might need to take a backseat during smaller performances.
CLTure: You have several outdoor festival dates coming up this summer. Does performing at a festival change the show that the band will do?
MC: Usually yes. Festival shows are shared with every other band at the festival, and intimacy can be hard to achieve when there aren’t ceilings and isolation. Hopefully there will be some fans to see us there, but for the majority of the audience you need to give them attention grabbing activity, faster tempos, more antics, et cetera for them to keep their focus on you. Expect an emphasis on whirlwind as opposed to politesse.
CLTure: What is the hardest part about touring as much as LSD has done in the last two years?
MC: This is different for each member…keeping a relationship back home, worrying about a sub-letter, it depends on what is back home. Maybe that’s in general the hardest part, feeling unsettled and out of control about your home life, however
CLTure: The band’s sound is hard to pin down: a mix of jazz, pop, ‘50s/’60s R&B, among others. What makes a Lake Street Dive song, in your mind?
MC: Can you dance to it, either wildly in a crowd or slowly, thoughtfully in your room by yourself? Can you remember it after hearing it once, and do you want to hear it again? Does it make you feel some/all of the feelings? I don’t know if I’m qualified to say this is the case with every single song of ours that’s ever existed, but these are the ideals that we strive for, that we’ve been inspired by all of these different musical influences.
CLTure: How would you describe your sound? And does it even matter to try and categorize your sound?
MC: We’re of the opinion that the concept of genres has been beaten into the ground with a dead horse ad infinitum. It starts to lose all meaning when you start listing musical era descriptors with a “neo” in front of it or say it’s “so-and-so” meets a “hamburger-waltz” or whatever. I think we sound like a band who cares about writing tunes and that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
CLTure: What has been your favorite description of Lake Street Dive?
MC: “Bluegrass based vaudeville chamber pop” because that person has an incredible imagination.
CLTure: Your video of “I Want You Back” brought a whole new audience to you. In this day and age, how important is it for a band to release videos like that, or build a following on social media?
MC: Dare I say it’s at least half the total importance. Everyone is doing it, and there’s more and more content to compete with every day, so you have to keep up. The other half is playing a killer show, which no social media wizardry could ever make up for.
CLTure: It’s now been three years since LSD recorded Bad Self Portraits. What plans does the band have for new recordings?
MC: We’ll release one sometime next year. I hope the fans are as excited as we are!
CLTure: Is it hard to write and record new songs around a busy touring schedule?
MC: Harder than off the road for sure. But we have acoustic guitars sitting around, GarageBand on our computers and a lot of time before sound check so there’s still a possibility of getting ideas down.
CLTure: Your EP Fun Machine features a variety of songs from other artists. What was been your favorite songs to cover?
MC: We’ve recently worked up a new cover of “Walking On Broken Glass” by Annie Lennox and that’s been really fun. It’s great playing tunes that people wouldn’t normally admit they liked. We like to think we’re doing a great service in this way.
CLTure: Who would you like to see (and hear) cover a Lake Street Dive song?
MC: Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr, T-Swift to name a few. Guys, if you’re out there reading this, we’d happily come over to your houses and jam in them.
CLTure: What music have you and the band been listening to lately?
MC: D’Angelo’s new record Black Messiah, Jenny Lewis, the Zombies’ Odyssey and Oracle, also the Muscle Shoals documentary can turn you into some new old bands and legends you may have overlooked.
CLTure: Do you all still sing the same songs in the van?
MC: Sadly for this old activity we no longer have a van. We sold it along with our youthful mirth. Just kidding.
CLTure: Does the band still get time for bicycling during tour stops? I remember that this was a topic of conversation at a previous Charlotte show.
MC: Yes! We have folding bikes stowed in the bottom of the bus. It’s the best.
CLTure: What’s the nicest, or coolest thing that Lake Street Dive fans have done for the band?
MC: The fact that they’ve kept coming to our shows after all these years is by far the nicest or coolest thing they could have ever done for us. We’ve grown into something beyond our wildest expectations and it never would have happened without them. And there’s no sign of stopping on either end so let’s keep this party rocking, huh? Whaddayah say? We say thanks!