Hailing from Boston, Lake Street Dive is making ripples in the musical pool that stretches between the East and West Coasts. Rachael Price’s voice has been captivating audiences for a few years now, and got attention from Portland last summer, at their Oregon debut during Pickathon Music Festival. Backed by a band that seems to meld between jazz, soul, and Beatles-era pop, Lake Street Dive is blowing up, so you better get on board. I got a chance to talk with bassist Bridget Kearney about making a new record, Kevin Bacon, and gluten-free eatin’.
Rip City Review: Where did the name ‘Lake Street Dive’ come from? Is that an actual bar?
Bridget Kearney: McDuck, our trumpet/guitar player came up with the band name about 9 years ago now–he invited us all to get together in a classroom at The New England Conservatory where he’d written “Lake Street Dive” in big letters on the chalkboard, and it stuck. McDuck is from Minneapolis, originally, and Lake Street in Minneapolis is the main drag in the cool part of town. As students at the conservatory, we were all involved in a lot of very heady musical endeavors in those days and I think he envisioned this band as being something more like what he would hear at a shitty dive bar back on Lake Street. Something people could just hang out to and enjoy. That’s definitely remained a part of our band to this day.
RCR: How would you describe your sound now?
BK: Well, our sound is the product of the music that we all take in. We’ve all been listening to a lot of soul lately–Motown, Stax. We all love the entire Beatles discography from start to finish and all have a shared background in jazz, because we went to college for it together. I think all of those things find their way into our sound in a big way.
RCR: How did it feel when you realized you were getting more attention as a band?
BK: In October a video of ours went kind of viral. It’s CRAZY how fast things can happen on the internet. When we realized what was happening, we started keeping tabs on the view count and I remember going to bed one night, and then waking up in the morning to find out that 200,000 more people had watched our video. That’s pretty cool! I’ve had big dreams for this band for a long time now, so it feels great that the word is getting out about what we’ve been working on. Also, Kevin Bacon tweeted about us in October. That was definitely very exciting.
RCR: What is the song writing process? How do you solve disagreements that come up?
BK: Usually we each write our own songs and then bring them into the band to figure out how we’re gonna play the song together. I think the first thing we try to do is be as dedicated to the songwriter’s vision for the song as possible. Sometimes it’s really hard to describe the type of vibe or groove or feel you hear in your head for the song, and oftentimes we’ll use reference tracks. For example, Otis Redding’s, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” was a reference track for one of the songs that’s going to be on our new record. I don’t think a listener would recognize that because there’s nothing taken literally from that song, it’s just a feeling. The lyrics to the song are kind of sad, but the music is very care free and light. It’s a really cool effect. It’s pretty easy to tell someone what chords to play or what words to sing but it’s a lot harder to get across how you want the song to feel. Fortunately, we have a lot in common as music listeners, so referencing another song is pretty effective.
RCR: What has been the most exciting show to date?
BK: We had a great time playing at Pickathon last year. The energy there is so awesome and we we played right after Dr. Dog one night; that was really inspiring. We’d never played in the state of Oregon before so I think practically everyone there was hearing us for the very first time and they responded in a huge way. Just recently, we played at The Beacon Theatre in New York and opened for Lucinda Williams. That was amazing and is one of the best parts about being a musician. We’re all such music nerds that it’s just so exciting to get to play on the same bill with musicians that we love and be a part of something with them. On the other side of things, our hometown shows at smaller venues in Boston and New York are always a blast because we have really loyal fans that we’ve been seeing for years and everyone just gets crazy.
RCR: Do you have any pre-show rituals?
BK: Eating gluten-free food and giggling? Sometimes we do vocal warm-ups together. We also always make our set list together in a notebook that we’ve decorated as: “Bridget’s Private Diary.” It’s got some hilarious drawings on it, including one that’s pretty obscene, by McDuck, so we entertain ourselves by leaving it out in very public settings and watching people discover it.
RCR: What’s in store for the band in the upcoming year?
BK: We have a new record of originals that we’re recording right now with Sam Kassirer (keyboardist and producer for Josh Ritter) and we’re all SUPER STOKED about that. There’s a new song on the album called “Rabid Animal” that is a real dancy number. I have grand ambitions to have someone choreograph a dance called “The Rabid Animal” and make a really sweet video for the song with Rachael and Mike Calabrese doing the dance, because they are both very good dancers. Mike Olson and I will sort of stand in the side lines and do the dumbed down version of the dance, because we are bad dancers. Also, I can’t say which ones yet, but we’re gonna be back at some of our faves and also play at some new ones that we’ve always wanted to play. And as for the spring time, we’ll be at Savannah Music Festival, The Albino Skunk Music Festival and Old Settlers Festival all in the month of April!
RCR: What’s your favorite part about playing with Lake Street Dive?
BK: There are a lot of fun things about being in this band. We’re all good friends and traveling together is a lot of fun. But definitely the best part of every day is when we’re on stage together playing. It’s a high.
Written & Edited by Rachel Milbauer