Lake Street Dive Delves Into the Past to Create Its Own Sound

Lake Street Dive opens for Grace Potter at Red Rocks on Friday, August 19.EXPAND
Lake Street Dive opens for Grace Potter at Red Rocks on Friday, August 19.
Danny Clinch

Lake Street Dive is, well, classy.

The band's 2014 album, Bad Self Portraits, has received critical acclaim, and the band has been touring well-known venues in both domestic and international circuits. But as a classically trained group developing its signature sound from vintage jazz, soul, Southern rock and blues, Lake Street Dive (affectionately known as LSD) has also been invited to play some lesser-known venues generally reserved for acoustically phenomenal classical artists. The day after their August 19 appearance at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the members of Lake Street Dive will play a sold-out show at an intimate acoustic pavilion in Steamboat Springs.

The four are all New England Conservatory of Music alumni (one of the most prestigious music academies in the U.S.), and their cumulative classical aptitude peppers their twelve years together. Singer Rachel Price's soulful harmonies are some of the most unique and outstanding among today's female vocalists, and with a velvety timbre, her range, while natural-sounding, reaches seemingly impossible points, meandering between bird-like whistles and contralto.

From left: Mike Olson (guitar and trumpet), Rachel Price (vocals), Bridget Kearney (stand-up bass) and Mike Calabrese (drums).EXPAND
From left: Mike Olson (guitar and trumpet), Rachel Price (vocals), Bridget Kearney (stand-up bass) and Mike Calabrese (drums).
Danny Clinch

Released earlier this year, the group's most recent LP, Side Pony, shows a side that is more playful and willing to experiment. But throughout the album is LSD's lyrical candor. The tracks communicate, while the tonal devices explore early Beatles, the Supremes and Doris Day. "Can't Stop" (below), has a '70s disco vibe straight from the Jackie Brown soundtrack. Kearney quotes Cobb, who summed up the resulting album for the rest of the band: "I feel like we had Help and we skipped Rubber Soul and went right to Revolver."

The varying sounds could come from the unusual process the band used to create the album. 

"We have always done our songwriting in a specific way, and it was a departure from that," says upright bassist Bridget Kearney.

The group took more outside direction, working with producer Dave Cobb, whose unorthodox methods brewed both comedy and results. "[Cobb] told us to go out to a record store to the $1 bins and buy records purely based on how funny the cover was and bring it in," Kearney says. "So we would just drop the needle, [listening to] the grooves, the words, the melody, the inversions and all that stuff. So that was sort of a fun stretch of five people coming up with a song together." 

On what she feels was most unusual about the process of creating the record, Kearney says, "My favorite moment was when we all left the studio together to go triangle shopping! Because we just felt the record needed a triangle at that moment... which was ridiculous but also inspiring."

Kearney (second from right) proves that to rock a side pony is to look damn good.EXPAND
Kearney (second from right) proves that to rock a side pony is to look damn good.
Danny Clinch

By injecting modern lyrical dynamism and a little of Cobb's style, the group demonstrates that there is a place for music that pays homage to the past without exclusively covering it (which is, incidentally, something that LSD does well).

Lake Street Dive opens for Grace Potter on Friday, August 19, at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.

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