After fourteen years and five albums, Lake Street Dive decided it was time to shake things up. With the addition of keyboardist and vocalist Akie Bermiss — along with back-to-basics collaborative songwriting and self-production — the New England jazzy soul band has shifted its sound and artistic vision.
Just listen to the band's sixth album, Free Yourself Up, which boasts a more developed, fuller sound than previous projects. Songs “Good Kisser” and “Red Light Kisses” showcase the warmth and funk that Bermiss provides on the keys and as a backing vocalist.
Over the years, Lake Street Dive has looked for signs that the band has “made it," but growth has been steady, without landmark events.
“For us, it got to a point where we said, 'Wait a minute, let’s not forget that we’re the ones that started this band,'” says drummer Mike Calabrese. “'We’re the ones that know each other the best, produce each other the best, and talk to each other, and know which songs people want to hear.'
“We began making choices that felt like a long time coming," he adds. "It was easy to fall into a rhythm of the usual business practices. We thought it would be good to freshen things up after being together for so long.”
Before officially joining in 2018, Bermiss was asked to become a touring member as a vocalist and keyboard player in 2017. His talent and perspective make him a good fit, as does his personality and interactions with other bandmates.
“Akie has changed the band in every way, for the better,” Calabrese says with a laugh. “It’s been really great. The thing about the touring-musician business is, first and foremost, you need to be able to hang. It kind of doesn’t matter how good you are with your instrument; you've got to be able to get along with everyone.
“He gets along with each of us in a very unique way to a very great extent," he adds. "It’s almost a great rounding out of all our personalities. He fit right in immediately.”
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With the new lineup and approach to songwriting, Lake Street Dive will be headlining Red Rocks Amphitheatre Thursday night.
“It’s like it’s one of those things...it's every emotion. It’s the full catastrophe,” says Calabrese. “We’re so humbled and gratified and at the same time terrified. It feels like it’s really going to be a milestone.”