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Summer Stars: Lake Street Dive

by Sheryl Hunter on July 15, 2014

Life is good for the four- piece band known as Lake Street Dive. In February, they released their third album, Bad Self Portraits, which debuted at No. 18 on the Billboard charts and went on to achieve widespread acclaim. They've already appeared on bothThe Late Show with David Letterman and The Colbert Report and headlined a sold out U.S. tour. Oh, and they even have a new touring van.

“We are all a bit overwhelmed—it went from zero to 10 very quickly for us,” says Rachael Price, the powerhouse vocalist for the soulful pop group from Boston who now reside in Brooklyn.

“But it didn’t happen overnight,” she adds with a laugh. “We’ve been a band for about 10 years.”

Lake Street Dive, which also includes drummer Mike Calabrese, stand-up bassist Bridget Kearney and Mike “McDuck” Olson on guitar and trumpet, formed in 2004 when the members were students at the New England Conservatory of Music. Price says that they knew that they wanted to do something different from the start and even flirted with the idea of becoming a country-jazz fusion outfit—an idea that proved better on paper than in practice.

But when the foursome began spending more time together and discovered a shared love of The Beatles, Paul Simon, Motown and soul music, their current sound started taking shape.

“Once we discovered there was this kinship of what we all love, it started informing how everyone was writing and changed the trajectory of the kind of music we want to make together,” Price says.

On their latest, Bad Self Portraits, the group skillfully combines these influences with their superb musical chops, smart lyrics and flawless vocals to create a sound that stands alone on the current pop landscape. And while Price’s bold voice—imagine Etta James singing a George Michael tune—is what initially grabs listeners, it is the band’s interplay that reels them in. That and the obvious fact that they are having a great time.

Before Bad Self Portraits, Lake Street Dive garnered notoriety, thanks in part to actor Kevin Bacon. After Bacon tweeted his enthusiasm for a YouTube video of the band performing The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” on a Boston sidewalk, the video went viral. In Lake Street Dive’s hands, the poppy Motown song transforms into a sultry jazzy number which showcases the group’s solid musicianship and playful nature.

The quartet later caught the attention of T Bone Burnett, who enlisted them to perform at the Another Day, Another Time concert in New York last September in support of the Coen Brothers’ film Inside Llewyn Davis.

“When T Bone got in touch with us to see if we wanted
to play on it, I believe we unanimously screamed unintelligible sounds that meant 'yes.' It was one of the most inspiring experiences we’ve ever had,” says Calabrese.

Lake Street Dive totally wowed the crowd, holding their own in a lineup of musical luminaries that included Jack White, Patti Smith and Joan Baez. They will continue to blow audiences over with their spirited live shows as they hit the festival circuit this summer. Price, who was studying to be a jazz vocalist before settling in with Lake Street Dive, says that the band’s surge in popularity has impacted their performances.

“The quality of our live shows has increased exponentially. We are walking into sold-out rooms, which we have never had before,” she says. “We’re just so happy that people are finding us.”


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