logo playlists for busy ...

                Val's chat with: 

 a Boston indie-jazz and soul band 

if you don't know them, you should.


val face 2

There's no bigger thrill than to land an interview with a band you're obsessed with. And I've been obsessed with this band from the moment I heard the first note. Apparently, the world is too -- I got more emails about Lake Street Dive over the past few years than almost any other band. They're an indie-jazz soul band from Boston, who met at the New England Conservatory of Music. Classically trained? Yes. But stuffy they're not. For starters, the band is named after a Minneapolis street known for its dive bars; one of the member's nicknames is McDuck; and they released a covers album called "Fun Machine" in 2012. This is the one that introduced them to me:
Michael Jackson's  "I Want You Back"
Lake Street Dive Plays
Lake Street Dive ~ On a Boston Sidewalk


I knew they'd be huge. I wanted to feature them in my NYT "Music Match" column with this video and my boss replied, "but they're singing on a sidewalk..."   I said,
"yep, that's what the cool bands do." 


Their music frames the familiar, tracks the traditional, and sprinkles what you know as R&B and soul music with a sexy spice that sizzles. Frontwoman Rachael Price is a presence on stage that frankly mesmerizes the audience (men and women) with form-fitting outfits, red lipstick and a coiffed do, like she just walked off the Madmen set. And then she starts singing. And the scene gels even more. She's got rhythm and soul and class. The whole band does. 


They played the summer festival circuit this year (in fact, they're in Austin at ACL Austin City Limits as I write this) --  but I was lucky to be four rows back from their small stage at Grand Point North fest in Burlington VT last month. I don't know which was more fun - watching the band or watching the fans. The audience was a veritable embodiment of moves, grooves, undulations... because you see, Lake Street Dive's music gets under your skin and makes you a good dancer - or so you think - it's a visceral experience.


FreshGrass Presents... LAKE STREET DIVE
FreshGrass Presents... LAKE STREET DIVE



Below I've listed the band's recent press.  

Below that is my laid-back interview with the band. 

Look again at their portrait at the top of this post. See the small pictures hanging on the wall above the fireplace? That's who I got to interview. They're charming and humble and fun. And I'm a super fan.




"Unexpected showstoppers... This year's best new band."  -Rolling Stone


"This Brooklyn four-piece uncorks the freshest sound of the young year, a combination of soul chord changes and torch-song vocals that's as deceptively simple and it is expertly executed... each element demands and then rewards attention."  - Billboard

"Lake Street Dive powers past nicety to connect with the passion that brings blood and sweat to the tears that heartache songs need in order to thrive."  - NPR Fresh Air


"[Lake Street Dive] marry Motown and '60s soul with folk and rock...[they] will have no trouble fitting in with rock and pop's major acts."  - Wall Street Journal

"A sparkling collection of jazz/Motown/girl group/British Invasion-inspired original tunes... The group is built around the powerhouse alto voice of Rachael Price, which sports traces of Amy Winehouse and Bonnie Raitt. That instrument is supported by the strong, smart songwriting and gorgeous harmony singing of band mates Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson and Mike Calabrese."   

- USA TODAY   (* * * 1/2 out of four)

"It's only February, but Bad Self Portraits might already be the album of the year."    

-Huffington Post

"It was easy to see what all the fuss is about. This is a band that runs extremely hot, from Price's sultry but muscular vocals that suggest she's Scarlett Johansson by way of Etta James to the intuitive contributions of Bridget Kearney on upright bass, Mike Calabrese on drums, and Mike Olson on guitar and trumpet."    
- The Boston Globe

"However, it is safe to say that there is no catchier band on the planet than Lake Street Dive. These songs are absolutely gorgeous, the kind that you catch yourself humming as you walk down the street, and then suddenly you're in a good mood."          
-New York Music Daily

"Consummate musicians all, they play with the kind of psychic bond that can only be forged by evolving together as they have. The impeccably tight rhythms and vocal harmonies lose nothing in the transition to the big stage..."  

- The Boston Herald

"Star-making moments don't happen every day. But four months ago, a potentially big one took place for Rachael Price and her band Lake Street Dive...Price isn't just loud. She's fleet, bending her voice around a melody with a David Beckham-esque grace. More, she's not a one-woman show. The three other Lake Street members write songs, each fine in lyric and tune."    - NY Daily News  (4 Stars)

- Rolling Stone





Val:  Before we talk about your music, I'd like to know a little bit about each of you, the people. Please describe the band member to your left...


Mike on Rachael

"Rachael is funny, intelligent, caring, and loves to fall asleep in big groups of people. It's one of her favorite things to do besides drinking coffee or discussing what is trendy in the food world now that brussel sprouts are last season. We will forever be amazed at how she gracefully captivates audiences with her charisma and comes up with brilliant little background vocal riffs. We will forever be nonplussed at her ability to demolish entire tubs of hummus with a single package of almond crackers. It's too impressive for words. She's a lovely person." 


Bridget on McDuck

"McDuck got the nickname "McDuck" back in our college days thanks to his reputation for having a cartoonishly grumpy demeanor (like Scrooge McDuck.) But the seamy underbelly of that nickname is that he's actually a really kind, fun, sensitive, thoughtful guy! (shhhhhhhhh) An old friend of ours used to call him "the palette cleanser" because, in comparison to the other three of us on stage, he has a very stoic presence. So if you get too much sweetness from Mike or too much salt from Rachael, visually, you can just take your eyes over to McDuck for a little visual palette cleansing sorbet. He is from Minnesota, he is a natural born leader and seems to concoct perfect, complete melodies with an ease rivaling Paul McCartney." 


Rachael on Bridget

"Bridget is the most courageous woman I know! Her musicality knows no bounds which is why she is such a fantastic bandmate."


McDuck on Mike 

"Mike is my best friend. This is Mike "McDuck" talking, but I feel like any one of us could say this with sincerity. Not only does he make us all laugh harder than anyone else, but he also treats us all like we're the most important humans in the world. He's also a wealth of ideas, musically speaking, and can do anything. He's omnivorous, ambitious, and polyglottal."



Val:  A band is like a family. Time to be honest...    


Who's the dad of the band?

"McDuck, always good for advice or a sideways glance of disapproval"

Who's the mom of the band? 

"Rachael, always good for a painkiller or herbal remedy or "treat yo'self" bit of encouragement"


Who's the jokester?  
"Mike, to a fault. Sometimes you need to be serious, Mike."

The serious one? 
"Again, McDuck.  As the dad he needs to professionally concern himself with most things."

The neatnik? 
"Once again, McDuck, the example setter..."

The slob? 
"Bridget, because what the hell is with her suitcase?"


The driver?  

"Mike, because he needs to feel in control and get there the fastest."

The cheerleader (always up)?  

"Bridget, always good for forward motion through stalemates and low morale."

The introspective - deep thinker?  

"All of us, really, in our own way. But, McDuck."


The 'up for anything' one?  
"Bridget and/or Mike, although Bridget is more likely to talk Mike into stuff than the other way around"

The 'we have to practice this one more time' perfectionist? 

"Mike, always good for a "it's never good enough"

Have I forgotten anything? 

"Nope, we're all quite depressed now by looking at ourselves." 



Val:  What was the first concert you attended as a kid/teen?


Mike: "Dick Dale and the Del-Tones at the Trocadero in Philadelphia when I was 10. My awesome Uncle Larry took me out on a school night when my awesome parents said okay."


Val:  What do you do on the road?  read? sleep? write? bother each other?


Mike: We do all four of those things, as well as watch movies in the bus, play bar-style blackjack, ride our new matching foldy bikes around town. We also rehearse and talk about our feelings."



Val:  Who writes?  What's a typical collaboration day for the band? (details please!)


Bridget: "All four of us write, but we all prefer to do the first couple steps in the process alone. We each have our own process for coming up with the foundations of a song (lyrics, melody, harmony, form) and also, some of those elements can be very personal, so it just works better for us to do that on our own time. The collaboration comes in when one of us brings a song into the band and we learn it and arrange it together. This can also be a very involved process and is what really makes the song into a "Lake Street Dive song." We are an aggressively democratic band, so we always take care to give everyone's ideas a fair shot before we decide which is the best. This can be an arduous process, but is also very rewarding!" 


Val:  Name 2 favorite songs you super remember from your childhood/teen years? 


Mike: "I Got My Mind Set On You", the George Harrision version, and "Vaseline" by Stone Temple Pilots.  



Val:  I'm a big fan of covers. I wrote a blog about it called 
Is it harder to write original music or nail a cool cover?  

Bridget:  "I think it's harder to write great original music than to nail a cool cover. In some ways, coming up with a live arrangement of your own song is the same as coming up with an arrangement of a cover song. You are still trying to find the best way for the song to speak in the setting you are playing in, featuring your strengths and avoiding your weaknesses. And you also have the added tasks of writing the foundations of a song that rival the great songs (that have stood the test of time) to become cover songs, and drawing listeners' attention in to listen to a song they've never heard before in the same way they listen to a song they already know and love. Both originals and covers have their challenges for sure." 

Val: How do audiences react to your cover songs? (I bet they go crazy and sing along?)

Bridget: "Our goal is to write songs in such a way that on the very first time you play them for a new audience, you see people bobbing their heads, and even singing along by the end of a song."



Val:  Letterman. Conan. Ellen. etc.   Describe.  (details please!)



"Letterman: It was really unbelievable to play on the stage where the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan show!!! But one thing people may not know about the Letterman taping is that it is always VERY cold on the set! All day long! Like 50 degrees!

Conan: Conan has a very fun back stage hang, and he is very personable. Also a very cold set. I overdid it on the massage chair before the show and walked on stage a little jelly, in addition to the cold, but the crowd and the crew made me feel better!

Ellen: We were on the Ellen show with Kate Winslet and Josh Radnor, so that was cool! Ellen told me after the set that she had just bought Portia a cello for her birthday. Another guest on the show that day was a little boy YouTube sensation and they had about a million batman cupcakes for him so we walked away with a belly full of cupcakes.

Colbert: Colbert was SOOOO NIIIIICCE! He came and heckled our soundcheck, which was hilarious. He also gives each of his guests a gift which is a donation to a charity of their choice at www.donorschoose.org 
which I thought was really cool and a great way to involve his guests in future collaborations with Donors Choose." 



Val:  Your music is sophisticated pop. What message (teaching actually) are you sending to millennials and younger who A) didn't grow up on R&B  B) love EDM?  Do you guys think of yourselves as role models in that way?


Bridget:  "I don't think we are fighting any specific anti-top-40, counter-culture revolution, personally. We're just following our ears and our hearts to the music we love and that's what we play. And if people like it, and it leads them to enjoy other music that we are inspired by, then that's fantastic! But I know everybody has their own thing, and that's cool too."



Val:  You're from Boston. When on tour, can you "feel" the different audiences? South, east coast, west coast, midwest?


Rachael:  "We definitely can! It's often more a little bit state to state than it is region to region. Certain audiences are gonna dance a lot more, certain ones are going to be more the concentrated, listening type."  



Val:  Do you have any routines or special rituals before a show?  Come on, be honest - any quirks or superstitions?


Rachael: "Well, we always sing together and we often have a mini silent dance party before we head onto stage which generally includes all manners of inappropriate dancing :)."



Val:  Where are you most comfortable:  in the studio recording (perfectionism)  or on stage pushing the envelope?


Rachael:  "I think we're most comfortable on stage because we have so much experience doing that, although we've gotten way more into the recording process and what that brings out in us in the last couple recordings we've done."



Val:  Rachael, about your gorgeous lips - you know how lucky you are, yes? Red Lipstick or Chapstick? 


Rachael:  "Well thank you, they are the Price lips [Rachael Price] - we've all got 'em and definitely lipstick -- all colors!"



Val:  Fun question:  If I sent you each to the drugstore with $10 to spend on anything you want, what would you buy? 


McDuck: "Easy. Doritos. But all the flavors -- not just cool ranch. All the crazy ones, all the spicy ones, all the ones that shouldn't be flavors... and then we'd sit around and try them all and make a spreadsheet to convey everyone's favorite." 



Val:  Name one guilty pleasure each of you have  (nothing will surprise us, honest :)


McDuck:  "We do this thing called "kneehugging." It's when you walk up to someone and hug their knees... with your knees. It's super awkward and no one likes it, which makes us want to do it even more. Especially to strangers."


Val:  What's something that even your biggest fans might not know about you guys?


McDuck:  "That we're huge dorks. Maybe that's apparent? We love food and coffee and going to bed early, and eating cheese late at night, kneehugging, and no one has ever made out with anyone else in the band. So there. Big squares."


Val: Free question:  what else do you want your fans to know?


McDuck: "That we love them madly. Stay with us forever. Please??"


* * *


Lake Street Dive's Official Website


Lake Street Dive Tour Schedule





Lake Street Dive - Full Performance (Live on KEXP)






Thank your customer, tell them how valuable they are to you, but don't go overboard. Insincerity is easy to spot.

Valerie Haller