Street-corner soul

Boston-born pop/jazz four piece records new album on the road

Lake Street Dive: (from left) Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson, Rachel Price and Mike Calabrese.

Lake Street Dive: (from left) Bridget Kearney, Mike Olson, Rachel Price and Mike Calabrese.

Photo by Jarrod McCabe

Chico Performances presents: Lake Street Dive Tuesday, Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m., Laxson Auditorium.
Tickets: $10-$30
Laxson Auditorium
Chico State Campus

Somehow, in the middle of nearly two full years of touring, Lake Street Dive managed to get in the studio to cut another record. Considering the meteoric rise that the Boston-based band experienced in 2014 following an immensely popular YouTube video of the quartet’s street-corner performance of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and the subsequent release of the critically acclaimed Bad Self Portraits, this is a bit of a miracle.

Appearances on The Colbert Report, Late Show with David Letterman and Conan were sprinkled among multiple cross-country treks, festival appearances (including this year’s High Sierra Music Festival) and more. It’s been something of a crazy trajectory, especially in light of the fact the band had been together for almost a decade before anyone paid attention outside New England.

They found the time, though, and their upcoming as-yet-untitled fourth album is slated to be released in early 2016 by Nonesuch Records. Whittling the album from some 40 songs, Lake Street Dive—vocalist Rachael Price, guitarist Mike “McDuck” Olson, bassist Bridget Kearney and drummer Mike Calabrese—for the first time relinquished some of its fiercely earned independence by working with a producer (the identity of whom as of press time was not yet officially released). And while the schedule has been hectic, the same chemistry that catapulted the band into the consciousness of the pop world served the foursome well when they needed it most.

“It was nice we had a stable of songs,” explained Calabrese during a recent interview. “We’re always writing here or there and we’ll do a little retreat and write five songs and come back with some new material. There is time in there, and having four writers makes it easier.”

Having four writers is also the secret to Lake Street Dive’s chameleonic appeal. Having dabbled in neo-swing, lounge, jazz, pop, gospel, rock and more, the band’s anything-goes aesthetic makes for a bold listen, regardless of the musical spectrum you most often reside in. Price’s sultry vocals guide songs through hooky terrain full of lyrical wormholes and tight grooves.

“The thing is, the band sounds like the band no matter whose tune we’re playing,” said Calabrese. “It just makes for a naturally more eclectic type of mixture song to song. Every writer has kind of their own voice.”

Those voices were put to test during the sessions for their upcoming album. Rather than recording in isolated rooms, separated from one another, the band experimented with being situated in the same room, where their natural symbioses could more organically develop.

“What ended up happening was I was playing drums in a room where Rachael was singing, and so I couldn’t overpower her,” explained Calabrese. “That forced all of us to focus in and listen to these songs at their core in a way that we really hadn’t before.”

The jazz portion of Lake Street Dive’s oeuvre has mostly been smoothed over in recent years (the band formed while students at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, primarily studying jazz). However, the new approach in the studio, interestingly, brought the group back to its improvisational roots.

“I think on Bad Self Portraits, people played what they wanted to,” says Calabrese. “That doesn’t really work when you’re forced in a room together and you need to play appropriately and succinctly to make sure everything in that room is controlled. There’s less of a safety net, but what you get out of that is more edge and urgency, and a little more spontaneity. It’s fresher, more honest and more human.”

That updated process was also not without its frustrations.

“Those tense moments created energy,” concedes Calabrese. “When you work through it, I think you get a better product in the end.”