Boston-based soul group Lake Street Dive has cracked the code on keeping the band together. For a touring band that spends 135 days of the year on the road, you'd think there'd be a science to make it through without getting on each other's nerves. However, drummer Mike Calabrese says it just comes down to one thing: friendship.
Fifteen years and thousands of shows since forming, the members of Lake Street Dive — in addition to Calabrese, that includes Rachael Price (vocals), Bridget Kearney (bass), Mike Olson (guitar, trumpet), and Akie Bermiss (keys) — are riding the waves of their most commercially successful record yet, Free Yourself Up, and still enjoying what brought the band together in the first place: their love for music and each other.
Though the band has been making music together for more than a decade and a half, Free Yourself Up was LSD's first fully self-produced record. "I can't believe it's taken us this long to finally do it," says Calabrese. "We've been making decisions about how to arrange ourselves for years and years, so we have a lot of practice with that and with communicating with each other." Their seamless flow between friendship and musical compatibility lends itself to the group's collaborative writing style.
Calabrese says the bandmates often throw around half-finished songs or choruses and let each other pick up where the other left off. "For the last record, we opened things up a bit," he explains. "Because we're so busy on the road, we don't have so much time to complete ideas. We wound up sharing halves of songs and seeds with each other and being like, 'Hey, can you finish this?'" Trust and collaboration paid off in this case, giving the record a well-rounded mix of songs, from the cheeky, lovesick single "Good Kisser" to the more anxiety driven "Baby Don't Leave Me Alone With My Thoughts."
Thematically, Free Yourself Up shows the band's world-weariness in a way that only comes with time. But instead of approaching life's hurdles behind a lens of doom, the record acknowledges heartbreak and turmoil while offering hope: "Change is coming/ oh yeah, ain't no holding it back," Price sings like a mantra on "Shame, Shame, Shame." Since starting the band when they were all teenagers, the band has learned to deal with adversity and hurt together, which is something that has only strengthened the music.
"We were kids together and we grew up together so we shared a lot of the process of becoming grown-ups," says Calabrese. "When you've been through a couple breakups or big life changes and you help your friends go through that, too, that's just all more solidifying for what you're doing. It's all about being good people to one another. Once you have that, you can pretty much do anything."
And so they pretty much have. Nine LPs, more than a thousand shows, and a Billboard chart-topping record later, the band is still growing and evolving. Calabrese says that talks about a next album are already in the works and we can expect new songs from the group in the next year, but there's not a huge rush.
"For us to be able to do this, we need to not be burnt out on it, and that can be a tough balance to strike," Calabrese says. "Because we've been doing it for so long, the things that help us grow make it work — because of our growth, that allows us to work smarter and not harder."
Lake Street Dive perform with the Wood Brothers on Tuesday, June 11 at the Royal Oak Music Theatre; 318 W 4th St., Royal Oak; 248-399-2980; royaloakmusictheatre.com. Doors at 6 p.m. Tickets are $35+.
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