Funky with a Backbeat: Lake Street Dive Drummer Talks Green Tour and “Obviously” Chart Top Release

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On Wednesday, Lake Street Dive will visit Wilmington’s Live Oak Bank pavilion at Riverfront Park. (Port City Daily / Photo by Shervin Lainez)

WILMINGTON – Covid-19 has changed the way many industries work. It turns out that rock ‘n’ roll is not exempt either, at least not for musicians on tour.

For Mike Calabrese of Lake Street Dive, it prompted him to ask, “What’s worth giving up?”

Sometimes playing over 300 concerts a year, the Brooklyn-based band – who tour Wilmington Wednesday night – have been living on the road for more than a decade. Calabrese and his friends and bandmates, including Rachael Price (vocals), Mike “McDuck” Olson (guitar, trumpet) and Bridget Kearney (bass), founded Lake Street Dive in 2004 while attending school in New York City. England Conservatory of Music.

They started performing in nightclubs and small venues before gradually transforming into amphitheatres and pavilions. Changes and shifts have happened along the way: changing the record company three times, adding keyboardist Akie Bermiss in 2017, and losing founding member Olson, who announced his departure in the spring.

In March 2020, as the pandemic shut down the music industry, Calabrese found himself in a situation he had never faced before: being at a standstill. During the shutdown, the musician was able to take a close look at the first seven months of his son’s life – something he said he couldn’t do when he welcomed his first child into the family he years ago.

“For my wife and I, it was the longest time we’ve ever spent together because we met when I was a musician on tour,” he said. “And I don’t think we ever spent more than three months together before I hit the road again.”

These days, Lake Street Dive is reconsidering how they work after Covid-19. Calabrese, in particular, has confirmed that he is looking at the music industry from a different perspective than he did in January 2020.

“At our group meeting yesterday, we discussed how we can maintain creativity for our music, but also maintain creativity in this ever-changing world that we now realize is very, very fragile,” did he declare. “And be sustainable.”

When the tour ended, it naturally affected income. Still, Calabrese said what he won was immeasurable.

“I realized that very little was worth giving up or sacrificing for other parts of life,” he said. “We actually have the opportunity to do our best at the moment, so I think that’s at the heart of it all that we continue to balance touring, home life and our personal needs right now. , even after Covid. … How do you get all of these elements – your personal health, the health of your family life and the health of your career to support each other? ”

Calabrese said he started thinking seriously about mental health a few years ago as he prepared for the arrival of his first child. A palpable terror and depression set in as he began to weigh in on the heaviness of the world as a whole, especially climate change. He addressed it on Lake Street Dive’s seventh album, “Obviously”, specifically on the track “Making Do”.

“I don’t think anything like having a child makes you say ‘Oh, I have to take care of more things than myself,’” Calabrese said.

He wanted the song to expand the hearts and minds of his listeners, in the same vein as the band’s love songs about Breakups (“Mistakes”, “What I’m Doing Here”), Love No shared (“Rental Love”), and the new relationships have struck a chord with listeners in the past. Only this time around, Calabrese called her song of love to the land and her daughter “Making Do”, without any imagery or flowery language.

“I was like, ‘I don’t have the energy for poetry right now,'” he recalls. “I’m going to say exactly what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling. I don’t think it’s surprising that this is what makes a song memorable.

The process was cathartic, Calabrese explained, “These are the things that make you want to write music. And that is why music is a powerful processing tool for the writer.

Even more restorative acted on the road. Over the past two years, Lake Street Dive has tried to reduce its carbon footprint. It’s a small part they can control in an otherwise busy industry – musical and theatrical tours consume a lot of fuel from the artists who travel the world from city to city.

“We buy offsets for our tours, carbon offsets, which is just a way to decrease carbon creation, or to suck carbon out of the air elsewhere by planting trees or by developing trees. wind turbines, ”Calabrese said. “In a way that matches the carbon footprint of our tour: we fly, we take a bus, we stay in hotel rooms. All of these things are high carbon activities.

All of the group’s lighting is LED, which reduces energy by 75% compared to using incandescent bulbs. Their bus also has solar panels installed on its roof.

“You can make it work for a few days,” he said. “If no one is using it, you can run the refrigerator and the lights on solar panels, especially if you’re in the south and southwest.”

Lake Street Dive is touring to support “Obviously”, released on Nonesuch Records in March 2021. Already, the album has reached # 1 on Americana / Folk, # 2 on Current Rock Albums and # 2 on Current Alternative Albums, as as well as # 5 on Billboard’s Best Albums chart.

Its release had been delayed by more than a year, although the group finished “Obviously” in Nashville just days before the Covid-19 closures went into effect. They enlisted the help of producer Mike Elizondo.

“We wanted to produce in a way that was heavily influenced or directly inspired by the hip-hop movement,” Calabrese said. “I mean, hip-hop is kind of an invention.”

Elizondo has worked with Eminem, 50 Cent, Dr. Dre, as well as Fiona Apple and Carrie Underwood. Due to their influence in hip-hop, the band reached out, knowing that the producer was only making three or four albums a year. It turns out that Elizondo also had Lake Street Dive on his radar.

“He has wanted to work with us for years,” Calabrese said. “It was humiliating.”

Although Elizondo brought decades of experience to the studio, Calabrese was clear the relationship was simpatico: Elizondo listened intently and encouraged Lake Street Dive to follow their instincts, the drummer said. He worked to honor their sound while pushing them beyond their comfort zones and opening up the arrangements further.

“He really brought things out of us that he heard that we never necessarily captured,” Calabrese said.

It can be heard on many tracks, including “Feels Like the Last Time”, which features Bermiss’s beatboxing.

The uptempo “Hush Money” was one of the last songs Calabrese worked on with Olson. Although Calabrese did not write it, Olson requested his musical contribution.

“I gave him a hook and a leg,” Calabrese said.

The drummer said he first saw a good track through his percussion. “He must also have a certain grip,” Calabrese said.

“Hush Money” basically revolves around the idea of ​​how money can be used in harmful ways. “This song is definitely a holdover from some of our more political songs,” Calabrese said.

He called Olson one of his songwriting teachers, as well as double bass player Kearney (who helped write “Making Do”). Olson announced his departure from Lake Street Dive in May, with his last touring show taking place in June. It was an amicable split, according to the group, which praised its co-founder on social media as “friend, leader, listener, dreamer, thinker, schemer, supporter, agitator, songwriter. both silly and hot, performs tasty guitar parts and mind-blowing trumpet solos, backing arranger, steak cutter and the all-time number one, philosophical waxing star for hours on end for take us through the night trips in a van.

When Lake Street Dive debuted 16 years ago, their intention was to become a traditional jazz band.

“We had these heavy, theoretical and high esoteric ideas,” Calabrese said.

Then Olson turned things around and planted the seed to become a freeform jazz band that would perform in honky tonk dive bars. In this sphere, it meant people would dance and have a good time.

Lake Street Dive started playing with cross genres and bending sounds early on; soulful R&B beats came to life on accents of jazz, rock and pop melodies. Calabrese said they wanted harmonies reminiscent of Simon and Garfunkel with the magnetic rhythms of Diana Ross.

“I remember being in the studio and Rachael saying, ‘Guys, we look funky – like, there’s a backbeat. He has a good tempo. We all just play and the songs are about three and a half minutes long. But what does that mean? ‘”

They started noticing very early on, as they performed in the dives, that the songs people reacted to the most were the ones they could dance to. It became a quintessential detail on which Lake Street Dive would thrive – one that Calabrese said came from road testing their sounds and the commitment of serious youth to play without barriers.

“I think that’s why, to date, with the exception of the most recent record – which captured us in a new and more exciting way – we’ve been mostly a live band that people want to come and see… I don’t think it was until this last record where the recording actually clearly represents the energy you would find from us on stage.

Lake Street Dive will stop at the Live Oak Pavilion on Wednesday, October 20 for the last Live Nation show from Riverfront Park of the season. Tickets from $ 25; Covid-19 vaccination records or a negative Covid-19 test are required at entry.


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