Thursday, February 6, 2014

{INTERVIEW} lake street dive

Lake Street Dive is about to take DC by storm when they play a sold-out show at the Hamilton on February 12. TIOJ was lucky enough to catch up with Michael Calabrese, the band's drummer, to hear his thoughts about the band's beginnings, influences, unique American presidents, and his FAVORITE Lake Street Dive jam.

Listen while you read:


Tell us about yourselves! How long have you all been making music together? And tell us the story behind the name Lake Street Dive!
Almost ten years ago, our guitarist/trumpeter Mike “McDuck” Olson got this exact lineup together in a practice room at the New England Conservatory of music, wrote “Lake Street Dive” on the blackboard, told us this was going to be our name, and we’ve been playing together ever since. McDuck is from Minneapolis, a town that once had a thriving dive bar scene on Lake Street, a busy thoroughfare, and the music we made was supposed to be inspired by the dive bar atmosphere of the town in which he grew up.

photo by jarred mccabe
Click ahead for more Lake Street musings on their new album and tour excitement!

How would you describe your music to someone that's never heard it before? What song should they start with?
It’s a lot of groovy love songs that are inspired by the soul and rock and roll music of the ’60s and ’70s, predominantly.  Start with “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand.” It’s a little anti-Beatles, Motown-influenced jam.

What musicians or cultures inspire your music?
The Beatles (of course, boring), anything Motown, Donny Hathaway, Badfinger, The Band, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Wilco, Lauryn Hill… We’re mostly influenced by American music as well as the British people who improved upon it.

Your album Bad Self Portraits is set to drop later in February! What was the songwriting and recording process like for this album?
All the songs were written beforehand and demoed out in Calabrese parents’ basement. Some were up to four years old and some were four weeks old. We recorded with a producer this time around, Sam Kassirer. Because we were so used to playing together at this point, his suggestions and ideas were introduced more easily into our performances than we’d ever experienced before, and it was very fulfilling.

What is a favorite song to perform live? Why?
I’d have to say “Don’t Make Me Hold Your Hand.” It feels good in general to play, but it’s also our surefire crowd pleaser. Everybody sings on it, it builds nicely, and the way it’s structured allows us to play around with it night after night and improvise as a group as to how silly we want it to be, so it’s always fresh.



You’re about to go on tour! What are you most excited about for this tour? Any shows or stops in particular?
We’re always excited to get back to New York and Boston, our new and old hometowns, respectively, and we’ll be visiting both twice on this run, which is heartwarming and exciting. We’re pleased to be able to give them some new material. No matter how well it goes, they’ll be there to support [us]. There’s also some brand/fairly new markets we’ll be breaking into, like Louisville, Cincinnati, Boulder, the great Northwest, and So-Cal, whose music scenes we’re super excited to become a part of.

If you weren't playing music, what do you think you'd be doing?
Personally, becoming a linguist or translator. I love languages. Or, in the music vein, maybe recording music. That’s really fun. As a group, hopefully still get together a couple times a month to eat tacos and talk about feelings. That’s the way it’s been from the beginning and will hopefully always happen, no matter what we’re doing.

How do you think that forming at the New England Conservatory of Music has influenced you as a band? What impact does your formal training have on your music, both as individuals and as a collective unit? 
NEC was the type of place that really encouraged individuality, and it didn’t matter how weird or avant garde you wanted to be; you could shamelessly explore any path you wanted to and find the teachers and students there to support you. And we weren’t even weird compared to some of the bands that formed there! I think the fact that we didn’t feel self conscious about what we were doing helped us focus on making music together and gave us the momentum and ethic that carried us forward. Our training gave us practice in how to work on songs and perfect your craft and approach, because that’s the majority of what we did at school with different groups. For this reason, there’s nothing daunting for us about learning new music or developing our personal sound.  

What have you all been listening to lately? Anything we need to add to our iPods right now?
Absolutely. Blake Mills, Josh Ritter, Father John Misty, Dr. Dog, Lazer Cake, and also take a listen to Chuck Berry again… that guy has it all.



Since we’re a DC-based blog, we have to ask: who’s your favorite president?
Hmmm… this is a difficult question. So I hope you don’t mind a difficult answer. Rutherford Delano Washington van Truman, the Abrahamth.

Make sure to stalk Craigslist and Stubhub so you can check out Lake Street Dive when they swing through the District on February 12. If you're not lucky enough to have tickets to their sold-out show, you can console yourself by checking out the band's album when it drops on February 18!

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